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Goldschmidt, Collmenter carry Diamondbacks today, tomorrow

Perhaps it’s fitting that the players who helped save the Diamondbacks’
2011 season didn’t begin the year with the team.

Trailing the Milwaukee Brewers two games to none, D-backs manager Kirk
Gibson sent rookie Josh Collmenter to the mound and gave Paul
Goldschmidt the start at first base, placing him fifth in the batting order.

Both delivered in the 8-1 win. Big time.

A player whose results tend to belie his stuff, Collmenter tossed seven
innings, allowing just two hits, one run and walking two. He struck out six.

Doing his part, Goldschmidt had a pair of hits: an RBI single in the first
inning and a grand slam in the fifth.

Neither played like overwhelmed rookies, and it started with the pitcher.

“He obviously has great character,” Gibson said of Collmenter. “He was very
composed [Tuesday] and threw strikes, kept them off balance; it was what
we needed.”

Then there’s Goldschmidt.

“When you’re making the lineup, how you want to decide where you put
people,” Gibson said, “you guys know how I feel about Goldy, you know the
big hits he’s had this year.”

Indeed, this is not the first time either player has come through for the
Diamondbacks and, while it may be their most important contribution yet,
their respective careers are just getting started.

And that’s exciting.

Collmenter, 25, and Goldschmidt, 24, give the D-backs more than a
chance here in the present as well as hope for sustained success in the
future.

While no one can say with certainty how things will ultimately play out, it’s
important to note what you saw Tuesday at Chase Field began more than
seven months ago in spring training.

“The way we started out in this spring, with those guys in our camp, they
didn’t break camp with us but we tried to lay it out how we were going to
approach this and expose them to as much as we could,” Gibson said of
Collmenter and Goldschmidt. “And then when they both came up we put
them right in the fire.”

That fire never burned hotter than it did Tuesday night, and neither
Collmenter nor Goldschmidt could have responded any better.

Goldschmidt, who already homered once in the series, added to a legend
that began in early August, hitting his grand slam after the Brewers elected
to walk the bases full ahead of him.

“If [Marcum] makes a good pitch we’re probably not talking about it and
probably got out,” Goldschmidt said. “And so it just ended up being good
timing for us.”

The slugger became the first Diamondback to hit a grand slam in the
postseason and was the first rookie to accomplish feat since 1999.

Then again, seeing Goldschmidt, who had already homered off the likes of
Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee, take Shaun Marcum deep wasn’t necessarily a
surprise. But watching Collmenter, whose fastaball consistently sits in the
high 80s, shut down a hot-hitting Brewers team?

Hell, even the pitcher said he probably exceeded his own expectations.

“My goal was to give the team a win,” he said. “Whatever I had to do to just
keep the team in the ballgame and give us a chance to win down the
stretch.”

Yeah, well, that will do, Mr. Collmenter. Pitching the way he did not only
validated all the work he’s put in this season, but the belief the
organization had in a guy who, to put it bluntly, wasn’t exactly a top
prospect.

“I give [Diamondbacks GM] Kevin Towers all the credit in the world,”
Gibson said. “He told me about Josh Collmenter last year in the Arizona Fall
League and like not many scouts would be on this guy. And then this year
when we watched him pitch in spring training, we have this thing, he says,
‘I’m on him.'”

A 10-10 regular season record with a 3.38 ERA, including two good starts
against the Brewers, led to the idea of giving the rookie the nod in an
elimination game.

“When we discussed who’s going to start Game 3, KT had a lot of input and
he was on [Collmenter],” Gibson added. “And he was right.”

Both prospects are just the tip of the iceberg for a team with an
embarrassment of riches in the minor leagues, and that the D-backs
struck gold (pun intended) with these two bodes well for the future.

“Those guys have shown a ton of composure and a ton of ability almost
against maybe some of the odds that some of the people thought they
could do,” Gibson said.

No matter how or when they got here, the fact of the matter is you can’t
help think this won’t be the last time Collmenter and Goldschmidt come
through for the team on a big stage.