12/26/11 10:00 AM EST
Banner year one to remember for D-backs
Turnaround season leads to 94 victories, NL West title
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
After back-to-back last-place finishes and management upheaval, 2011 was a year of fresh beginnings and stunning achievement. Picked by most to finish at or near the bottom of the National League West, the D-backs won 94 games and the division title before bowing out to the Brewers in five games in the Division Series.
It was a magical ride filled with unexpected twists and turns. From walk-off homers to winning streaks to a rare earthquake while the team was in Washington D.C., it's a year that will not soon be forgotten.
Here's a look at five of the biggest story lines from the past 12 months:
5. The D-backs open Salt River Fields
For the first time in franchise history, fans did not have to travel to Tucson to watch the D-backs in Spring Training. The club became the first team to open a Spring Training facility on Native American land with Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Shared with the Rockies, the state-of-the-art facility was a hit with fans, who flocked in record numbers. The D-backs led all of baseball in attendance, drawing an average of 11,161, and their total attendance 189,737 shattered the club's previous high of 136,940.
4. A historic May
The D-backs beat the Dodgers, 1-0, on May 14 in Los Angeles despite collecting just one hit. The win ended a five-game losing streak and started the team on a streak in which they won 17 of 19 and vaulted from fourth place to first place in the division.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, the D-backs were the first team in Major League history to enter the month of May with at least a 6 1/2-game deficit in their league (pre-1969) or division (since 1969) and gain sole possession of first place during the month.
3. Comeback kids
When he took over as manager, Kirk Gibson said he wanted his team to play hard for all 27 outs regardless of the score.
The team took his words to heart by leading the Majors with 48 come-from-behind wins. Twice the team came from six runs down -- both games came against the Astros -- and even when the D-backs didn't win, they still seemed to make the ninth inning uncomfortable for the opposition.
2. Draft bonanza
As a result of not signing their No. 1 pick from the year before, the D-backs became the first team in history to have two of the first seven picks in the First-Year Player Draft.
By all accounts, Arizona had a blockbuster day selecting UCLA right-hander Trevor Bauer at No. 3 and high-school righty Archie Bradley at No. 7. In addition, the D-backs nabbed left-hander Andrew Chafin in the compensation round and righty Anthony Meo in the second round, drawing praise from Draft analysts and beefing up an already burgeoning farm system.
1. Back in the playoffs
The D-backs won their fifth NL West title and their first since 2007 with a 3-1 win over the Giants on Sept. 23.
Arizona battled the Brewers down to the season's final day for home-field advantage in the Division Series and the D-backs' failure to capture it would prove costly as the Brewers won all three games NLDS played at Miller Park.
The D-backs rallied to tie Game 5 in the ninth before the Brewers managed to push across a run in the 10th inning to prevail, 3-2.