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World Series 2001
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10/13/2001 04:23 AM ET
Batista beats the odds, then beats the Cardinals
By Steve Gilbert
MLB.com
Batista allowed two runs on three hits in six innings.
ST. LOUIS -- There were some raised eyebrows when Bob Brenly named Miguel Batista his No. 3 starter for the National League Division Series.

While most pundits said the St. Louis Cardinals had the edge in Friday's pitching matchup, and some Diamondbacks fans were hoping for a rainout so Curt Schilling could start Game 3 a day later, Batista quietly went about preparing for his start with a quiet confidence.

He has a picture of Albert Einstein that hangs in his Bank One Ballpark locker, and he is very fond of Einstein's quote about imagination being more important than knowledge. Even those with the wildest of imaginations never would have predicted back in March that Batista would be the winning pitcher in the biggest win of the season.

Back then, he was battling for the fifth spot in the rotation. Friday, he may have saved the season for Arizona by allowing just two runs on three hits in six innings as the Diamondbacks beat the Cardinals, 5-3, to push St. Louis within one game of elimination.

"It's about taking advantage of an opportunity," Brenly said of Batista. "So many times in this game you get your chance, and either you're not prepared for it physically or mentally. He got an opportunity with a pretty good team to show what he could do this year, and he took advantage of that opportunity and ran with it."

With Arizona up two games to one, Brenly will start Albie Lopez in Saturday's Game 4 rather than bring Schilling back on just three days' rest. Had the Diamondbacks been facing elimination Saturday, Schilling was going to pitch.

Schilling and Lopez both knew the situation, which made for some anxious moments for the two of them, especially when Arizona fell behind early.

"It was the hardest nine innings I've ever had to watch," Schilling said. "It was unbelievable. I'm spent. I feel like I pitched. One minute I think I'm pitching Saturday, then I'm not, then I am.

"The only thing fun about tonight was the last out."

Meanwhile, Lopez knew that if he wasn't going to pitch Saturday, there was a good chance he would be used in the bullpen Friday. That meant that he, too, was on edge the entire game.

"I was going back and forth thinking I might pitch tonight for an inning or start tomorrow," Lopez said. "Then, at one point, I thought I might do both. It was a real roller coaster."

Batista calmed both men as he did what he's done all season for the Diamondbacks -- keep the club in the ballgame when he's pitched. In his final three starts of the regular season, he allowed just two earned runs in 19 innings (0.95 ERA). In the process, he earned Brenly's trust and earned himself the No. 3 spot in the postseason rotation.

And if there were those who had doubts about how he matched up against the Cardinals' Darryl Kile, there weren't any skeptics in the Arizona clubhouse.

"I hope everyone around baseball knows how good he is now," Craig Counsell said of Batista. "He did what he's done all year. He kept us in the game, gave us a quality start, and we scored enough runs for him."

Batista was 11-8 with a 3.36 ERA in 48 regular-season games. He was remarkably consistent as a starter or reliever, compiling a 6-6 record with a 3.36 ERA in a starting role and a 5-2 record with a 3.35 ERA out of the bullpen.

A voracious reader, Batista, who was signed by the Diamondbacks as a free agent last November, draws inspiration from the many books that he reads. A religious man, he took comfort in one of the stories from The Bible.

"Someone told me earlier today, 'David beat Goliath, so why can't you beat the St. Louis Cardinals?'" said the 30-year-old, who has pitched for six big-league clubs. "I always believed that I was a good pitcher. I have a lot of confidence in my ability to go out there and pitch. I try to go out there every game and keep my team in the ballgame."

Both of the runs Batista allowed came on a home run by Jim Edmonds.

"He made one bad pitch to Edmonds," Brenly said. "Other than that, he executed pitches, and got ahead of hitters and did what he's done for us all year long."

Batista struck out four Cardinals batters, but part of his strategy was to let the St. Louis batters put the ball in play.

"I have confidence in them," Batista said of his teammates. "I know if I just go out there and make the other guys hit the ball we have a chance to win because we have one of the best defensive teams in the league."

Steve Gilbert is the site manager of azdiamondbacks.com