10/02/2002 03:22 am ET
Actions, not words, the key
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- It's just one game.
We've bounced back from adversity all year long.
This is a veteran team that knows how to put one game behind us and move onto the next.
The Diamondbacks said all the right things after Tuesday night's Game 1 loss to the Cardinals and all those things might be true.
But there's no doubt the Cardinals made a statement when they bruised Arizona ace Randy Johnson for six runs and 10 hits en route to a 12-2 win in front of a sellout crowd of 49,154 at Bank One Ballpark.
Whether that statement lasts or fades away like an Arizona sunset remains to be seen. For now, though, the Diamondbacks are counting on the latter.
"In my defense, I would say that I didn't execute a lot of pitches," said Johnson, who walked two and matched a season-low with four strikeouts. "My slider was flat, my fastball found the middle of the plate. With that being a combination of going up against a quality and probably the best offensive lineup in the National League, the two don't mix. When you don't hit your spots, you go up against a team like that, something's got to give."
"Last year, we left here for St. Louis tied 1-1 and ended up winning the series," manager Bob Brenly said. "That's our goal right now, to get to St. Louis tied up and go from there."
While having Johnson on the mound didn't equate to a sure thing for the Diamondbacks, no one could have anticipated what transpired Tuesday night. Consider the following:
Johnson just finished a month in which he allowed five runs (three earned) in 41 innings. He matched that total by the fourth inning Tuesday.
The 10 hits allowed were a season high and the most he has given up in a postseason game.
In last year's World Series, he allowed nine hits and two earned runs in 17 1/3 innings.
In the postseason last year, he allowed seven runs in 41 1/3 innings.
"They came out and did something to Randy Johnson that very few people are able to do," Brenly said. "You tip your cap to them and come back and try to win the next game."
Struggles against the Cardinals are nothing new for Johnson. He lost just one postseason game last year and that was to St. Louis in Game 2 of the NLDS, when he allowed three earned runs in eight innings as the D-Backs lost, 4-1. Lifetime in the regular season, he is 5-6 against the Redbirds, and he has struggled in the Division Series before, entering Tuesday's game with a 2-6 mark and a 4.05 ERA.
On Tuesday, the Cardinals seemed to focus on trying to hit the ball up the middle against Johnson, whose velocity according to the stadium in-house radar gun appeared to be a bit down.
Catcher Chad Moeller said Johnson simply missed location with some pitches, and the Cardinals jumped on them.
"I don't think it was quite the same as you've seen it sometimes," Moeller said of Johnson's velocity. "I don't know if he didn't quite get as loose. It wasn't that it was that bad, he was throwing the ball fine, it's just that there were some pitches that were over the middle part of the plate and they didn't miss them. They weren't doubles and they weren't singles, they were home runs."
While the score, and the beating Johnson absorbed might raise some eyebrows, the Diamondbacks still have 23-game winner Curt Schilling going in Thursday's Game 2. A win there and suddenly the series is tied 1-1 with Johnson and Schilling starting two of the final three games.
Johnson is scheduled to start if the series gets to a fourth game, and Moeller said the Diamondbacks' game plan against the Cardinals did not need revising despite Tuesday's outcome.
"It was more of an execution thing," said Moeller. "Being more aggressive as far as the inner half of the plate and for him just staying back with the slider. That was causing some problems in the sense that it didn't have the same break and wasn't as fast as it normally is. There's no concern, I expect him to come out and dominate the next time."
For there to be a next time, Schilling will have to reverse his late-season struggles. The Diamondbacks appear confident that he will do just that.
"Best big-game pitcher in the game," first baseman Mark Grace said of Schilling. "I fully expect Curt to go out and pitch the kind of baseball he's capable of pitching, which means he'll go out and dominate. If we can score a few runs, we'll win that game because I have complete confidence in Curt. If my life depended on it, I would love to have Curt Schilling have the baseball."
Grace's life certainly won't depend on Schilling's performance Thursday, but the Diamondbacks' season likely does.
Steve Gilbert is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.