ATLANTA (Ticker) -- The Arizona Diamondbacks became the fastest expansion team to reach the World Series. En route to the Fall Classic, they methodically dismantled the veteran Atlanta Braves.
Randy Johnson and Byung-Hyun Kim combined on a seven-hitter and pinch-hitter Erubiel Durazo delivered a tie-breaking two-run homer in the fifth inning as the Diamondbacks closed out the Braves, 3-2, in Game Five of the National League Championship Series.
The Diamondbacks, who entered the NL in 1998, became the fastest expansion team to reach the World Series, surpassing the five years it took the Florida Marlins. And Arizona did it with a first-year manager Bob Brenly, who made a successful transition from the broadcast booth.
"I'm just very fortunate to inherit this ballclub," Brenly said. "It's easy for things to turn out well when no matter who you send out there does something good to help you win a ballgame.
"Certainly doesn't make me a genius or anything like that. It makes my players very good. I don't know how else to explain it. I refuse to take any credit for what's happened with this ballclub this year. They've done it all themselves."
Making Brenly's job easier was a veteran club that featured baseball's best 1-2 pitching punch, a Most Valuable Player candidate, veterans at nearly every position and a deep bench. They all played a factor in Arizona's ability to win win three straight games in Atlanta and close out the more playoff-tested Braves.
Johnson (2-1) was not nearly as dominant as he was in his Game One victory but allowed just two runs and seven hits in seven innings. After striking out Brian Jordan with the bases loaded to end the seventh, he gave way to Byung-Hyun Kim.
Kim, who endured a brutal September, recorded the final six outs for his second save in as many days. When Steve Finley squeezed Julio Franco's fly to center, the Diamondbacks secured a matchup with either the New York Yankees or Seattle Mariners in the World Series.
Game One of that series begins Saturday night in Arizona.
"The last out was pins and needles," Arizona left fielder Luis Gonzalez said. "It's just a nervous energy you have. You don't want to look ahead. You know Franco and Chipper (Jones) are coming up. The final out was pure excitement. It seemed like forever but we had our Gold Glove center fielder under it. This is going to be the longest week of our lives, probably."
Arizona second baseman Craig Counsell, who hit .381 (8-for-21) with five runs and four RBI in the series, earned Most Valuable Player honors. Coincidentally, Counsell was a member of the 1997 Marlins team that became the "youngest" to win it all.
"I think it is a symbol of this team," Counsell said. "It is just the way this team works. It is somebody different every time. Everybody contributed on this team. I guess it was just my turn."
The Diamondbacks are built on experience and Brenly had the luxury of turning to a veteran Sunday. Johnson, a 38-year-old lefthander, tossed a three-hitter in Tuesday's series opener. He was not nearly as unhittable Sunday, walking two and striking out eight.
"I just kind of really want to enjoy the moment," Johnson said. "We're going to the World Series. I mean, I've never been to the World Series at any level of my career, whether it was Little League or any of that."
Johnson began this series facing questions about his lack of postseason success but teamed with righthander Curt Schilling to make the difference against Atlanta. While Johnson and Schilling's contributions were expected, the effort from Kim, who struggled mightily down the stretch, had to be a pleasant surprise for Brenly.
The Korean-born sidearmer tossed two scoreless innings to preserve a win in Game Four and Sunday, with the slimmest of margins to protect, managed to retire six of the seven batters he faced.
Kim had a lead to protect because of an opposite-field, two-out homer by Durazo that snapped a 1-1 tie. Durazo batted for Mark Grace in the fifth, when Arizona's starting first baseman removed himself from the game with a tight right hamstring.
Atlanta starter Tom Glavine threw two strikes before Durazo sliced a 2-2 pitch just over the wall in the left-field corner for his first hit of this postseason.
"I got a chance to pinch-hit and hit a home run and now we are going to the World Series," Durazo said. "I am so excited. When I hit the ball I said 'Wow, I got it.'" "It was a fastball up a bit, one of the few that I got up in the game," Glavine said. "He hit it probably in the only place he could have hit it out. That's another example of taking advantage of a mistake. It definitely wasn't the pitch I wanted to make."
Glavine, who notched the Braves' only victory of the series in Game Two, lasted five innings on three days' rest. He allowed three runs -- one earned -- and five hits.
Steve Karsay and John Smoltz combined to allowed just one hit over the final four innings but Atlanta was unable to rally.
The Braves have won 10 straight division titles but have just one World Series title to show for it. They were trying to reach the Fall Classic for the sixth time in 11 years.
Both lefthanders dominated through three innings but Arizona plated a run in the fourth. Grace singled with one out and Matt Williams walked. Danny Bautista made his first hit of the postseason a memorable one with a clean single up the middle that scored Grace.
Glavine uncorked a wild pitch that moved two more runners into scoring position before walking Damian Miller. Johnson hit a squib back to the mound that Glavine turned into a forceout at the plate and retired Womack on a lineout to left field.
Staked to the lead, Johnson gave it right back, allowing a solo homer to Franco leading off the bottom of the fourth. But the sloppy defense that plagued Atlanta in Game Four hurt it again in the fifth.
Counsell hit a grounder to second that rookie Marcus Giles misplayed. Gonzalez bounced into a forceout and Glavine struck out Sanders. But Durazo, in his first career at-bat against Glavine, homered for a 3-1 lead.
"It wasn't a bad hop. I booted it," Giles said. "I just booted it. No excuse. Today I booted one and gave up two runs because of it. Obviously it is a different game (if I don't make the error). It doesn't feel good."
Atlanta had a chance to knot the contest in the bottom of the inning. Bernard Gilkey singled with one out and Rey Sanchez reached on an error by third baseman Williams. Pinch hitter Mark DeRosa lined to center and Bautista made a diving catch. Giles beat out an infield hit that loaded the bases, but Franco grounded to shortstop.
"I hit that ball very hard," Franco said. "That's the only thing you can do. If I hit the ball two feet either way, it is a base hit. But it didn't happen like that."
Atlanta got within 3-2 in the seventh. Sanchez singled with one out and Giles walked one out later. Franco followed with a line drive single up the middle that scored Sanchez and Jones walked. But Johnson struck out Jordan with his 118th pitch and Brenly turned it over to Kim.
"The seventh inning, with one bad pitch, could have opened the game for them," Johnson said. "Getting out of a situation where the bases were loaded, I had already given up one run and realized that I have to make quality pitches. I felt like I was mentally spent walking off the mound."