September 28, 2011
Unbelievable! In a year that has been so improbable, Ryan Roberts(notes) of the Arizona Diamondbacks hit a seemingly impossible game-winning grand slam and paid tribute to his iconic manager as he trotted around the bases.
Roberts' baseball skill and timing, along with and his presence of mind to remember Kirk Gibson's famous home-run trot, all came together in an unlikely six-run comeback for the D-backs, who beat the Los Angeles Dodgers — naturally — 7-6 on Tuesday night.
The fans remaining at Chase Field probably couldn't believe what they just saw after Roberts connected against Dodgers closer Javy Guerra(notes) to win the game with two outs in the 10th inning. But if they focused on Roberts all of the way around the bases, they would have had to suspend their disbelief a little longer. They would have noticed Roberts point to Arizona's dugout and pump his left arm like Gibson for L.A. after hitting the winning home run against Dennis Eckersley (as called by NBC's Vin Scully) in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
Still unbelievable, just like CBS radio announcer Jack Buck said about Gibson's homer 23 years ago. Gibson, who said he didn't see Roberts' tribute live because he was being mobbed in the dugout, gave his approval later on.
"Some things rub off," Gibson said. "He deserved to do it."
That means a lot, coming from the crustiest skipper in the big leagues. Via Fox Sports Arizona, Roberts said he has studied Gibson's gimpy trot over the years and promised teammates he would pull a Gibby if he ever hit a game-ending home run. This was his first chance.
"You see guys have walk-off home runs and they do a celebration. Everybody has their own little thing. I always told 'C.Y.' (Chris Young) and 'J-Up' (Justin Upton(notes)) that if I ever hit a walk-off home run, I'm going to do the 'Gibby' pump," Roberts said.
Roberts had it down, although Gibson did not shuck his jersey as he reached home plate and the waiting arms of his teammates the way Roberts did Tuesday.
"If you watch him, he does it twice, too. Some people don't remember him doing that. We do. I'm just glad I remembered to do it. I finally got it out of the way. I'll have to come up with something new now," Roberts said gleefully.
Roberts' slam also means a lot to Arizona's playoff seeding.
A season ago, the D-backs lost 97 games and were picked by approximately nobody to win the NL West. But here they are, with the division already clinched, and going down to the regular season's final scheduled day still tangling with the Brewers for the second-best record in the NL and home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Dodgers had put up five runs in the top of the 10th against Micah Owings(notes) and appeared on their way to victory after Blake Hawksworth(notes) got the first two outs of Arizona's 10th. But then he forgot to cover the bag on Conor Gillaspie's(notes) chopper to first base — which opened the door for all heck to break loose. And would you believe Owings gets the victory?
Exclaimed broadcaster Daron Sutton of FSN Arizona:
"Are you watching, Milwaukee? Did you just see that?"
Yeah, they were watching, and they're annoyed. Roberts said it was just another unlikely day at the office for the D-backs, who have 48 come-from-behind victories this season. None this stunning, though.
"That was unbelievable," Roberts said. "I've never been a part of something like that. Everything on this team blows my mind."
It's blowing our minds, too.