Gibson, Roenicke put to test in NLDS

Gibson, Roenicke put to test in NLDS

MILWAUKEE -- Kirk Gibson knows what it feels like to make an impact on the field while playing on the October stage. The D-backs manager is only now beginning to experience making potential game-changing decisions while in the dugout.

Gibson is best known for the iconic image of him pumping his fist, celebrating a miraculous home run off A's closer Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. As Gibson rounded the bases, and Dodger Stadium rocked, announcer Jack Buck cried, "I can't believe what I just saw."

D-backs fans have often said the same throughout their team's storybook season, one that could very well earn Gibson the National League Manager of the Year Award. There are always those second guessers, however. Those who might return to Buck's famous call after one of Gibson's decisions do not work.

"You have to have the conviction of what you're going to do," Gibson said. "And none of us feel good when we fail. That's what baseball is, it's dealing with failure and overcoming it. So when I was a player I was -- I took it hard.

"But I was also very motivated and very determined to get them the next time. And it's no different as a manager."

During this NL Division Series, Gibson and Brewers manager Ron Roenicke have engaged in a battle of wits that has led to a two wins for each club with a decisive Game 5 slated for 4 p.m. CT on Friday. There have been moves that have paid off and others that have backfired.

Milwaukee picked up two victories at home to begin the best-of-five series, and Arizona followed suit in the past two contests out in the desert. Along the way, Roenicke and Gibson have made their mark with critical in-game maneuvering. Both managers -- each in their first full season at the helm -- look forward to that aspect of the game.

"I always enjoy the chess match," said Roenicke, who served as a bench coach on Angels manager Mike Scioscia's staff prior to this season. "I really enjoy it, and I think when those situations come up, they're fun. That's what makes managing, coaching, enjoyable."

With Game 5 between the D-backs and Brewers looming, here is a look back at some key decisions made by Gibson and Roenicke in the first four games of NLDS:

Game 1 in Milwaukee
Inning: Bottom of the sixth

The situation: With two outs, Yuniesky Betancourt tripled for the Brewers, who held a 1-0 lead at the time. That brought the No. 8 hitter, catcher Jonathan Lucroy, to the plate with pitcher Yovani Gallardo standing in the on-deck circle. Over the past two years, Gallardo has hit .237 with five homers and 14 RBIs.

Gibson's decision: Giving the go-ahead to D-backs starter Ian Kennedy to pitch to Lucroy instead of intentionally walking the catcher to get to Gallardo.

The result: Lucroy dumped a pitch from Kennedy into shallow left field, scoring Betancourt to give Milwaukee an important insurance run.

Comment: "I made my pitch, and he just placed [it] just right. I mean, I got him 1-2, and there was no thought [of walking him intentionally]. Maybe if it was [to get to] a guy who couldn't hit, but Gallardo can swing it a little bit." -- Kennedy

Game 1 in Milwaukee
Inning: Bottom of the seventh

The situation: The Brewers were clinging to a 2-0 lead when Ryan Braun came through with a two-out double off Kennedy. That brought slugger Prince Fielder to the plate with first base open and Rickie Weeks on deck.

Gibson's decision: Allowing Kennedy to pitch to Fielder instead of bringing in a lefty specialist or calling for an intentional walk.

The result: Fielder crushed an 0-1 pitch deep to right field for a two-run home run, giving Milwaukee a 4-0 lead. That was more than enough cushion for the Brewers to claim a 4-1 victory.

Comment: "We had different options. We could have brought in [lefty Joe] Paterson, who has actually handled Fielder well. We could have walked him and let Ian face Weeks. Ultimately, that's what he wanted to do, and it was my decision to let him do it that way. It didn't work out. He threw probably the worst pitch of the game." -- Gibson

Game 2 in Milwaukee
Inning: Bottom of the third

The situation: After retiring the first two hitters of the inning, D-backs starter Daniel Hudson gave up a double to Braun. Once again, Fielder settled into his stance with first base open. Milwaukee had a 2-1 advantage at time time.

