Photo by Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
It was the biggest start of his young Major League career, and it came in Game 3 of the 2011 National League Division Series.
Josh Collmenter took the mound in his first postseason start with his team in an 0-2 series deficit. Arizona was just a single loss away from having its season come to a premature end.
The D-backs desperately needed a solid outing from their starter in hopes of prolonging their 2011 playoff hopes, and Collmenter certainly delivered just what Arizona hoped for and then some.
“The Ferris Wheel” silenced the red-hot Brewers lineup by unleashing seven innings of one-run baseball. He allowed just two hits while striking out six, which established a franchise record for most strikeouts by a rookie pitcher in a postseason game.
Collmenter effectively navigated his way through the Milwaukee batting lineup that produced 13 runs on 20 hits in the first two games of the series.
“Coming into the game I knew I had success against Milwaukee,” Collmenter said. “I knew if I executed my game plan, I could get them out. I didn’t have to pitch out of my head. I think that gave me some confidence to know that if I ever got in the situation with some runners on or got in a jam, I knew I’d pitch out of it by executing pitches against different guys.”
Collmenter’s spectacular outing in Game 3 is just the latest of his impressive performances against the Brewers.
In his July 6 start at Miller Park, he hurled six shutout innings while allowing just three hits and striking out three. Collmenter was just as good, if not better in his next start vs. Milwaukee as he tossed eight shutout innings while allowing just three hits and striking out seven in the 3-0 Arizona win.
With his seven innings and just one earned run allowed on Tuesday, Collmenter has now surrendered just one earned run in 21 innings against Milwaukee this season. He owns a 2-0 record with a stellar 0.43 ERA in three career starts against the Brewers.
“It’s been incredible,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “He gave up one run three times, walked three, struck out 16. I think he had one groundball out, struck out six tonight and I think everything else was in the air.”
Collmenter worked out of a mini-jam in the first inning of Tuesday’s game. After walking Ryan Braun and hitting Prince Fielder, he struck out Richie Weeks to end any potential scoring threat.
“I wasn’t going to give in to Braun, and the game plan is to pitch Fielder inside,” Collmenter said. “I decided to actually use some pitches to Weeks. I wanted to slow it down and make the pitches I wanted to make and not let them get the momentum that we ended up getting.”
His only blemish of the evening came in the top of the third when he surrendered a leadoff, solo home run off the bat of Corey Hart. Collmenter quickly responded by retiring nine straight Brewer batters. He ended his dominant performance by retiring six in a row, including a 1-2-3 seventh frame.
“I exceeded my expectations a little bit,” Collmenter said. “My goal was to give the team a win – whatever I had to do just to keep the team in the ballgame and give us a chance to win down the stretch.”
Collmenter did just that by giving his team a shot at winning. The D-backs cruised to an 8-1 win and forced a Game 4. Although the stakes were certainly high, the right-hander approached Tuesday’s start just like any other.
“No, no butterflies,” Collmenter said. “It wasn’t until you see the atmosphere and the fans all wearing red with their pom-poms and how exciting that was.”
When the D-backs were on the brink of elimination, it turns out the rookie Collmenter was just what they needed in a pivotal playoff situation.
“We talked about it before, he obviously has great deception,” Gibson said. “He obviously has great character. He was very composed tonight and threw strikes. He kept them off-balance and it’s what we needed. He deserves a lot of credit for the way he threw and the way he was composed tonight.”