10/03/2002 7:21 pm ET
Cairo puts Snakes in hole
D-Backs go to St. Louis trailing 2-0
By Rich Draper / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- The defending world champion Arizona Diamondbacks are suddenly one loss away from seeing their back-to-back dreams disappear.
With a 2-1 defeat by the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday at Bank One Ballpark, the D-Backs find themselves trailing the red-hot Redbirds 0-2 in the best-of-five National League Division Series.
They head now to St. Louis and Saturday's crucial Game 3, knowing their postseason future could be excruciatingly brief.
Manager Bob Brenly doesn't need to say a word to his club now. But if he did ...
"I'd tell 'em the same things I would have told them if we had won the ballgame," said the skipper. "The same thing I'd tell 'em if we were up two games. To show up on Saturday and be ready to play. That's all you can do.
"There's no pep talks, no magic words that are going to suddenly make everything OK. You keep grinding, you keep playing the game, keep doing the same things you've been successful doing and hope for the best."
The Diamondbacks pulled off a series of miraculous finishes in last season's playoffs, pulling out Game 5 against St. Louis in the NLDS and winning Game 7 of the World Series against the Yankees after trailing 2-1.
Still, this might be tougher. The Cardinals are inspired by the memories of Jack Buck and Darryl Kile; they rely on what both Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling call the best offensive team in the game. The D-Backs' home-field advantage is long gone.
What makes the Cardinals' accomplishment even more dramatic is they won two big games from the D-Backs' Big Two, right in the rattlesnakes' own den, where they had the best home record (55 wins) in all of baseball this season.
Call it the Fabulous Feat in Phoenix, St. Louis beating Cy Young award candidate Randy Johnson and then Schilling in consecutive contests, the Big Two's first back-to-back defeats since August, and only for the second time in two seasons.
"It's tough," said Brenly. "It means we're in an 0-2 hole going back to their ballpark. It's probably the understatement of the season that our work is cut out for us."
After Schilling gave up a solo homer to J.D. Drew -- his second off the right-hander in his last three at-bats, going back to the last week of the regular season --- the Diamondbacks entered the eighth inning trailing 1-0.
Veteran Cardinal Chuck Finley had mesmerized the NL West kings with nasty split-fingers that hit more dirt than wood, with the D-Backs still flailing.
But Finley withdrew because of a muscle cramp in his left hand, and suddenly there was hope.
Reliever Steve Kline allowed a base hit to pinch-hitter Chad Moeller and a walk to Tony Womack. But the threat ended when rookie Alex Cintron, pinch-running for Moeller at second, interfered with third baseman Scott Rolen on Junior Spivey's grounder and was ruled out.
Since the best-of-five Division Series was added in 1995, pitchers who won 20 games in the regular season have started 23 games, with a surprising record of 7-10. The only 20-game winners in the NL this season were Arizona's Randy Johnson (24) and Curt Schilling (23). In Game 1 of the NLDS against St. Louis, Johnson was hit hard and took the loss in a 12-2 defeat to St. Louis. In Game 2, Schilling pitched well but got a no-decision in a 2-1 loss.
The complete list:
Year Team Pitcher (wins)
Division Series numbers
1996 ATL John Smoltz (24)
1 G, 1-0, 1.00 ERA
1997 SEA Randy Johnson (20)
2 G, 0-2, 5.54 ERA
1997 ATL Denny Neagle (20)
1998 NYY David Cone (20)
1 G, 1-0, 0.00 ERA
1998 TEX Rick Helling (20)
1 G, 0-1, 4.50 ERA
1998 ATL Tom Glavine (20)
1 G, 0-0, 1.29 ERA
1999 BOS Pedro Martinez (23)
2 G, 1-0, 0.00 ERA
1999 HOU Mike Hampton (22)
1 G, 0-0, 3.86 ERA
1999 HOU Jose Lima (21)
1 G, 0-1, 5.40 ERA
2000 OAK Tim Hudson (20)
1 G, 0-1, 3.48 ERA
2000 ATL Tom Glavine (21)
1 G, 0-1, 27.00 ERA
2000 STL Darryl Kile
1 G, 1-0, 2.57 ERA
2001 OAK Mark Mulder (21)
2 G, 1-1, 2. 45 ERA
2001 NYY Roger Clemens (20)
2 G, 0-1, 5.40 ERA
2001 STL Matt Morris (22)
2 G, 0-1, 1.20 ERA
2001 ARI Curt Schilling (22)
2 G, 2-0, 0.50 ERA
2001 ARI Randy Johnson (21)
1 G, 0-1, 3.38 ERA
2002 ARI Randy Johnson (24)
1 G, 0-1, 7.50 ERA
2002 ARI Curt Schilling (23)
1 G, 0-0, 1.29 ERA
The D-Backs were still alive, however, and tied the game in the eighth off reliever Rick White when Albert Pujols, who replaced Rolen at third, bobbled Greg Colbrunn's grounder. Quinton McCracken then drove him home on a double.
But Arizona reliever Mike Koplove, who had pitched a brilliant 1-2-3 eighth, gave up three singles in the ninth, with Edgar Renteria singling to left, moving to second on a sac bunt by Mike Matheny, then scoring the game-winner on Miguel Cairo's single.
There would be no great finish for the D-Backs this time.
"We've still got to take one game at a time," said McCracken. "When the situation calls for a bunt or a base knock to get it done someway, somehow we haven't done it, bottom line. We'll regroup, go to St. Louis and see what happens on Saturday.
"We've got to keep battling," said the outfielder. "It's been a battle. It's the old saying, good pitching beats good hitting, and right now their getting good pitching and getting the dominant hits. We're not."
Koplove, who had suffered through some disappointing stretch-drive games, being touched for 12 earned runs in his last 6 1/3 innings, spanning six appearances --- his ERA soared from 1.79 to a final 3.36 --- again struggled. This time it was much costlier.
"Every game whether we win or lose is the whole team," said Koplove. "Today, unfortunately, I was the guy who kind of took the loss in the box score. It's frustrating, it's disappointing, for me personally, but from a team standpoint it's not the end of the world."
But it could be the end of the Diamondbacks' season if they lose in St. Louis on Saturday, with Miguel Batista opposing Andy Benes at Busch Stadium. One game. Anything can happen. They did win their second straight NL West title in what they called the toughest division in baseball, but to get swept by the Cardinals is anathema.
Catcher Damian Miller says the team just didn't get the bats going on Thursday, and realizes they'd better be clicking in St. Louis. They're being timed by a stopwatch in the postseason now, not an hour glass.
"The only thing you can do is not think about elimination," said Miller. "You just go out there and play hard, hustle, play good defense, try to have good at-bats, and hopefully our pitchers will keep us in the ballgame.
"It's tough when you have those two big horses (Johnson and Schilling) and now you're 0-and-2 and the big boys are gone. It's not the best feeling in the world, but like I said, hopefully Miggy (Miguel Batista) will get a win for us and they can come back in Games 4 and 5."
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.