D-backs remain dangerous squad
Team's unpredictable nature in '07 could signal comeback
DENVER -- Eric Byrnes called his team's looming uphill climb "fitting," and maybe that is the best way to look at it.
Enviable? Of course not.
Impossible? Absolutely not.
This is a team that has resisted what others deemed to be the expected all year.
Despite batting a league-worst .250 during the season, Arizona finished with a league-best 90 wins. And despite being outscored overall by their opponents, the D-backs finished 32-20 in one-run games during the regular season.
They were viewed by many as an underdog against the Cubs in the Division Series, yet responded with a convincing sweep. The list could go on and on.
Arizona hasn't exactly followed a normal path of success so far, so what would be the point in starting now? "This is a team that's pretty much defied baseball logic, and nothing's come easy," Byrnes said of his club. "We don't expect this to come easy. We never expected it to come easy."
Well, this may be the hardest challenge yet.
A historical perspective further validates that the task of overcoming an 0-2 hole is daunting. Since 1985, only the 1985 Cardinals, the 1985 Royals and the 2004 Red Sox have erased 0-2 deficits in a League Championship Series and advanced to the World Series.
And then there's the thought of having to win four out of five games against a club that has won 19 of its last 20.
But this team is not short on experience against adversity. They nosedived during the first half of July, a plunge that eventually put them looking up from third place in the division. They then fought their way back to the top.
Next came a trying time against San Diego a month later, when three-straight losses to the Padres pushed the D-backs down into a first-place tie. Shortly after, they reeled off six wins in a row to reclaim first place for good.
Adversity has taught resilience. And now resilience has the potential to reap reward.
"It's not going to be easy," left-hander Doug Davis said. "It hasn't been easy all season, and it hasn't been easy to get to where we are today."
Avoiding a let up
Across the field, the Rockies have every reason to be confident. Even a confidence borderlining cocky would be understandable. They have lost just once since Sept. 15, and for those who believe in destiny, Colorado could be destiny's poster boys.
However, Rockies reliever LaTroy Hawkins took it into his hands after Colorado's win on Friday to make sure that his teammates didn't begin looking beyond Game 3. He posted a sign on the visitor's clubhouse bulletin board after the game that read: "Not Done Yet."
Having played the D-backs 18 times during the regular season, the Rockies are well aware of the resiliency of this Arizona club. And Hawkins is insistent on making sure that the Rockies don't start underestimating their foes.
"They are still right here because nobody's gotten to four victories yet," he said. "There's a lot of baseball still to be played. As long as they've got a chance, we're not done. We have to keep after them and not let up just because it's 2-0. We know they're a dangerous team and know that they can come back on us if we don't take care of business."
The Rockies have sufficient reason to avoid planning a post-NLCS celebration, as the D-backs have been right there with Colorado all series. Arizona has outhit the Rockies 18 to 15, yet has been plagued by leaving 19 runners on base through the first two games of the series. But knowing that the baserunners are there gives the D-backs hope that eventually those runners are going to begin scoring.
The Rockies are also as aware as the D-backs that because the two teams have matched up so often this season, there is little in the way of secrets left between the two clubs.
"I'd rather face a team like the Rockies," Jackson said. "And don't get me wrong, they've [won] 19 of 20 or something like that, but I'd rather play a team like that where we face them 30 times a year than a team where we see them six times a year."
Rally caps: 0-2 deficit not insurmountable
|In postseason history of Major League Baseball, 66 teams have faced an 0-2 deficit in a best-of-seven series, with only 13 of those clubs coming back to win the series.|
|2004 ALCS||Red Sox||Yankees||7|
|1986 WS||Mets||Red Sox||7|
|1985 ALCS||Royals||Blue Jays||7|
It had been less than 12 hours since the D-backs watched Colorado's Ryan Spilborghs trot home on a bases-loaded walk in the eleventh, which sealed the 0-2 deficit Arizona now faces.
The D-backs loaded onto their chartered plane, ready for the hour-long flight to Denver. Then things got rolling as usual.
Orlando Hudson was cracking jokes. The trash talking was rampant. And personal anecdotes were being tossed around. The pervasive mood could have been mistaken for any of the other number of flights the D-backs took during the season.
This team isn't panicking. It's not pressing. Put quite simply, they don't know how to act any differently than they have all year.
"Failure is how you learn," said first baseman Tony Clark. "Success is great. But when things don't go your way, that's when there are lessons to be learned during those difficult times. It really doesn't affect the way we perform, the way we play. Tomorrow's game hopefully will be indifferent to how the series has gone."
The mantra of "just another game" has been preached incessantly, and the players have bought into it.
"We've got to just take it one day at a time," said Conor Jackson, prior to Saturday's optional team workout at Coors Field. "That's been our philosophy from Day 1. We can't sit here and say we need to take four of the next five because realistically that's where you hurt yourself looking at it like that."
Somewhat amazingly, a young team has managed to keep everything in perspective. An 0-2 deficit is simply another challenge in a season defined by the D-backs' rewarded persistence to overcome them. And if this challenge, too, can be overcome, it will make the end result that much sweeter to savor.
In the meantime, however, expect the demeanors to remain even-keel, the attitudes to remain upbeat and the mind-set to remain focused on a one-game-at-a-time approach. Those have been the keys getting the team to this point and will remain the keys moving forward.
"You know what's fantastic is that we still have at least a couple more games to play," Clark said. "The sun came up this morning. Our plane arrived safely. My wife and my kids love me. I've got nothing not to be optimistic about."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.