A dirty slide that initiated a beanball war in front of a raucous Chase Field crowd. A for-the-ages, come-from-behind win in extra innings. Stars and unknowns stepping into the spotlight and delivering big plays. And one of the most unbelievable and scary moments baseball has ever witnessed.
Before the '09 season started, these things were expected from a series between the division-contending Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Dodgers. And though the D-Backs haven't held up their end of the deal during the team's disappointing season, they did deliver with some playoff-caliber ball against the NL West-leading Dodgers.
On Friday night, Arizona took game one by the score of 4-1, thanks to aggressive ball and Dan Haren's best outing in a month. The Diamondbacks, who tallied all of their runs in the second inning off of Clayton Kershaw, took exception to Casey Blake's way-out-of-the-basepath, double-play-breakup-attending slide in the sixth that got Blake the staredown from Mark Reynolds. Next time the star third baseman came to bat, he got hit by a Ronald Belisario fastball. But Haren -- who only yielded one run and six hits in eight innings -- wasn't taking that bull, and plucked Andre Ethier in retaliation. The small-ish but enthusiastic Chase Field crowd responded with rousing applause.
Saturday night featured one of the best wins of the season for Arizona, though the victory came under some super-frightening circumstances. We're sure you've seen it, the line drive that Dodgers' starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda took off the noggin in the sixth inning, and so instead of recapturing that scary scene, we're happy to report that Kuroda suffered no fractures or internal bleeding. The 34-year-old is actually doing very well, despite the epic blow to the head, and will only miss one or two of his scheduled starts.
After some of the shock wore off, the D-Backs' mounted a crazy comeback win. Down by two in the bottom of the ninth and facing near-invincible Dodger closer Jonathan Broxton, Reynolds hit a titanic, 431-foot homer to straightaway center and Miguel Montero followed with a game-tying knock into the pool. In the tenth, Arizona loaded the bases with one out and won by a score of 4-3, thanks to Gerardo's Parra walk-off single.
Yesterday's game was the only stinker of the series for Arizona, as they got jumped on early and often during a 9-3 defeat. L.A. starter Randy Wolf not only pitched his butt off -- he allowed three runs on five hits in 7 2/3 innings -- but he also went yard with a two-run job in the fourth to make the score 5-0. The one bright spot occurred in the eighth inning when rookie Rusty Ryal, who must have been feeling terrible for sending that liner back through the box at Kuroda on Saturday, notched his first career home run.
Despite dropping yesterday's game, Arizona earned its first consecutive series wins at home this season, and helped send the reeling Dodgers -- whose once insurmountable division lead now stands at just five games -- further into a tailspin.
Next up for the D-Backs is today's make-up game (rained out on May 17) against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field before they head up the East Coast to face the Philadelphia Phillies starting Tuesday. First pitch today is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. The D-Backs' Max Scherzer (7-6, 3.94 ERA) will square off against the Braves' Tommy Hanson (7-2, 3.05 ERA). TV: Fox Sports Arizona. Radio: KTAR-AM 620. More info: www.dbacks.com.