10/06/2002 00:50 am ET
'O' no: D-Backs bats stay silent
Defending champs, sans two key cogs, bow out
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Injuries eroded their lineup. St. Louis pitchers effectively avoided their strengths.
Either explanation will suffice for the offensive slump the Arizona Diamondbacks endured throughout the Division Series, which ended Saturday night with St. Louis' 6-3 victory in Game 3. The Cardinals swept the reigning world champions in three games and will advance to the National League Championship Series against the winner of the Atlanta-San Francisco Division Series.
At least the Diamondbacks won't spend the winter pondering "what ifs." They sensed before the series that scoring runs might be a struggle without infielder Craig Counsell, the sparkplug who was sidelined for most of the final two months with a herniated disk in his neck, and left fielder Luis Gonzalez, the slugger who separated his left shoulder shortly before the end of the regular season.
"We didn't give it away. We got beat," center fielder Steve Finley said. "When you get beat, you can walk out of the clubhouse with your head high because you left it all out on the field."
The Diamondbacks still had some legitimate basis for optimism entering the Division Series. They won the NL West and led the league in runs while playing most of the season without right fielder Danny Bautista, who was hitting .325 with six homers and 23 RBIs in 40 games before a shoulder injury shelved him in late May.
But the absences of Gonzalez and Counsell, combined with St. Louis' precise pitching, indeed proved too significant for the Diamondbacks. They scored just six runs in the series while batting .184 (18-for-98). Each game brought its unique misery: Arizona mustered three singles in the final six innings of Game 1, went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position in Game 2 and collected a series-low four hits Saturday.
David Dellucci's two-run, second-inning homer Saturday not only gave Arizona its first and only lead of the series, but it was also the Diamondbacks' first Division Series round-tripper. Every other postseason team already had homered at least once.
Through their postgame gloom, the Diamondbacks acknowledged the void left by Gonzalez and Counsell.
"We were a little out-manned at the end, when you really get down to it, based on being shorthanded," said Jerry Colangelo, Arizona's managing general partner. "That's not to take anything away from the year we did put together under the circumstances."
"We just got decimated by injuries, especially toward the end," Finley said.
"One of our strengths last year and throughout the regular season this year was our depth and our ability to go to the bench ... because we had depth," manager Bob Brenly said. "This year, because of injuries to some extremely key people, we just did not have that same kind of depth."
When a reporter prefaced a question about the Diamondbacks' weak offense by citing Gonzalez and Counsell, Brenly responded, "I'd argue we're missing our top three hitters, with Danny Bautista going down in May ... It really puts a strain on the offense. It gives the opposition the opportunity to pitch around the guys they think can hurt them the most."
The Diamondbacks also admitted that timing is everything. Though they entered the postseason with a four-game winning streak, having swept Colorado at home in the season's final series, St. Louis had sustained a more impressive stretch of success, winning 21 of its final 25 games.
"We weren't particularly playing our best ball at the end of the season, and the Cardinals were playing the best ball in Major League Baseball," Brenly said.
Said Colangelo, "They were on a good roll, and we kind of stumbled in, despite the fact we won our last four against Colorado."
If anything, the Diamondbacks dwelled more on St. Louis' excellence than on their own shortcomings.
"They didn't really give us anything good to hit," said second baseman Junior Spivey, who hit .154 (2-for-13) after batting .301 in the regular season. "They did a great job scouting (us), keeping everyone off-balance and not giving in to our hitters."
While the Diamondbacks struggled at the plate, the Cardinals did little to help them. They issued 11 walks -- not outstanding control, but decent -- threw no wild pitches and hit no Arizona batters.
"You have to look at who they had on the mound," Dellucci said. "It wasn't like we were going out there facing mediocre pitching."
Said first baseman Mark Grace, the sage 15-year veteran, "We got out-pitched, out-hit, out-fielded, out-baserunned -- everything. That's why I have to be gracious in defeat, no pun intended."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.