Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Arizona's Championship Run Ends

The Arizona Diamondbacks’ six straight playoff series wins and two straight league championships came to an end last Sunday Night in PNC Park. St. Louis knocked off #1 seed Arizona in six games. This was a rematch of the 2003 World Series in which Arizona swept the Redbirds. This is the third straight year that the #1 seed has fallen to the #8 seed (Anaheim over Philly in 2003 and Boston beat Atlanta in 2002). Complete box scores are available by this link. A recap of the series:

Game #1 AZ 10, STL 6 - The Cards put up a four spot in the first inning off Randy Johnson, but Jake Westbrook could not hold the lead as he gave up seven runs in 4+ innings. After the 1st inning, the Big Unit pitched scoreless ball all the way into the 9th as he struck out 11 along the way… AJ Pierzynski hit two homers for the D-Backs

Game #2 STL 4, AZ 3 - Curt Schilling vs. Dontrelle Willis…..With the Cards clinging to a 4-3 lead, embattled reliever Armando Benitez was brought in to close out the ninth. Benitez got the first two outs but then gave up a pair of singles and a walk to load the bases. However, Armando got the final out to preserve the win in a tense finish. Cards felt fortunate to gain a 1-1 split vs. Johnson and Schilling…..off to St. Louis for game 3…..

Game #3 STL 13, AZ 4 - Redbirds scored nine runs off Al Leiter in 3+ innings. A pivotal moment was when pitcher Woody Willams hit a two-out bases loaded single in the 2nd that scored the first two runs of the game. Melvin Mora drove in three more runs (7 RBI’s in 3 games) and is now hitting .583 in the series.

Game #4 STL 1, AZ 0 - In the most exciting game of the series, Randy Johnson and Jake Westbrook put up goose eggs over the first eight innings. St. Louis pinch hit for Westbrook in the bottom of the eighth and then brought in Benitez who pitched a scoreless ninth. The D-Backs pinch hit for Randy Johnson in the ninth and brought in Scott Shields for the bottom of the inning. Shields gave up a hit and a walk and was relieved by Gagne. With runners on 1st and 2nd and no outs, Konerko bunted the ball and beat out the play at first to load the bases. Now with the Bank One Ballpark rocking, Gage walked Edmonds to force in the winning run.

Game #5 AZ 3, STL 2 - Curt Schilling turned in a gutty performance as he went all the way in a 3-2 D-Back win. Schilling allowed just four hits and struck out nine. Arizona scored the winning run on a two-out bases load error by Renteria in the top of the eighth innning. Schilling made the run stand up as manager Mark Childs stayed with Schilling in the 9th rather than bringing in his closer. Series goes back to Arizona for game 6.

Game #6 STL 9, AZ 5 - The Cardinals jumped on Brian Lawrence (the star of the 2003 post season) with nine hits and six runs to take a 6-4 lead. Two key moments occurred in the 8th…..With no out and a runner on, Paul Konerko attempted (another) bunt and got two strikes on him. The bunt sign was then taken off and Konerko connected on the next pitch for a 2-run homer to make it 8-4. In the bottom of the 8th, the D-Backs had the bases loaded with two out and run already in. Bruce Chen, making his first appearance in the series, got David Newhan to end the threat. Armando Benitez pitched another scoreless inning to finish up the series.

The bullpen was the story – St. Louis had a 2.25 ERA while Arizona’s bullpen was 6.55 ERA. . . . St. Louis now advances to meet Houston in the semi-Finals…..

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