D-backs show character in loss
Team fought back before falling in Game 4 on Monday
DENVER -- The champagne was sitting chilled in the Rockies clubhouse. The sellout crowd of 50,213 had postgame celebration plans worked out. The T-shirt presses were working full speed. And it's safe to say that with such a late start time in the first place that many televisions over on the East Coast had been switched off.
A team that had scored just five runs in 36 innings during the series now had a five-run deficit to chip away at if there was going to be any hope of a Game 5 on Wednesday. And the D-backs had six outs in which to turn around that deficit.
They nearly did.
A three-run homer by catcher Chris Snyder with two down in the eighth shrunk that looming deficit to a more manageable two. And before the game would end, three different hitters would come to the plate representing the tying run.
Left for dead by most everyone outside the visitor's dugout at Coors Field, the D-backs had one last message to send before the 2007 season came to an end: this team never quits.
"It simply reaffirms this group and the dedication they have to playing 27 outs," first baseman Tony Clark later said of his team's comeback attempt. "Nobody hung their head. Nobody blamed anybody else. I think it simply reaffirms what we've done all season long and that's battle from start to finish."
A series looking so lopsided was anything but when it came to heart and effort.
"That defines this team," said Game 4 starter Micah Owings. "On the field, I don't think that age really mattered. Once again, I think we fought day in and day out in taking each pitch."
The D-backs had every reason to start thinking about the offseason.
Even before falling into a deficit, they knew that history was against them, with the 2004 Red Sox serving as the only example of a team ever to successfully erase an 0-3 postseason deficit.
They had watched every break go Colorado's way. They had seen every call go against Arizona. They could sense that the team across them on the field had something special going for them.
But the patient at-bats continued. The will to win remained undeterred. And as a result, Arizona nearly did the unthinkable.
"Whether it's a game or inning, whether it's running balls out or putting pressure on the other team, fighting all the way to the end, that's what we've been about all year long," manager Bob Melvin said. "And [we] gave ourselves a chance there with the tying run at the plate in the last inning."
Snyder's home run was set up by two base hits preceding it, hits off a pitcher, Brian Fuentes, who had an intimidating postseason ERA of 0.00 in six previous appearances.
Justin Upton followed with a crowd-deflating triple that had everyone beginning to think, "No, it can't possibly ...."
That brought the tying run to the plate.
"That tells our season," Upton said later, pointing to that eighth inning. "That's the way we played all season. We don't give up. We play all nine innings. We play every single out."
Clark wouldn't be able to come through with another big hit, leaving Upton stranded 90 feet from home. A one-out double by Chris Young in the ninth would bring both Stephen Drew and Eric Byrnes to the plate as potential tying runs, giving Arizona one more chance.
A popup and a groundout ended it, but underlying the result was the fact that a team written off by so many during the season and again after the fourth-inning of Game 4, warned that should never happen again.
"We don't listen to the skeptics," Clark said. "We battled right down to the last out, so we have nothing to be ashamed of. The adjustments were made. The attitude and perseverance that we showed all year was still there, even down the stretch."
Said Snyder: "We kept battling, and we never gave in."
They showed the fight and character that would be expected of a veteran team in a familiar position, though in actuality, they were headlined by youth and inexperience.
The rally fell short, as did the ultimate goal of winning a World Series, but the D-backs have no doubt that they will be back playing in October very soon. And when they are, they are hopeful that the message they sent in the final two innings of Monday's loss has been made clear to all those looking to write them off again.
"We're going to fight like this next year," said the 20-year-old Upton. "This team has a lot of upside. This team has a lot of young players, [and] to come into the playoffs and get that experience is priceless. That's the way it's been all season."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.