October 06, 2011
Widely believed to be his league's manager of the year after leading the Arizona Diamondbacks from worst to first in the NL West, Kirk Gibson left us second-guessing that belief with several questionable decisions in Game 1 of the NLDS, which they lost to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Another rough afternoon in Game 2 brought Arizona home down 2-0 in the series and on the brink of elimination.
They avoided going three-and-out behind a historic performance from rookie Paul Goldschmidt(notes) in Game 3, and in the process they afforded their manager another chance to redeem himself from earlier mistakes. Much like his D-backs have done all season on the field, Gibson seized the opportunity, rallying to manage a nearly perfect Game 4.
The biggest decision Gibson made came with two outs in the third inning, getting results that essentially decided the outcome right on the spot. (Generally those decisions come in the seventh inning and later.) He elected to lift starting pitcher Joe Saunders(notes) for pinch-hitter Colin Cowgill with runners on second and third.
The reasoning: "We had a chance to score runs," Gibson said. "I didn't like the way Joe was throwing."
The result: Cowgill delivered a two-run single that pushed Arizona's advantage to 7-3.
Given the relentless nature of the Milwaukee Brewers offense, Gibson realized he couldn't be satisfied with a two-run lead. His instincts proved to be right as Milwaukee chipped away, but could not overcome Cowgill's damaging hit in Arizona's 10-6 win.
The reasoning: "All I can say is, you guys know [that] I think things out," Gibson said. "I research. I get opinions. I've played [different] lineups all year, and there were a lot of things that, I guess, startled people throughout the year."
The result: The switch immediately paid dividends when Roberts delivered a two-out grand slam in the first inning. Young would go on to have a big game himself, cracking a pair of home runs, so whatever Gibson was trying to accomplish there worked out very well.
The reasoning: Aside from believing in Saunders, Gibson says, "I guess I don't subscribe to, 'Let's blow them out for this one, and we'll figure out the next one.'"
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