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Diamondbacks get contributions from most in thrilling win over Braves

PHOENIX — Joe Saunders entered Wednesday night’s game
against the Braves without a win on the season. The night
ended with him still stuck on zero, something the pitcher
said he is fine with given the result, which was the
hometown Diamondbacks rallying for what was one of
the most fun wins of the season.

In fact, a jovial Kirk Gibson didn’t really have much to
complain about in his
postgame press conference. Having written down a list of
some of the
night’s better plays in the 5-4 victory that took 11
innings, the manager was not short on praise.

“We played good defense,” he said. “Kelly [Johnson] had a
lot of
awesome…he just laid it out there, played his heart
out. Ryan [Roberts]
hustled to home on the wild pitch; Parra’s two throws,
come on.”

It was one of those games. Even Roberts said there wasn’t
really a dull moment over the course of the 3:19 it took
to play.

“If I was watching the game I’d be on the edge of the seat
the whole time.
It was an exciting game and for us to come out on top is
huge.”

Excitement? No shortage of that, both on the field and in
the batter’s box.

Gerardo Parra threw out a pair of runners in the sixth
inning, both of whom
were trying to reach third. One throw came from the
warning track, the
other after a slow grounder reached left field. Bad idea
to run, Parra’s
teammates said.

“The way the assists happened,” Saunders mused. “That was
just…he’s got
a cannon and he threw freaking two strikes. It was
special, I was pumped
up.”

And on a night like this one, where the Diamondbacks
jumped out to an early 2-0 lead
only to fall behind in the seventh inning, it was perhaps
the team’s most
fiery player who truly ignited the rally.

Ryan Roberts, who had a pair of hits and reached base four
times, was on
second with one out. A Scott Proctor wild pitch reached
the backstop, and
Roberts took off running. He kept running until he scored
the tying run.

“I just kept running hard,” he said of the play. Roberts
saw an open plate
and decided it was worth trying to score.

“I was focused on one thing, I just saw an open plate and
took off running
towards it.”

Roberts did not break stride and, seemingly, neither did
the
Diamondbacks, until the 11th inning.

After David Hernandez and J.J. Putz combined to pitch
three scoreless
innings, Aaron Heilman came in and allowed one run on
three hits.
However, as these Diamondbacks seem to go, the willingness
to play until
the final out served them well once again.

With one out Russell Branyan, who was in an 0-22 slump,
hit a single to
right. Roberts followed Branyan with a single of his own,
and suddenly the
Diamondbacks had something going. That brought up the
scuffling Kelly
Johnson, who was 0-3 on the night.

“He swung the bat good all night,” Gibson said of his
second baseman,
adding that he told Johnson not to get discouraged. “I
really felt tonight as
the game went on it was going to be his night, and he had
the huge hit for
us in the last inning.”

Huge doesn’t quite sum it up.

Johnson roped a fastball into right field, scoring pinch
runner Josh Wilson
and tying the game up. He said he was looking for a
fastball from Braves
closer Craig Kimbrel.

“That was the only pitch I was looking for…it was just
one of those things
where I just wanted to sell out one time and see what
happened, so I did it
and glad that I hit it hard.”

At that point it seemed the rest of the game was all but a
formality, as
Justin Upton stepped up to the plate with Roberts on third
representing the
winning run. There was only one out, a situation taylor
made for the young
slugger. Hoping for a sacrifice fly, Upton didn’t even get
the ball out of the
infield — and Roberts still scored.

“It didn’t work out as planned but it got the job done,”
Upton said.

And that’s the point for the Diamondbacks. It was not easy
or
conventional, but they were able to beat one of the
National League’s better
teams, inching ever so closer back to the .500 mark. For
Wednesday night,
anyway, they did so by getting contributions from all
over.

Parra, Johnson, Saunders, Upton, Miranda, Hernandez,
Roberts, Putz. Every
one of those names belongs to a player who contributed to
the win, and
only Upton — and maybe Putz — would be known to anyone
outside the
state of Arizona.

That could be the sign of a team that is growing, learning
and evolving
into one that, not unlike the 2007 team that won the
division, can get
contributions from anybody, anytime.

“Baseball’s a funny thing,” Saunders said. “It seems like
what makes the
good teams good teams is that when the hitting isn’t
really clicking on all
cylinders the pitching picks it up and when the pitching
isn’t clicking on all
cylinders the hitters pick it up.”

Roberts, one of the unsung heroes of the team this season,
summed it up
nicely.

“It takes nine people to win every night,” he said.

On this night the Diamondbacks actually used 17 people,
but who’s counting.