After Batista gave the Diamondbacks six solid innings, light-hitting Craig Counsell hit a tie-breaking three-run homer off Mike Matthews in the seventh as Arizona edged the St. Louis Cardinals, 5-3 and took a two games to one lead in their National League Division Series.
Brenly made a couple of moves prior to Friday's Game Three, including going with Batista over veterans Albie Lopez and Bobby Witt, and each move seemed to pay off. Batista (1-0), facing additional pressure after the failure of Cy Young Award favorite Randy Johnson in Game Two, allowed two runs and three hits in his first career postseason start.
"I never feel fear," Batista admitted. "I've never been brave, because I never defeated anything, but there comes a point in time in your cson heroics -- lofted a three-run homer over the right-field wall.
"Well, it was a great feeling," Counsell said. "I don't know if -- it's not the World Series -- but you know it was a big hit for us. It was a huge hit for us, so it's right there. It was one of my top two thrills, I'll give you that."
"He's been our unsung hero," said Diamondbacks left fielder Luis Gonzalez, himself a Most Valuable Player candidate. "He's been our Most Valuable Player. Everybody else, we all get the notoriety being the frontline guys. This guy goes out there and grinds for us every day. He does whatever he has to do. He's our little scrap iron guy. He goes out there and does the job for us."
The Cardinals chipped away with a run in the bottom of seventh and had the bases loaded in the eighth when Diamondbacks closer Byung-Hyun Kim retired Jim Edmonds, who homered earlier, on a long drive to center field.
"It was frustrating, bases loaded and two outs," Edmonds said. "It's probably the most frustrating at-bat of my get some big hits. I think we are better than the way we are playing right now. We are swinging at a lot of bad pitches and doing a lot of things that are uncharacteristic."
Brenly's decision to bat Counsell second was another move that proved masterful. St. Louis manager Tony La Russa had a couple of moves backfire on him.
La Russa's decision-making process came into question when starter Darryl Kile issued a leadoff walk to Matt Williams in the seventh. The Cardinals manager pulled Kile and turned to Matthews, a lefthander who was making his postseason debut.
Steve Finley bunted into a forceout but Damian Miller singled into left-center field to put runners at the corners. Colbrunn pinch-hit for Batista and La Russa left Matthews in. Colbrunn promptly singled into left-center to tie the game.
Another righthanded batter, Tony Womack grounded to second and Miller was cut down at the plate. La Russa stayed with Matthews against Counsell, who batted .337 against lefthanders, and the Diamondbac. "I came back and made some decent pitches trying to salvage the inning. What happened to Counsell, that just wasn't in my plans. I made a bad pitch."
La Russa explained his thought process.
"That would have been a bad time to make a move," La Russa said of pulling Matthews against Colbrunn. "You bring in a righthander and you are going to face one of their lefthanders. And three lefthanders after that.
"You have to get Counsell out to end the inning. Lefthanders hit .130 against him. He fell behind him and he threw him a strike. Give Counsell credit."
Counsell had the game-tying sacrifice fly in the ninth inning and scored the winning run in the 11th for the Florida Marlins in Game Seven of the 1997 World Series.
"The first postseason I was in I had some success," Counsell said. "I've had success in these situations before, and I think it just makes it easier when you get to the situation again because you've had success and you've been there and you've seen what it's like.
"I think that if anything has been the reason -- you know it gives you confidence, any time you have success in a situation, you're going to have confidence the next time you do it."
St. Louis got back a run in the bottom of the seventh on a solo homer by Edgar Renteria. Coincidentally, it was Renteria's base hit in that seventh game in 1997 that scored Counsell.
Former Cardinal Mike Morgan relieved Brian Anderson to start the eighth and allowed a single to pinch hitter Miguel Cairo. Cairo stole second but Morgan retired the next two batters. J.D. Drew walked and Brenly turned to the erratic Kim, who promptly walked rookie slugger Albert Pujols. After falling behind Edmonds 1-0, Kim caught a break when the St. Louis center fielder lined to Danny Bautista in center field.
After Steve Kline pitched out of a jam in the top of the ninth, the Cardinals seemed poised to tie the game when pinch hitter Kerry Robinson beat out a bunt and Renteria drew a walk. But Matheny bunted foul twice and took a called third strike.
La Russa hoped to win the game with one swing of the bat and sent up McGwire -- the active leader in home runs -- to pinch-hit. But McGwire fell behind in the count and hit a grounder that Williams fielded, stepped on third and fired across the diamond to get the injured slugger easily.
Kile opened the game in impressive fashion, striking out five straight batters after issuing a leadoff walk to Womack. Counsell stranded two batters in the third and saw a potential rally cut short in the fourth.
Mark Grace and Williams drew two-out walks and Finley grounded a single up the middle. Grace attempted to score on the play but was thrown out easily by center fielder Edmonds.
Edmonds made his presence felt in the bottom of the inning as well. Placido Polanco led off with a single and stole second. After a groundout by Pujols moved Polanco to third, Edmonds lined a 2-2 pitch over the wall in right-center field for a 2-0 lead.
"The home run was not a bad pitch," Batista said. "I was just trying to stay up because he is a good low ball hitter. He just got the best part of it."
Arizona finally broke through against Kile in the top of the sixth as Gonzalez launched a solo homer off the right-field foul pole for his first hit of the series.