Diamondbacks rally to secure NL West crown
The Arizona Diamondbacks completed an improbable run to their first NL West crown in four years, beating San Francisco 3-1 Friday night when rookie Paul Goldschmidt lined a two-run triple off Sergio Romo in the eighth inning.
Manager Kirk Gibson's team completed its worst-to-first turnaround in raucous fashion, rallying to beat the Giants with Chase Field buzzing as it rarely did over the past couple of seasons.
A year after going 65-97, Arizona is 91-66 in its first full season under Gibson and heading to the playoffs.
Ryan Roberts got the go-ahead burst started with a double off Matt Cain (12-11) and Goldschmidt finished it off with his first career triple to the corner in right.
David Hernandez (5-3) struck out two after allowing a one-out single in the eighth and J.J. Putz sent the Diamondbacks pouring onto the field with his 44th save.
The loss dropped the defending World Series champion Giants five games behind Atlanta for the NL wild-card spot. Orlando Cabrera hit his first homer 124 at-bats for San Francisco, which has just five games left.
Behind Gibson's attention-to-detail approach and with a roster of players who seemed to take turns coming through in the clutch, Arizona celebrated its first division crown since 2007 by mobbing Putz near the plate. Fireworks shot out of the scoreboard after centre-fielder Chris Young squeezed the final out.
What a run it was.
Predicted to be another also-ran after a pair of 90-loss seasons, Arizona started the season on a downturn, already 6 1-2 games out of first by the end of April.
Then something clicked.
Arizona went through a magnificent May, closing the month 15-3 to take the NL West lead and stayed near the top through July. The Diamondbacks seized control of the division at the end of August into September, going up by as much as 9 1-2 games before San Francisco came charging back with an eight-game winning streak.
But after winning three of four to start this week, Arizona found itself on the cusp of its first NL West title since 2007, needing to beat the Giants just once in the weekend series to pop the corks.
As they have all season, the Diamondbacks had to rally to get the clincher.
Arizona starter Joe Saunders was hit hard and often, but gave up just one run — on Cabrera's solo homer in the fifth — on nine hits in seven innings to keep Arizona close.
Cain was 6-1 with a 2.83 earned-run average his previous eight starts against the Diamondbacks and again had them baffled early, getting them to swing over his big-breaking curveball or pound it into the ground.
Arizona finally got to Cain in the seventh inning, when the right-hander walked Goldschmidt with one out and Young followed with a line-drive double to the wall in left-centre to tie the game at 1-all.
That set up the eighth-inning rally and, later, a celebration that moved from near second base to the clubhouse, with a brief stop at the dugout steps to acknowledge fans who had been waiting four long years for this moment.