Commentary

Paul Goldschmidt makes Brewers pay

Rookie's blast after intentional walk keeps Diamondbacks alive another day

Updated: October 5, 2011, 3:35 AM ET
By Wayne Drehs | ESPN.com

PHOENIX -- From the moment Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy lifted his left arm and extended it to his side, the cheers began.

At first it sounded like a two-word phrase no reasonable parent would ever want his or her child to repeat. But in fact the 48,000 Diamondbacks fans inside Chase Field were chanting something else -- they were chanting "Goldschmidt."

Seconds earlier, with two outs in the fifth inning, Milwaukee pitching coach Rick Kranitz had told Shaun Marcum to intentionally walk Miguel Montero and load the bases for Paul Goldschmidt. Before the four-pitch process was complete, before Montero was on his way to first base, there were the Diamondbacks' fans, chanting the name of the 24-year-old rookie due up next.

"It wasn't what you thought. It wasn't anything bad," Arizona catcher Montero said. "It was Goldschmidt. They were chanting an angry Goldschmidt. Like get him. Get him, Goldschmidt. Don't let them do this to us."

While the casual sports fan at home might have said, "Gold who?" Arizona fans couldn't have been happier about who was due up. Goldschmidt has become a cult hero of sorts in these parts after following up his 30-homer minor league season with eight home runs in 48 games in the majors, three of which came off Tim Lincecum (two) and Cliff Lee.

He was the California League rookie of the year and MVP last season. And this year he was the first baseman on Baseball America's minor league all-star team. Not bad for a kid who long was criticized by scouts for having a swing that was too long.

Still, a year ago he was in Class A. Just this summer he was playing in the Futures Game. He didn't even make his major league debut until Aug. 1. Yet Arizona manager Kirk Gibson knew exactly what he was doing when he put Goldschmidt in the No. 5 hole.

"I had a good feeling for who I had up there," Gibson said.

Marcum didn't want Goldschmidt. He wanted Montero. But the catcher already had doubled and singled in his first two at-bats, hitting the ball hard both times. Kranitz told Marcum he had no choice. He would be putting Montero on base.

"It wasn't my decision," Marcum said. "We had an open base. I figured I could make him chase something out of the zone. Not intentionally walk him, but get him to chase something out of the zone and get out of the inning right there."

Marcum could have been out of the inning one batter earlier. With runners on first and second and one out, Justin Upton smacked a grounder back at Marcum, who bobbled the ball, forcing him to go to first for the out and not attempt the double play that would have ended the inning.

Before the game, Milwaukee pitchers had issued only 16 intentional walks all year, tied with the Diamondbacks for fewest in the National League. In Game 1, Gibson elected not to intentionally walk Prince Fielder with first base open and Fielder happily deposited an Ian Kennedy fastball into the bleachers to give Milwaukee a 4-1 win. On Tuesday, Kranitz and Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke would make the opposite decision and hope for better results.

"Sometimes you make the right moves and sometimes it doesn't work out," Roenicke said. "And sometimes you have a gut feeling, which is why I sometimes don't walk people when it's the right situation."

As Marcum threw the four balls to Montero and 48,000 people chanted his name, Goldschmidt waited in the on-deck circle and tried to focus.

"You can't get too excited, but in the back of your mind, you want to get the job done and help the team," he said. "I've been in that situation plenty of times and failed more than I've succeeded."

As the count went to 1-2, Lucroy visited the mound to talk to Marcum about signs. Diamondbacks middle infielders Aaron Hill and John McDonald played behind Marcum in Toronto, and he worried they would know his signs. With veteran Willie Bloomquist on second, Marcum wanted to make sure he and Lucroy were on the same page.

Even after the visit to the mound and with Lucroy crouched behind home plate, Marcum stepped off the rubber. Then Goldschmidt stepped out of the box. Marcum wanted to throw the ball up and in to set Goldschmidt up for something low and away with the next pitch. Instead, Marcum threw the worst pitch of the night, a knee-high fastball right down the middle of the plate.

"That's what good hitters do," Marcum said. "They hit bad pitches."

But Goldschmidt didn't just hit it. He belted the pitch over the right-field wall, clearing the bases and all but ensuring the Diamondbacks would live another day thanks to what had become an 8-1 fifth-inning lead.

"I had two strikes. I was just trying to battle," Goldschmidt said. "That was a mistake pitch for sure. If he makes a good pitch, we're probably not talking about it."

The second the ball met Goldschmidt's bat, Marcum threw his glove in the air in frustration. The home run was the first grand slam in Diamondbacks playoff history and, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, only the third playoff grand slam ever hit by a rookie, the last coming from the Yankees' Ricky Ledee in 1999.

Coupled with his RBI single in the first inning, Goldschmidt finished the night 2-for-4 with a run scored and five RBIs. He also hit a solo home run in Game 2. After Tuesday's Game 3 win, the rookie tried to downplay the biggest blast of the night.

"Obviously it's fun, but the biggest thing is helping us win the game," he said. "If we don't win the game, our season is over."

Instead, the Diamondbacks live to see another day.

Wayne Drehs is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at wayne.drehs@espn.com.