The Arizona Diamondbacks won the Divisional Play-off series from the St. Louis Cardinals three games to two with a 2-1 victory in the final game in Phoenix on Sunday. The Diamondbacks began play for the National League crown and a berth in the World Series on Tuesday against the Atlanta Braves. The best of seven series began in Phoenix where four of the seven games will be played if the series goes the distance. There were plenty of Diamondback heroes, but none bigger than Curt Schilling who won the first and the last game of the series and gave up only one run in 18 innings of work.
The first game of the Divisional Play-offs was a pitching gem by Diamondback ace Curt Schilling, a 1-0 win over the Cardinals at Bank-One-Ballpark on Oct. 9. Schilling shutout the potent St. Louis attack with only three hits. The Cardinals did not get a runner past second base. Arizona scored on a two-out single by Steve Finley. Damian Miller was hit by a pitch leading off the inning. Schilling laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt with two strikes to get the catcher into scoring position. An out later Finley delivered the game winning hit. Matt Morris worked seven strong innings for St. Louis.
The Diamondbacks missed a golden scoring opportunity in the first inning when Tony Womack walked and Finley doubled. A strikeout, a pop fly and a weak fly ball later Morris was out of the jam. Another missed opportunity came in the fourth when Reggie Sanders doubled and went to third on an error with one out.
The final scoring opportunity came in the eighth when both managers showed their prowess. Sanders and Mark Grace singled and two outs later the Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa elected to walk Miller and force Arizona manager Bob Brenly to allow Schilling to bat and probably end the threat or pull the big right-hander and rely on his bullpen to hold the precarious lead. Brenly stayed with Schilling, who proved his decision correct by working a perfect ninth.
The Cardinals evened the best of five series with a 4-1 victory on Wednesday. Woody Williams out-dueled Randy Johnson, allowing only four singles in seven plus innings. The Diamondbacks did not get a runner to second base while Williams was on the mound. Placido Polanco hit a two-run homer off Johnson in the first inning following a walk. Williams led off the third inning with a double, moved to second on a sacrifice and scored on a sacrifice fly for a 3-0 Cardinals lead. It was all the crafty right-hander would need.
The Diamondbacks took the series lead again with a 5-3 win over the Cardinals in St. Louis on Friday. Craig Counsell hit a three-run homer in the top of the seventh inning to give Arizona a 5-2 lead at the time. Greg Colbrunn had delivered a game-tying, pinch-hit single moments earlier to set up Counsell’s heroics. Miguel Batista, who left for Colbrunn in the seventh, picked up the win with relief help from Brian Anderson, Mike Morgan and B. K. Kim. Kim got the save when Mark McGwire ground into a game-ending double play. The Cardinals’ Jim Edmonds appeared poised to be the hero until the seventh. He threw out Mark Grace at the plate to end the top of the fourth and blasted a two-run homer in the bottom of the frame to give the Redbirds a 2-0 lead.
The Cardinals prevailed 4-1 on Saturday to force a fifth and deciding game on Sunday. The D-Backs had several opportunities but produced only one run for the third time in four games. Edmonds homered for St. Louis to give the Cardinals an early lead they never relinquished.
The Diamondbacks won the series in dramatic fashion as Curt Schilling went the distance to win for the second time in the short series. Reggie Sanders homered in the fourth inning for the Diamondbacks, but J. D. Drew got that run back with an eighth inning round-tripper.
Matt Williams led off the ninth with a double. The D-Backs sacrificed pinch runner Midre Cunnimgs to third, but he was out on a failed squeeze attempt. Tony Womack redeemed himself immediately with a game winning single and the celebration was on, at least until Tuesday when the Braves came to town.