10/08/11 12:19 AM ET
Unlikely trio crafts ninth-inning comeback
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
Start with a double to the wall from a guy who didn't have a hit in the National League Division Series in his first 17 at-bats. Add a bloop single from a guy who hadn't played in the Majors in five years before joining the club in May. And tie the game with a clutch squeeze bunt by a veteran utility player who became the quarterback of the infield and the team's leadoff hitter.
Stir, and serve another amazing comeback.
In the end, this D-backs comeback didn't put them over the top, and they didn't get to savor a victory in Game 5 at Miller Park. But they sent the game into extra innings thanks to the work of Gerardo Parra, Sean Burroughs and Willie Bloomquist, who put the rally together in a span of eight pitches from Brewers closer John Axford -- handing him his first blown save in 44 opportunities, including Game 1.
"That's how we've been rocking all year, battling our butts off," Burroughs said in the quiet of the D-backs' clubhouse after a 3-2 Brewers win in 10 innings ended Arizona's season.
Indeed, the team that led the Majors in comeback victories during the regular season had been here before. But there's nothing like doing it with the season on the line in a deciding playoff game.
Parra led it off by ripping a double into the right-center gap off a 95 mph first-pitch fastball from Axford. Burroughs followed by fighting off a full-count fastball, looping it into short left field to advance Parra to third. Then Bloomquist dropped down a flawless safety squeeze to the right side, causing a train wreck between Axford and first baseman Prince Fielder.
Voila, the tying run and a whole new ballgame.
For Parra, it was worth the wait. He'd struggled at the plate the entire series, drawing a walk but striking out and flying out in his first three at-bats in Friday's finale.
"When I got the double, I was thinking we were going to win," Parra said. "I knew I was going to score and we were going to come back. It didn't happen and that's hard, but that's baseball. That's how the game is."
Without the battle Burroughs put up against Axford, that run very well might not have scored. He'd been told by manager Kirk Gibson that he needed to get ready in case third baseman Ryan Roberts made an out in the top of the eighth, which he did, and Burroughs took the field in the bottom half on a double-switch that brought reliever David Hernandez into the game.
When Burroughs came to the plate in the ninth and squared to bunt, he was greeted with a 96 mph fastball from Axford right at his face, sending Burroughs tumbling to the ground. But he dusted himself off and fought off two other fastballs before blooping the ball in front of left fielder Ryan Braun.
"It all happened pretty quick," Burroughs said. "Parra got that first-pitch double, and my job was to try and get him over and then the first pitch almost hit me on the chin -- with the big chin I've got, I don't know how he missed it. After that, it was either get him over or get a hit. He was throwing hard and my job is to put the bat on the ball, and it worked out."
Perhaps no one can relate to a desperate comeback like Burroughs, who battled through addiction issues while out of the game completely since 2007 and got a second chance with the D-backs. He took full advantage of it, right down to his final at-bat.
"I'm still in awe that I'm sitting in this room and I was a part of it," Burroughs said. "Being able to be a part of this team with the guys in here so much fun to be around, it's given me a new lease on life. I'm just grateful for every day I put on an Arizona hat."
Within moments after Burroughs' hit, Bloomquist delivered the go-ahead run with his squeeze, a clutch bunt that followed four groundouts earlier in the game, three of them to shortstop.
"[Gibson] probably figured I'd hit another ground ball to short if he let me swing away -- I had that down pretty good today," said Bloomquist, who broke out a "Snake" gesture from first base, likely a surprise to his teammates from the generally staid veteran. "That was a great call on his part."
Unfortunately for the D-backs, the rally ended there. Axford buckled down to get three outs, and the Brewers wound up taking the game on a 10th-inning single by Nyjer Morgan.
But the D-backs left another mark on the 2011 season with a ninth-inning rally not quite like any other before it in postseason history, given the cast of characters and the critical situation.
"As soon as G hit the double, I really felt this game was ours," Bloomquist said. "That's just the way we've been all year. The chips are down, they've got their big guy coming in and we come back on them. That's how it's been all year."
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.