|ESPN.com: MLB Playoffs 2011||[Print without images]|
PHOENIX -- Arizona third baseman Ryan Roberts insists he didn't want to do anything crazy. He wasn't trying to catapult 38,000 Diamondbacks fans out of their seats. He had little interest in helping jaws drop in the Chase Field press box.
No, when he came to bat with the bases loaded and two outs in the first inning of Game 4 here Wednesday night, he was only trying to hit the ball in play.
"Honestly," Roberts said. "I just wanted to keep the line moving."
If it would have been Games 1, 2 or 3, he would have been watching Chris Young from the on-deck circle. But manager Kirk Gibson decided to flip-flop Roberts and Young in the batting order Wednesday night, putting Roberts in the batter's box with the opportunity to answer Milwaukee's first-inning run.
"Really," Roberts said. "I didn't want to do too much."
|Arizona's Ryan Roberts tattooed a Randy Wolf offering in the first inning for a grand slam.|
Even when Milwaukee left-hander Randy Wolf offered a tasty 79 mph changeup over the fat part of the plate, Roberts swears his eyes didn't jump out of his head, his feet didn't escape from his cleats and his arms didn't try to hit the ball to Sedona. Instead, he told himself to relax. And he calmly introduced his bat to the ball. The next thing to meet the ball would be the grass in the Arizona bullpen. Behind the left-field wall.
Arizona's second grand slam in as many nights electrified Chase Field and gave the Diamondbacks a 4-1 lead in a game they would go on to win 10-6. The Arizona team that stood on the brink of postseason elimination three nights ago has now clubbed its way to back-to-back victories, forcing a decisive Game 5 in Milwaukee on Friday night.
The Diamondbacks are the first National League team in the wild-card era to trail a best-of-five series 0-2 and force a Game 5. And they've done it by smacking the ball out of the ballpark. Tuesday night it was rookie Paul Goldschmidt with the grand slam blast. On Wednesday it was Roberts with the grand slam, Chris Young with two shots and Aaron Hill with one of his own.
When the Milwaukee coaching staff meets on the flight home to discuss the Brewers' strategy in Game 5, it might want to start by imploring its starters to keep the ball in the park. Arizona has hit nine homers in the playoffs, more than any other team. Seventeen of the 23 runs the D-backs have scored in the postseason have come via the long ball, including 12 of the 18 runs Arizona scored at home.
"I've never seen anything like it," Arizona starter Joe Saunders said. "I'm just glad I don't have to face them. I think about the only thing you can do is throw strikes and pray."
Although the Diamondbacks finished fourth in the National League in home runs this season, it isn't like it's a lineup with a Fielder or Braun. In fact, only Justin Upton (31) hit more than 20 homers.
Yet suddenly the Milwaukee pitchers can't seem to keep the Arizona hitters in the ballpark. It seems like with each swing of the bat, there's another press box announcement about some record being broken.
On Wednesday it was four home runs being the most ever by an Arizona team in the postseason. Goldschmidt and Roberts just the second set of teammates to hit playoff grand slams on back-to-back nights. (The others being Ron Cey and Dusty Baker for the '77 Dodgers.) And Young the first Diamondback to hit two homers in a postseason game.
But the nuttiest stat of all? Dating back to the last two games of the regular season, the Diamondbacks have hit grand slams in four consecutive home games.
"It's crazy," Montero says. "Totally crazy."
Even Gibson doesn't know how to explain.
"I'm not sure," he said. "The key is to get the bases loaded."
|D-backs center fielder Chris Young went deep twice, driving in three runs.|
And have the right hitter against the right pitcher in the right situation. Gibson's flip-flopping of the lineup seemed to do just that. Roberts and Young, the two players who traded spots, combined to go 3-for-8 with three homers and seven RBIs, enough runs to beat the Brewers on their own.
"You're not thinking about homers; you're just thinking about having good at-bats and trying to get on base and produce runs," Young said. "And every now and then you square some up."
On the flip side, every now and then you don't. Milwaukee's Ryan Braun crushed two balls that stayed in the park Wednesday night. And one of the biggest plays of the night came in the top of the sixth when the Brewers had the bases loaded trailing 7-3. Corey Hart lifted a long fly ball to deep left-center field, but Arizona's Gerardo Parra tracked it down on the warning track in the deepest part of the field. A few more feet, and the game would have been tied at 7.
Now the question becomes whether the D-backs can pack their hot-hitting ways and bring them to Miller Park for Game 5. Gibson was emphatic after Wednesday's win that he would be reminding his players that they hadn't accomplished anything yet. They didn't come home to win two games and fly to Milwaukee only to lose. That's why the suitcases the Diamondbacks will carry with them to Wisconsin will have clothes for the next five days.
"We just need to keep it going," Montero said. "Whatever it takes."
Wayne Drehs is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Wayne on Twitter @espnWD.