10/05/2002 7:21 pm ET
MLBeat: D-Backs determined
By Rich Draper / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Elimination. Termination. Two of the worst words in the English -- and especially baseball -- language, and two only whispered quietly in the Arizona Diamondbacks clubhouse Saturday.
They preferred determination.
Trailing 2-0 prior to Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the game is the epitome of a "must-win" scenario for the defending world champions.
Words won't mean anything in this crossroads contests, victory meaning the NLDS goes on, with Arizona aces Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling prepped and eager to extend their seasons, and a loss meaning the kids will be happy to see their daddies home for the offseason.
But "experience" is a factor for Game 3, and that could be the Diamondbacks' salvation.
"Our guys have been through just about everything that has been thrown their direction at some point in their career," said manager Bob Brenly before the game. "They've been up against the wall. They've been in elimination games. They've played these games and gone home.
"They've played these games and advances. I don't know how much of an advantage it is, but certainly they've been there before and they know what's at stake. And I know they're going to be prepared after the first pitch of the ballgame."
It's a pull-all-stops game. No move will be verboten. If things get hairy for the D-Backs, and a lead is tenuous, he's likely to bring in any reliever to hold down the opposition. There's nobody to save for tomorrow.
In an attempt to get the offense untracked, Brenly put Erubiel Durazo --- a big man with a big bat --- at first, forsaking Gold Glover Mark Grace. It's wood that will count now more than leather.
The Diamondbacks hit a pathetic .206 in the first two games, the pitchers' ERA is 5.00.
Durazo hit .261 this season, slumping down the stretch, yet when he hit a homer in a game the team was 12-0. At one point, he averaged one homer per 9.5 at-bats. It's time for his bat to awaken.
Gonzo's there: It was a silent tribute to injured left fielder Luis Gonzalez, his No. 20 batting helmet being passed around the visiting dugout, with four bubble gum pieces placed inside.
Then, it was placed in its cubbyhole next to the bench, symbolizing the team's homer and RBI leader was with the team in spirit.
It's one of Gonzo's habits, putting pieces of gum inside his helmet after getting on base. He carefully removes it and hands it to first base coach Robin Yount, making sure none of the gum falls out.
It looked so odd at times that one opposing manager thought for sure Arizona was using radio waves to send signals from the dugout, not the wiggle-waggle signs of third base coach Eddie Rodriguez.
Just a habit, just for luck.
Game plan: With the series on the line, the D-Backs are determined to give it all they have, but not go overboard.
"We do have our backs against the wall, but we've got to go out and play our game," said Quinton McCracken, a .301 hitter on the year. "We're going to play hard like we know how to play it and rally behind Miguel."
Veteran Steve Finley said opposing pitcher Andy Benes is pitching better than ever before and will make their job tougher.
"Location is the key for him," said Finley, who felt his club is ready for the game and can rely on history to help them.
"We had three must-win games last year and won them all," said the outfielder. "That's what we learned last year, that you just go out and play the game. You can't think about 'gotta win,' or go the plate thinking you've got to get a hit this at-bat. Just hope you get solid contact and hopefully it'll hit some outfield grass."
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.