The Arizona Diamondbacks completed a great homestand by taking three games from the Chicago Cubs. That, with the three game sweep of Pittsburgh, made it six straight home wins and nine straight altogether. The winning streak started when the Diamondbacks took three games from the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta. During the streak, the D-Backs have swept three straight three game series, two of them from teams that were leading their divisions at the time (Atlanta and Chicago). Unfortunately, the road trip did not start as well as the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates took two of three from the Diamondbacks.
The Diamondbacks defeated the Cubs 7-2 in the series opener on Aug. 17. Albie Lopez worked seven strong innings for the win. Reggie Sanders drove in three runs with a pair of homers. Lopez struck out Sammy Sosa three times, but it was B.K. Kim’s fanning of the Chicago slugger with the tying run on third in the eighth inning that was the play of the game. Matt Williams was three for four and Kim knocked in a pair of insurance runs with his first major league hit in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Kim vs. Sosa in game two of the series was almost as dramatic. The Korean closer fanned the slugger for the final out of the game with Sosa representing the potential tying run in the 5-3 Arizona win. Kim’s heroics preserved Randy Johnson’s 17th win and Arizona’s eighth straight. Luis Gonzalez and Damien Miller homered for the D-Backs.
The Diamondbacks erased a 6-2 Cubs lead and coasted to a 13-6 win to sweep the series on Saturday. It was Arizona’s ninth straight win and their third straight series sweep. Greg Colbrunn had the only home run for the D-Backs as a pinch-hitter. His blow was the 13th pinch-hit homer for the team and set a major league record. The Arizona bullpen was magnificent as six relievers held the Cubs scoreless during the final six innings of play.
The Pittsburgh Pirates, who came into the series with the worst record in the National League, brought the Diamondbacks back to earth. The Pirates took two of three from Arizona and became the first team in the league to beat both Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson in the same series.
The Pirates broke a nine game Diamondback winning streak and their own seven game losing streak by beating Schilling 4-2 on Aug. 21. Starter Dave Williams was brilliant but not involved in the decision. He allowed two hits, which was two more than the D-Backs could manage off four Pirate relievers. No one claimed it, but the Diamondbacks may have been distracted by the off the field legal problems of newly acquired catcher Mike DiFelice.
Albie Lopez won his third straight game with a 6-0, four hit shutout win over the Pirates on Wednesday. Mark Grace had a three-run homer in the opening frame. Lopez staked a strong claim to the third starter spot in the Arizona rotation and went a long ways toward silencing of those criticizing the trade for himself and DiFelice.
Johnson pitched brilliantly for 6 2/3 innings in the series finale, but lost 5-1. Kevin Young of the Pirates clubbed a two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh to seal Johnson’s fate. Diamondback hitters made Pirate hurler Tony McKnight look more like Walter Johnson than the 2-3 rookie he is. Arizona left the bases loaded twice and stranded seven runners in three of the first four innings without scoring.
The Diamondbacks stayed in Pennsylvania after the Pirate series, journeying to Philadelphia to meet the NL East contending Phillies for a four game set beginning on Friday. With both teams in serious contention for their respective division titles, this series took on added importance.
On Tuesday, the Diamondbacks returned to Phoenix to begin what could be an even more crucial series with the NL West rival San Francisco Giants. The Giants will leave town after Friday’s finale of the four-game set. San Diego follows for games on Friday and Saturday. After Monday off, the Diamondbacks travel to San Francisco to resume hostilities with the Giants for three more crucial contests.