Roller Coaster Ride

It has been interesting to watch the intensity of the play-offs and what effect it has had on the players as well as the fans. For the past week, all anyone has heard is how much different play-off baseball is versus the regular season. How every play and every pitch has so much more meaning. That always sounded like such a cliché. I really questioned whether the media was being overly dramatic in order to promote interest or if there was indeed a difference. All of my doubts about this being just another baseball series have been erased with the past two games of the Arizona and St. Louis series. The divisional play-offs have been an emotional roller coaster ride that is not even half over.

Before the series even started, I looked over the statistics between these two teams to see how they stacked up against each other. In nearly every category, they were equal. The differences between these two teams seemed so miniscule that the series really had no clear-cut winner. It had all the markings of a major battle that would be decided by which team committed the fewest mistakes. On paper, this looked to be a great match-up that would go the distance.

Diamondbacks fans of course felt they had the edge given their starting pitching rotation of Schilling and Johnson. In the days leading up to the beginning of the play-offs, the fans’ confidence became greater and greater. By the time Game #1 arrived, they firmly believed they were the best team in the National League. Curt Schilling did little to shake their trust as he pitched a classic game giving the Diamondbacks a 1-0 victory and the series lead. The fans were euphoric dancing out of the stadium proclaiming the Diamondbacks invincibility. After all, the Diamondbacks could strand 11 runners and still beat the Cardinals and their 22-game winner. Around the stadium and on the local radio shows fans were calling for the Diamondbacks to sweep the Cardinals and await their next victim. Nothing could stop the Arizona juggernaut and it marched through the post-season.

Game 2 arrived and with it Randy Johnson, the second ace to take the mound in two nights. All of the fans hopes and dreams were pinned on the arm of the “Big Unit”. It didn’t matter that Johnson had not won a play-off game in 5 years. That was old news. This was the new and unbeatable Arizona Diamondbacks. Besides, Arizona had Luis Gonzalez and game 1 hero Steve Finley to pummel Woody Williams into the ground. When Albert Pujols came up in the first, everyone just assumed Johnson would throw the ball by the rookie on his way to victory. Instead, Albert stuck his bat out and connected planting the ball in the Cardinals’ bullpen for a 2-run home run. Fans were stunned as they watched the Diamondbacks struggle against Woody Williams inning after inning scoring just one run enroute to a 4-1 defeat. The roller coaster took a severe drop in altitude as fans began waling in self-pity looking for a scapegoat to blame for this defeat. “Matt Williams was hitless it was his fault” exclaimed one fan. “Miguel Batista misplayed a ball hit back to the pitcher allowing a run to score, why do the Diamondbacks even have him on the team?” proclaimed another. “I told you this team was to old to win,” announced a third.

Now here we sit with the series tied 1-1 and headed to St. Louis. What was a five game series is now the best of three. Whichever team catches lightning in a bottle and can put two victories together moves on. The other will clean out their lockers and watch the remainder of the play-offs on television wondering what might have been. This roller coaster ride is just beginning. Just a friendly reminder, keep your arms and legs safely inside the car at all times. This could get bumpy.

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