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D-backs reach NLCS for 2nd time as Cubs continue to suffer

• Hero: Livan Hernandez allowed five hits and a run in six innings. He also induced three of the D-backs' four double plays.

• Unsung hero: Chris Young provided Arizona with a lightning-quick start, nailing a home run on the game's first pitch. It was his only hit of the game.

• Will it ever end? It's 99 years and counting since the Cubs won their last World Series.

• Figure this: Cubs RBI leader Aramis Ramirez went 0-for-12 for the series.

• Quotable: "We have guys who are
ready to win. We've already exceeded expectations so far and we're
going to continue to do so." -- Eric Byrnes

-- ESPN.com news services

Diamondbacks 5, Cubs 1

CHICAGO (AP) -- Short on stars but brimming with young talent,
the Arizona Diamondbacks pulled off a sweet playoff sweep and
celebrated like October regulars.

For the anguished Chicago Cubs, it's another cry of "Wait Til
Next Year."

Chris Young homered on the game's first pitch, Livan Hernandez
wriggled out of several serious jams and Arizona beat the Cubs 5-1
Saturday night to complete a three-game sweep of their first-round
series.

Well, that was quick. Another Chicago playoff berth meant only another rude sweep from the postseason. A look at the Cubs' all-time playoff flops:

Year, Series

Opponent

Swept

2007 NLDS

D-backs

3-0

1998 NLDS

Braves

3-0

1938
World Series

Yankees

3-0

1932
World Series

Yankees

4-0

Next stop for the baby-faced Diamondbacks: a surprising trip to
the NLCS.

"Who would have thought that at the beginning of spring
training or the season? I'm sure there were a lot of people
thinking maybe .500 baseball," Eric Byrnes said during a wild
champagne celebration in the clubhouse. "We have guys who are
ready to win. We've already exceeded expectations so far and we're
going to continue to do so."

Now, the Diamondbacks get four days to rest before hosting the
winner of the Rockies-Phillies series in Game 1 of the NLCS on
Thursday. Colorado entered Saturday night with a 2-0 lead over
Philadelphia in the best-of-five playoff.

Showing no jitters before a raucous crowd at Wrigley Field, the
Diamondbacks hit three homers and turned four double plays to back
another strong pitching performance from Hernandez and three
relievers.

Byrnes and Stephen Drew, who finished the series 7-for-14, also
homered as Arizona extended the Cubs' streak of futility without a
World Series championship to 99 years.

"The young guys are taking us where we've gotten. We don't do
it without a concerted effort from everybody on our team,"
Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said. "We can't rely on three or
four guys to shoulder the load. We've got to get it from multiple
guys every day, and our younger guys showed up big."

Chicago meekly bowed to the D-backs, and so ends another in a series of painful playoff trips for the cursed Cubs, Gene Wojciechowski writes. Story

Even a return to Wrigley Field couldn't get Chicago's bats out
of a series-long slumber.

"We knew that we'd have to try to take them out of it and take
the momentum away, and Chris Young's home run in the first inning
went a long way with that," Melvin said.

Call it curses or bad luck or whatever, but on this sultry
October night the Diamondbacks showed what was obvious since the
series began -- they were the better team, even though they had only
four players on the first-round roster with postseason experience.

"These guys are as talented a young group as I've ever seen,"
Byrnes said. "It's been fun to watch the maturation and watch them
grow up."

Chicago's best chance might have come in the opener, when
manager Lou Piniella made a move that will be questioned for years.
He pulled Carlos Zambrano after six innings and only 85 pitches
with the score 1-all because he planned to bring his ace back on
three days' rest in Game 4.

The Cubs never got that far.

Chicago went from worst-to-first in Piniella's first season as
manager, and the team's long-suffering fans were ecstatic after a
late surge to the NL Central crown. But just when they began to get
excited about ending the championship drought, the Cubs went down
in a first-round sweep.

"This is just a start, fellas. We're going to get better with
this," Piniella said.

Over in the visitors' clubhouse, the Diamondbacks doused
managing general partner Ken Kendrick in a beer bath.

"I know who did that!" he yelled, laughing. "Whoa, baby! It's
all for a good cause."

The NL West champion Diamondbacks were the first team to have a
league's best record and worst batting average since the 1906
Chicago White Sox.

Forget the stats, though, these kids showed they can play under
pressure with a sound and thorough thumping of the punchless Cubs --
who managed only six runs in the series. They went 2-for-23 with
runners in scoring position, including 0-for-9 on Saturday night.

"Hard to win that way," Piniella said. "We just didn't get
the big hit when we needed it. What can I say?"

Hernandez, the 1997 World Series MVP for Florida, gave Arizona
another lift. He allowed five hits and a run in six innings,
overcoming five walks.

"They had runners on base every inning," Young said. "We got
lucky and got out of some double-play situations. ... If we don't
have those, the game would be pretty different for us."

Arizona also got solid starts from Brandon Webb and Doug Davis
in the series, and the bullpen wasn't charged with a run. Tony Pena, Brandon Lyon and Jose Valverde finished up with stellar
relief on Saturday.

"They really played well and they should feel good about what
they did," Piniella said. "We're disappointed, but at the same
time I'm really proud of our players. We got off to a slow start
this year and put together a good run that culminated in getting in
the postseason."

Byrnes homered in the sixth off reliever Carlos Marmol and drove
in a run with a disputed fielder's choice when he beat a relay to
first on a potential double-play grounder in the fourth. Drew hit
his second homer of the series, a solo shot off Kerry Wood in the
ninth.

Hernandez walked the bases loaded in the fifth as Wrigley Field
became deafening with the crowd on its feet, but Mark DeRosa hit
into a double play on a 3-1 pitch to end the inning.

Chicago's RBI leader, Aramis Ramirez, came up twice in the early
innings with two runners on but struck out and hit into a double
play, illustrating the Cubs' offensive woes. He finished the series
0-for-12. Alfonso Soriano also struggled, going 2-for-14.

"I can't explain it," Ramirez said.

Young, who hit a three-run homer in Game 2 that put the
Diamondbacks ahead, drove Chicago starter Rich Hill's first pitch
into the left-field bleachers, and Arizona was off and running.

"I don't swing at the first pitch that often, so I took a
chance," Young said.

Drew then doubled to right-center. Hill momentarily regrouped,
striking out Byrnes and Conor Jackson. But Mark Reynolds worked a
walk on a 3-2 pitch before Justin Upton hit an RBI single for a 2-0
lead.

Jason Kendall hit an RBI grounder in the fourth for the Cubs,
but Hernandez escaped further damage.

"When you don't score runs and you leave a lot of people on it
looks lackluster, but it wasn't," Piniella said. "These guys gave
effort. They really did."

Game notes
This is the Diamondbacks' fourth postseason appearance. ...
Ernie Banks threw out the first pitch. ... Wrigley Field's outfield
was re-sodded. During the last homestand of the season both the
Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates had criticized the condition
of the grass.