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NLDS: Huge Mountain to Climb
Truth be told, Thursday night's NLCS opener could not have gone much worse for Arizona. While it was only one game in a seven-game series, the 5-1 defeat did far more than just take away the Diamondbacks' home-field advantage; it instantly erased all the momentum Arizona gained during an impressive first-round sweep of Chicago.
Entering this series, it was obvious the Diamondbacks' fate was tied to Brandon Webb's right arm. And when manager Bob Melvin decided to employ a four-man rotation throughout the entire series -- meaning Webb would only make two starts -- Game 1 took on epic importance. Arizona needed a dominant effort from last year's Cy Young winner. But the Rockies proved to be Webb's kryptonite once again, scoring four runs on seven hits. (Granted, these hits were all singles, and most of them bloopers, but they got the job done.) Now the Diamondbacks face the unenviable task of winning four of the next six games while only pitching their ace once. And considering Webb's '07 line against the Rockies (7 GS, 1-3, 5.80 ERA), even that one remaining Webb start looks a bit grim.
While Webb's struggles against Colorado persisted, Jeff Francis continued his dominance of Arizona. Scattering seven hits and one run over 6 2/3 innings, the SI cover boy improved his career mark to 8-2 against Arizona (and 5-0 at Chase Field). Francis didn't overpower the Diamondbacks, but after a shaky first inning, he got every big out. During its sweep of the Cubs, Arizona flourished in clutch-hitting situations. That wasn't the case on Thursday night. Stephen Drew, who starred in the division series, hitting .500 with two home runs, had two big opportunities to get Arizona back in the game and fell short on both occasions. In the bottom of the fifth, Arizona mounted a two-out rally and put runners on first and second base, but Drew ended the inning by swinging through a hittable fastball for a strikeout. Then in the controversial seventh inning—in which Justin Upton was called for interference, giving Colorado a much-needed double play—Drew came to the plate with runners on first and second and two outs. The second-year shortstop failed to capitalize once again, flying out to right field on reliever Jeremy Affeldt's first offering.
This Diamondbacks have overachieved all season long, making a magical run to the NLCS, but they stumbled mightily Thursday night. Now it's up to Game 2 starter Doug Davis to get Cinderella back on her feet.
posted by SI.com | View comments |
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