Gibson's decision: Again passing on an intentional walk.

The result: Fielder made Arizona pay with an RBI single to center field. Weeks followed with a run-scoring triple and the Brewers were on their way to a second straight win in front of their home crowd.

Comment: "It's always a discussion when you're going to walk to somebody to put an extra runner on base to get to that next guy. ... They're tough calls. They're easy to second-guess. Afterward you can say, 'Oh, why is he pitching to Prince?' Those decisions are not easy when you have to make them before he is at-bat instead of after." -- Roenicke

Game 2 in Milwaukee
Inning: Bottom of the sixth

The situation: With the Brewers and D-backs locked in a 4-4 tie, Jerry Hairston Jr. delivered a one-out double off Hudson. Gibson then turned to reliever Brad Ziegler, who balked to allow the runner to advance to third base. Ziegler then issued a walk, gave up an RBI bunt single, made a throwing error and issued an intentional walk to load the bases.

Gibson's decision: Sticking with Ziegler for a few more hitters.

The result: The reliever allowed three more run-scoring singles in a row before being lifted from the game. The damage had more than been done, though. Milwaukee struck for five runs in the inning and cruised to a 9-4 win.

Comment: "He usually throws a real wicked sinker, setting up on the inside part of the plate. It was basically middle. It was not his normal sink. It was tough. It was tough. I've been there. I understand. I can relate to it. It's nothing against anybody's effort, it's how it goes sometimes." -- Gibson

Game 3 in Phoenix
Inning: Bottom of the fifth

The situation: The D-backs had a 3-1 lead with Brewers right-hander Shaun Marcum on the mound. With two outs and runners on second and third base, Arizona catcher Miguel Montero (already 2-for-2 with a pair of run-scoring hits) stepped up to the plate. Rookie Paul Goldschmidt waited on deck.

Roenicke's decision: Intentionally walking Montero.

The result: Marcum worked Goldschmidt into a 1-2 count with the bases full, but the D-backs' first baseman then crushed an opposite-field grand slam to give Arizona a commanding lead. The D-backs went on to win, 8-1.

Comment: "I think that was the right move. I still do. But do I like it? No. I don't like it. You load the bases sometimes. You have an open base. Sometimes when you load them, it puts that pitcher in a position where, if he gets behind the count, he's in big trouble. I just thought today Montero looked pretty good against Shaun. And I thought it was the right move." -- Roenicke

Game 4 in Phoenix
Inning: Bottom of the third

The situation: Brewers lefty Randy Wolf and D-backs lefty Joe Saunders were struggling in their respective outings. Arizona held a 5-3 lead and had runners on second and third base with two outs and Saunders next up to hit for the D-backs. Wolf's spot in the order was due up third in the fourth for Milwaukee.

Gibson's decision: Turning to pinch-hitter Collin Cowgill.

Roenicke's decision: Sticking with Wolf on the mound.

The result: Cowgill, who hit .239 in 36 regular-season games, delivered a two-run single in his first career postseason at-bat. A two-run deficit for the Brewers quickly turned into a 7-3 lead for the D-backs, who went on to claim a 10-6 victory to send the series back to Milwaukee for a decisive Game 5 on Friday.

Comment: "We had a chance to score runs. I didn't like the way Joe was throwing the ball. He was elevating, overthrowing the ball. I didn't see any ground balls. And I had a feeling Milwaukee was not going to give in, which they didn't. We had an opportunity to score some runs, so I took advantage of that." -- Gibson

Comment: "If you go to a bullpen guy right away, that at-bat is going to come up and then you've got to decide, OK, we're five runs down or whatever you are, and are we going to send up our pitcher to hit? And I don't know if that's a good way to go about it. So that's what gets tough is in the third inning, trying to decide whether to leave Wolf or not in." -- Roenicke

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.