When the San Francisco Giants ended their series with the Los Angeles Dodgers by losing it set the stage for a three-game set against the surprising Arizona Diamondbacks who no one besides their manager Kirk Gibson thought would compete this year.
Instead the World Champion San Francisco Giants would come to Phoenix in a must win situation. The magic number to eliminate the Giants from the National League Western Division was one meaning they would have to win six straight ballgames while the Diamondbacks would have to lose six straight to force a one-game playoff.
The probably pitchers for this game had been announced as Josh Collmenter for the Diamondbacks and Eric Surkamp for the Giants. It would be a contest to see which rookie had what it took to lead their team to victory.
The managers had other ideas and changed the pitching probables for both teams. Arizona would send left-hander Joe Saunders to the mound in what would be his last regular season start before the post season hopefully starts next week. The Giants would counter with Matt Cain who has dominated the Diamondbacks over the past couple of seasons. Clearly the match-up favored the Giants.
While Arizona tried to hang close with the Giants it was clear that Cain was in a groove. He seemed to be in complete control of the game and it began to feel like the first team to score would likely win. That happened in the fifth inning when Orlando Cabrera hit his first home run for the Giants giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Cain’s pitch count was relatively low and it looked like he would throw a complete game shutout. But in the seventh inning the unthinkable happened. Cain walked Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt bringing up Chris Young with one out. A double play would get the Giants out of the inning but instead Young laced a ball to the centerfield wall for a double allowing Goldschmidt to score tying the game.
The crowd of 42,606 came to their feet cheering on the Diamondbacks. Momentum was slowly moving from the first base dugout to the third base dugout. In the bottom of the eighth inning Goldschmidt would come up again this time with runners on the corner and would hit a triple to right field scoring Ryan Roberts and Justin Upton giving the Diamondbacks a 3-1 lead.
Diamondbacks closer JJ Putz would come in the ninth and get Aubrey Huff to fly out to centerfielder Chris Young to give the victory to the Diamondbacks. It wasn’t just a win, it was the win to clinch the NL West Championship.
It was pandemonium on the field as players leapt into each other’s arms celebrating a goal that was laid out in the cool early morning that first day of Spring Training. The celebration went from the pitcher’s mound to the infield, and culminating in the clubhouse where players drenched each other in champagne and beer.
The fans stood cheering in the stands giving the players a standing ovation. It somehow seemed appropriate when Ryan Roberts, Chris Young, and Justin Upton reappeared in the dugout and ran along the stands showering the fans with champagne.
These three players have kept the fans engaged all season and have become clear favorites to those at the games. Every step there were fans giving the players high-fives in celebration. It wasn’t just a win for the team; it was a win for the fans who had endured two last-place finishes.
After they ran out of champagne Roberts lead his teammates in a sprint to right center field where they leapt up the wall and into the pool area. The players jumped into the pool throwing water everywhere stunning team officials and fans alike. Soon nearly all of the players were in the pool area dunking each other in celebration.
It is what I hope will become a new tradition in Diamondbacks baseball; the pool dunk to celebrate a championship. Everyone in Arizona is hoping to see that three more times this year when the Diamondbacks advance past the National League Division Series, the NLCS, and hopefully at the conclusion of the World Series. I’ve never been so grateful for Chase Field’s swimming pool as I was tonight.