Arizona's Improbable Season Ends
Owings fans in the NLCS (Ed Andrieski/AP)

Posted Oct 16, 2007


A six-run fourth inning did in the Arizona Diamondbacks as the Colorado Rockies became the first team to sweep both a Division Series and a League Championship Series.

INSIDE PITCH

They were the only team to beat the Colorado Rockies in the past month, but that one victory in the final week of the regular season was all the luck the Diamondbacks could muster against the hottest team in baseball when it mattered most.

The Rockies continued their torrid ways on Monday night, winning for the 21st time in 22 games to complete a four-game sweep of the Diamondbacks and take the National League Championship Series, sending the Diamondbacks home to contemplate next season.

"Like Skip just told us, 'This is just the beginning,' " starting pitcher Micah Owings said, referring to manager Bob Melvin's postgame pep talk after Arizona had been eliminated. "We've got a great group here, and hopefully we stick together and we'll be great for years."

Despite being one of the youngest teams in the majors and then losing the likes of pitcher Randy Johnson, third baseman Chad Tracy and second baseman Orlando Hudson to season-ending injuries, the Diamondbacks stunned much of the baseball world by winning the National League West and then sweeping the Chicago Cubs in the NL Division Series.

But the Diamondbacks, who won 90 games in the regular season, could never get it going against the Rockies.

"Nothing fell our way in this series," said Owings, the rookie right-hander who allowed six runs during a decisive fourth inning for the Rockies.

"We expected to go further," said Diamondbacks ace Brandon Webb, who would have started a Game 5 had there been one. "We were hoping to sweep them just like they swept us. But we're happy to be a part of this and we're happy with where we've gotten."

The Diamondbacks head into the offseason looking to keep the core group of the team together but likely will add a starting pitcher and perhaps some power in the middle of the lineup.

"We had a great season," rookie right fielder Justin Upton said. "We all stuck together and never fell apart. We're going to continue to stick together, and we've got next year to look forward to."

ROCKIES 6, DIAMONDBACKS 4: The Diamondbacks' season ended on Monday night at Coors Field when the Rockies completed an impressive four-game sweep of Arizona to capture the National League Championship Series and advance to the World Series for the first time in their 15-year history with a 21-1 record since Sept. 16.

The game turned in the fourth inning when Colorado pinch-hitter Seth Smith hit a blooper that dropped behind third baseman Mark Reynolds. The double would score two runs to give the Rockies a 2-1 lead.

Starting pitcher Micah Owings thought he was going to get out of the inning trailing by only a run when Willy Taveras hit a bouncer to first. But Conor Jackson misjudged the ball and it bounced off his chest, allowing Taveras to reach base. Kaz Matsui followed with a single to score another run, and then Matt Holiday hit a three-run homer to make it 6-1.

Owings, making his first career postseason start, was done for the night, and although the Diamondbacks made a game of it when catcher Chris Snyder hit a three-run homer in the eighth, they could get no closer.

"I'm proud of every single one of them," Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said. "I told our guys to hold your head up high because we had a hell of a year."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Manager Bob Melvin was named National League Manager of the Year by The Sporting News in a vote by players and managers.

"Because of the fact that it's voted on by the managers, it's an honor," he said. "But for me it ends up being a group award in that you've got to have great players, which we do. We have a great coaching staff that prepares the players to play every day, so it's a credit to them, and a front office that gives us the right tools and players to be successful with."

--RHP Brandon Webb was a possibility to come back and pitch on short rest to start Game 4, but manager Bob Melvin said it really was never a serious consideration. He opted to go with rookie RHP Micah Owings instead.

"For me, it's not a tough call at all," Melvin said, alluding to Webb's workload of 249 1/3 innings during the regular season and the fact the team's ace has never pitched on three days' rest before.

"This is a guy that his volume of innings the past couple of years has been higher than anybody else," Melvin said. "All of a sudden have him do something that he's never done before, prepare for, with the innings, I'm just ... it scares me a little bit. We're managing for this series, but all those things combined, the decision was I didn't want to put him in that position."

--RHP Livan Hernandez is set to become a free agent, and it seems doubtful the club will offer him a new deal for next season.

--1B Conor Jackson on manager Bob Melvin and what he meant to a young team that defied the odds to make it as far as it did: "He's kept us even-keeled. With a team that three-quarters of us are 27 and younger, that's not an easy task to do. He's a real positive guy. He's never going to diss us in the paper. If we screw up, he knows it's not an easy game."

--SS Stephen Drew swung away on a 3-0 count in the ninth inning with a runner at second and the Diamondbacks trailing by two runs, and he popped up for the second out of the ninth inning, ruining a potential rally. Manager Bob Melvin, however, said Drew had the green light all the way and added it was the right thing to do.

"He's my only left-handed bat there in the inning, and he knows the fastball is coming and has a chance to tie the game right there," Melvin said. "If that's not the tying run, I don't let him swing. But right there, you know you're going to get a fastball."

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- In sweeping the Diamondbacks 4-0 in the NLCS, the Colorado Rockies became the first team in history to sweep both a Division Series and a League Championship Series.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Once the sting of this subsides, we'll be able to reflect that we had a great year. Getting to this point, if you would have asked us at the beginning of spring training if we'd end up here, you'd have to take it." --Manager Bob Melvin.

ANALYZING THE LINEUP:
1. CF Chris Young
2. SS Stephen Drew
3. LF Eric Byrnes
4. 1B Tony Clark
5. 3B Mark Reynolds
6. RF Jeff Salazar
7. C Miguel Montero
8. 2B Augie Ojeda

Comment: In the end, the Diamondbacks' lack of clutch hitting did them in the NLCS. Their starters weren't bad; their bullpen was pretty good. They just didn't hit when it counted.

ANALYZING THE ROTATION:
1. RHP Brandon Webb
2. LHP Doug Davis
3. RHP Livan Hernandez
4. RHP Micah Owings

Comment: Owings looked strong until things unraveled with two outs in the fourth inning of Game 4. A seeing-eye double, an error by 1B Conor Jackson, a single and a three-run homer by series MVP Matt Holliday, and Owings was done. So was his team.

ANALYZING THE BULLPEN:
RH closer Jose Valverde
RHP Brandon Lyon
RHP Tony Pena Jr.
RHP Juan Cruz

Comment:
Cruz and Lyon were dominating in Game 4 -- nine strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings. The Diamondbacks have the makings of a fine bullpen, and this series proved it.


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