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Must C Clutch: Roberts ends it with a grand slam

PHOENIX -- With his grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning Tuesday night, Ryan Roberts capped a miraculous D-backs comeback and kept them alive in the race for home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Then, as he circled the bases to end Arizona's unfathomable 7-6 come-from-behind win over the Dodgers, he channeled his inner Kirk Gibson, circa 1988.

Imitating his manager and former Dodger, Roberts rounded first base and repeatedly pumped his arm, as Gibson did when his famed walk-off home run off Dennis Eckersley won Game 1 of the '88 World Series for Los Angeles.

"Some things rub off," Gibson said, cracking a wry grin. "He deserved to do it."

The D-backs can clinch home field in the opening round with a win Wednesday and a loss by Milwaukee, which beat Pittsburgh on Tuesday. The fact that Arizona remains alive for a pair of home games at Chase Field this weekend is nothing short of remarkable.

In one of legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully's most famous calls, he said of Gibson's home run "the impossible has happened." Tuesday's game obviously didn't have anywhere near the same clout as the '88 thiller, but an Arizona comeback certainly seemed impossible with two outs in the 10th.

The D-backs trailed by five and had the bases empty as most of the Chase Field faithful headed for the exits. The next five hitters all reached base, setting the stage for Roberts' heroics.

"Everything on this team blows my mind," Roberts said. "All year long we've done the comeback wins and crazy things all year long, and that just goes down in the books as another one."

Roberts had been planning to surprise Gibson with that specific home run trot if he ever hit a walk-off. Though he pointed at his manager as he rounded second, Gibson said he didn't see the celebration as it happened. Roberts wasn't concerned, laughing as he said, "Oh, he'll see it."

The rally began with a blunder by Dodgers reliever Blake Hawksworth. On a grounder to first base, Hawksworth didn't cover the bag as Cole Gillespie beat the throw. Gibson noted usually those types of comebacks aren't flukes, but rather they come from execution on one side or missed execution on the other.

Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly agreed.

"We should have won it," he said. "Hawk not covering first opened the door. From there, anything can happen. We gave them an extra out and it cost us."

The next four men all reached base on a pair of walks, a single and an error, and Roberts crushed the first pitch he saw from Dodgers closer Javy Guerra into the left-field seats.

It erased the five-run lead that Los Angeles had built in the top of the inning against Arizona reliever Micah Owings. Two of those runs came on a triple by A.J. Ellis that knocked All-Star right fielder Justin Upton out of the game when the ball caromed off the wall and hit him in the head.

Upton was hit in the head with a Tim Lincecum fastball Sunday and was out of the lineup for what the team called "precautionary reasons" Monday. After Tuesday's bizarre play, Upton knelt, holding his hand on his head for a minute or two, but both he and Gibson said he was fine and removed just to be safe.

"I guess my head is a target right now," said Upton, who was 1-for-4 before he was taken out. "For everything."

Gibson even kidded that the ball at least stayed in the park after hitting Upton, noting "it was a big stop."

The ending overshadowed a very solid debut from highly touted prospect Jarrod Parker, who worked 5 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed just four hits -- only one of them hit hard.

"A little bit," Parker said when asked if he felt any nerves. "But at the same time it's just baseball. It's the same game I've been playing my entire life, so I just try to relax and not make it too much."

Parker's fastball was consistently in the mid-90s, but he was most effective using it to set up his offspeed pitches, specifically his changeup. Dodgers hitters were constantly out in front of his changeup and slider, flailing at the pitches to produce weak contact.

He was removed after just 73 pitches with runners on the corners and two outs in the sixth, as lefty Joe Paterson came on to face left-handed hitter James Loney, who grounded weakly to short.

Both teams exchanged runs in the seventh and wouldn't score again until the wild 10th inning that saw Owings improve to 8-0 despite allowing five runs.

Asked if he felt a bit guilty to get the win, Owings' response was simple: "Never." Owings said Tuesday's win was just a testament to the team's fight.

"We just play until the final out," Owings said. "Obviously my part is to hold us right where we're at. Didn't happen tonight, but still, these guys continue to fight and you walk away with a win." Comments