Brewers, Diamondbacks a win away from NLCS
Yovani Gallardo readily calls this start the biggest of his career. Ian Kennedy hoped for any chance to pitch again this season.
''It's definitely a whole different atmosphere,'' Gallardo said. ''Anything can happen.''
The Arizona Diamondbacks look to complete their biggest rally of the season after being down 0-2 on Friday when they face the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 5 with a berth in the NL championship series at stake.
It's a rematch of Game 1 starters when Gallardo bested Kennedy to keep his perfect record against the Diamondbacks intact. Milwaukee went on to win the first two games at Miller Park, where the Brewers had a majors-best 57 home victories in the regular season, before Arizona stayed alive by winning the next two in Phoenix.
''I don't think anything in the past will carry over into Milwaukee,'' Diamondbacks center fielder Chris Young said. ''It's pretty much a one-game playoff. Everybody talks about Milwaukee's home record and our record on the road or whatever, but that's over an entire season.
''We have to deal with this one game that we have coming up and the game's really open to anybody.''
Gallardo retired 14 of 15 at one point, allowing one run on four hits over eight innings in a 4-1 victory in Game 1. The 25-year-old right-hander is 6-0 with a 1.18 ERA in six career starts against Arizona, but acknowledges he's never pitched in an elimination game on any level.
''I just try to stay as relaxed as I can. I'm the same person no matter what. So it's going to be a little bit tougher, but I just have to stay out there, relax, and just pitch my game and see what happens,'' Gallardo said. ''I would say definitely it is the most important game in my career.''
Milwaukee used a five-run sixth inning to win 9-4 in Game 2, but the beastly offensive attack ended in Arizona, where the Diamondbacks won both games facing elimination.
Kennedy, a 21-game winner, could do little but wait to see if he'd even get another chance to pitch this season after being knocked out of the first game when Prince Fielder hit a two-run homer in the seventh.
''When you're down 0-2 you just know every single game matters,'' Kennedy said. ''I was willing to do anything, anything possible, just to help out in any possible way.''
Arizona battled back in every way back in Phoenix, including when Miguel Montero helped begin a celebration they coined ''The Snake'' to answer Milwaukee's arms-raised bravado of ''Beast Mode.''
''It's certainly caught on like wildfire, guys are doing it all over the place,'' Diamondbacks shortstop Willie Bloomquist said. ''That's Miggy keeping us loose and doing what he does best. It seems to help out because when guys kind of relax and just kind of do their thing when he's being himself.''
Bigger still was the way Arizona struck against Milwaukee with grand slams by rookie Paul Goldschmidt in the fifth inning of an 8-1 victory in Game 3 on Tuesday and Ryan Roberts' first-inning effort in a 10-6 win in Game 4.
The Diamondbacks joined the 1977 Dodgers as the only two teams to hit slams in consecutive playoff games after rallying for a major league-best 48 comeback wins in the regular season.
''We don't panic when we do get down. We've understood what we're up against this whole series, especially when we got down 0-2, and things remain the same,'' Bloomquist said. ''We can't lose. We need to go in there and get the W somehow, some way figure out a way to get it done.''
Arizona's unheralded offense includes All-Star Justin Upton and hardly recognizable guys such as Goldschmidt, Young, Bloomquist and Roberts. The Diamondbacks hit .343 at home compared to .212 at Miller Park.
''It hasn't been easy all season, so by no means did we expect the postseason get any easier,'' Young said. ''Sometimes your back's going to be against the wall and you have to overcome some things to get to the next round. Understanding that, I think we're pretty prepared.''
Milwaukee's middle of the order - Ryan Braun, Fielder and Rickie Weeks - went 3 for 23 in Arizona in two games after going a combined 10 for 22 at Miller Park.
Fielder said it would be special to be a star in a winner-take-all game.
''But I don't necessarily have to do something,'' Fielder said. ''I just want to win. I don't care who does it.''
It could also be Fielder's last game in Milwaukee, a topic that's come up repeatedly over the past two years. He was the subject of trade rumors all last year and will hit free agency after this season.
''Right now he is so focused on what we need to do and trying to win this game so that we can go on that I don't think that's going to come into play with him,'' Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. ''He's locked in on what we need to do. He knows his at-bats are going to be important. And hopefully with Ryan and the boys on in front of him, we'll see what happens.''
The two clubs chased each other after wrapping up division titles the final week of the season.
Milwaukee clinched its first division title in 29 years by winning the NL Central while Arizona completed a worst-to-first turnaround to take the NL West.
It wasn't decided who would get to host Game 5 until the final day, when Milwaukee beat Pittsburgh to ensure it would finish ahead of Arizona in the National League standings.
''That's why we got home-field advantage,'' Weeks said. ''We went out there and played our butts off toward the end of the year. We're going back home where we're pretty comfortable.''
Arizona hasn't been in a winner-take-all game since winning Game 7 of the World Series in 2001. Milwaukee's last experience dates well before Braun, Fielder and Gallardo were born when the Brewers lost Game 7 of the '82 series to St. Louis.
And Roenicke expects both teams to play their best games with the NLCS on the line.
''I think momentum has shifted for them to where they think that they've got a real good chance to win this next ballgame,'' Roenicke said. ''But I don't think that takes away from what we feel. I think our guys are going to come out and play a good game. We're very confident where we are.''