10/12/07 1:48 AM ET
Arizona can't bail out Webb in Game 1
Ace struggles through six; bats unable to cash in on chances
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
They lost with ace pitcher Brandon Webb on the mound, and the breaks that went their way in the season's second half suddenly seemed to be going in the Rockies' favor, which left a red-clad sellout crowd with little to cheer.
Add in a controversial seventh-inning call that prompted some of the 48,142 in attendance to throw debris on the field, and it was not the opening night they were hoping for in Arizona.
So how did the overachieving D-backs react following their 5-1 loss in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series?
"The mood was as good as it could be after a loss," outfielder Eric Byrnes said. "Guys are excited about coming back tomorrow. When you have a long series like this, you can drop one."
True, but this one hurt if only because the D-backs were relying on Webb to set the tone for this series and cool off the Rockies, who came in having won 17 of their last 18 games. The one loss in that amazing stretch came on Sept. 28, when the D-backs beat them, 4-2, at Coors Field.
The pitcher that night for the D-backs? Webb.
However, on this night Webb appeared to have good stuff, but not his best command. He fell behind the hitters early, which made him more predictable with his pitches.
"I had good stuff, real good stuff, I thought," said Webb, who lost for the first time since Sept. 2, when the Rockies beat him at Chase Field. "Changeup and breaking ball were good. I fell behind at times with my fastball, otherwise, stuff-wise I felt pretty good."
Webb allowed seven hits, but in fairness to him many were not exactly hit hard, particularly in the third, when the Rockies grabbed control of the game with a three-run outburst that gave them a 4-1 lead.
Willy Taveras and Kaz Matsui's singles in the inning were both bloops to the outfield, while Matt Holliday reached on a ground ball to third base that started out foul before rolling fair and hitting the bag.
"They didn't hit him hard tonight," Byrnes said. "I'm sure he just didn't have the command he wanted, but I'd still take Brandon Webb over any other pitcher in the league any day of the week."
The D-backs offense also did little, as it seemed the mojo that marked their second-half run wasn't there.
That was evident from their first batter of the game, when Chris Young, who hit nine leadoff homers during the regular season and one in the NL Division Series against the Cubs, just missed hitting another one as Holliday pulled in his deep fly on the warning track in left.
In the controversial seventh, Chris Snyder led off with a double down the line in left. Colorado starter Jeff Francis then hit Justin Upton with a pitch, and the 20-year-old rookie glared at him as he headed to first, which prompted shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to shout at Upton.
Augie Ojeda followed with a ground ball to short, and Upton was out at second and Ojeda was ruled out at first, even though there was no throw, because second-base umpire Larry Vanover ruled that Upton's roll block into second was interference.
D-backs manager Bob Melvin argued the call, and the crowd let its displeasure be known by throwing debris on the field, which forced an eight-minute delay in the game as the umpires pulled the Rockies off the field.
When play resumed, the D-backs loaded the bases for shortstop Stephen Drew, the team's hottest hitter of late, who just got under an offering from reliever Jeremy Affeldt and flied out deep to right.
"He gave me a good pitch to hit, and I just missed it," Drew said of the fastball that was supposed to be away, but came over the plate. "I put a good swing on it, and it's just one of those things where it just didn't pan out tonight. When I get a pitch like that, I usually don't miss it."
With both teams so familiar with one another coming into the series, everyone figured it would come down to execution. Thursday, that's exactly what happened.
"We put them in a few jams," first baseman Conor Jackson said. "And we had some opportunities to score a few runs and didn't execute."
It's been a while since the D-backs trailed at anything.
They won Game 1 en route to a sweep of the Cubs in the NLDS, and they were in first place from Sept. 4 until the end of the season. They did, however, face their share of adversity prior to that and bounced back from tough losses throughout the season.
"We're not worried about it," Byrnes said. "This is a long series. This is a seven-game series. This isn't a five-game series. No one is going to panic in here. When you have a long series like this, you can drop one. The series isn't won or lost in the first game."
No, but a tone can be set, and with Webb only scheduled to start two games this series, Arizona hoped to win them both.
"You'd like to get the win when you've got your ace going, but there's no panic in here," Drew said. "We're going to just keep plugging along, keep playing. This team has done it all year, and it's brought us this far. We'll see how the series turns out."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.