Rookies Goldschmidt, Collmenter keep Diamondbacks alive in Game 3
Paul Goldschmidt, once the 2011 minor-league home-run leader, hit a grand slam
Josh Collmenter, who made his first MLB start in May, held the Brewers to one run
The D-backs were once thought to get swept but now have life going to Game 4
PHOENIX -- When the Brewers decided to intentionally walk the Diamondbacks' Miguel Montero, the game's early star with two hits and three runs driven in, a seemingly profane two-syllable chant arose from a vocal minority of the crowd. Could the fans in the desert have such disdain for pitching around hitters?
It soon became apparent that the cheer was a repetition of "Gold-schmidt" -- as in, the rookie first baseman Paul Goldschmidt -- and not the vulgar word his surname happened to resemble when sung by a notable portion of the 48,312 people in the sellout crowd.
The Montero walk loaded the bases with two outs for the 24-year-old with just 156 regular-season major-league at-bats. Goldschmidt quickly fell behind in the count 1-2, before Milwaukee's Shaun Marcum threw a fastball that caught too much of the plate and the righty powered to the opposite field and into the home bullpen for a grand slam.
"I've been in that situation plenty of times and failed more than I've succeeded," Goldschmidt said of having the preceding hitter intentionally walked. "And luckily tonight was a good night to come through."
Those accounted for four of Goldschmidt's five RBIs on the night, as the Diamondbacks received a stellar outing from another rookie, Josh Collmenter, who hurled seven innings of two-hit, one-run ball for Arizona to rout the Brewers 8-1 and cut their National League Division Series deficit to two games to one.
The win reinforced what everyone intuitively knew before the series -- that both clubs enjoyed prohibitive home-field advantages -- but the Brewers had played so well in Games 1 and 2 that it was starting to look like a sweep in the making. Arizona, which led the majors with 48 comeback wins, showed no panic in repeating its Game 2 lineup and starting a rookie over veteran pitcher Joe Saunders, who now opposes fellow lefthander Randy Wolf of Milwaukee in Game 4.
"I don't think anyone was thinking we were down 0-2 coming into tonight," Collmenter said. "They were playing like we play at home. Just having that mindset really helped us out. We were relaxed and the dugout atmosphere was incredible."
Montero's efforts can't be overlooked -- if not for his hits in his first two plate appearances, Milwaukee wouldn't have walked him in order to face Goldschmidt -- but the game's other two heroes are an unlikely pair of 2011 contributors that typify this Diamondbacks team that finished last in the NL West in 2010 and had no expectations around them before the season.
Despite hitting 35 homers with a .314 average in High-A ball last year, Goldschmidt didn't appear on prominent prospect lists when he began the season in Double-A. He finally made Baseball America's Midseason Top 50 list -- at the 50th and final spot -- after leading the minor leagues with 25 homers through the first week of July.
"He's just always been more of a line-drive guy," said Trip Couch, the former Arizona scout most responsible for the club drafting Goldschmidt. "He wasn't an awe-inspiring B.P. home-run guy as an amateur."
Arizona, meanwhile, got poor production at the major-league level from a rotation of Xavier Nady, Juan Miranda and Russell Branyan at first base, and by midseason it was time for Goldschmidt or Triple-A prospect Brandon Allen to join the mix. Allen had the first crack, but he was soon traded for relief help in Brad Ziegler, so the D-backs promoted Goldschmidt, who debuted on Aug. 1. He sharply lined a single off the Giants' Matt Cain in his first at-bat and homered off Tim Lincecum in his second game.
Tuesday's grand slam seemed to be more than he could have imagined before the season.
"I never would have believed it," Goldschmidt said. "My whole mindset this whole year has been to keep improving, and if I got this opportunity, just to do everything I can to help the team."
Collmenter, on the other hand, grew up in the tiny 1,800-person town of Homer, Mich. -- it's so small and so proud of its native son that the website for the town's public library has a link to the Diamondbacks' page on MLB.com -- where he and friends would throw hatchets at trees for fun, contributing to his unorthodox over-the-top delivery and two of his three nicknames: Tomahawk and Ferris Wheel. (The third, Caveman, is due to his rugged, bearded appearance.)
That tricky-to-pick-up release point is necessary because he rarely reaches even 90 mph with his fastball, yet Collmenter has now allowed only one earned run in 21 innings against the Brewers in 2011.
"It's something about that deception on the fastball," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "The changeup is very good. The changeup is down in the zone always, and he's got great motion on it. And then he spots his fastball well."
Collmenter began the year in Triple-A, reached the major-league bullpen in the second week and didn't make his first major-league start until May 14, part of the evolving rebuilding work done by new general manager Kevin Towers, who retooled and replaced not just during the winter but during the summer.
"When they both came up," Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said of Collmenter and Goldschmidt, "we put them right in the fire. And I think organizationally with K.T., if you look around, the good ones come fast."
Montero came fast back in 2006, debuting at age 23, making him a six-year veteran at age 28. Upon reaching second base on his first-inning double, he raised his arm in front of him, with his elbow at 90 degrees and his fingers extended, mimicking a diamondback with its tongue out.
"You've got to drop the snake," he explained after the game. "We've got to use it -- we had to come back [from] 2-0," he said. "[We need] probably a couple more bites."
So while the Brewers have their "Beast Mode," the D-backs have their snake. And now they have another game to play.