Eddie Oropesa’s story: Living every day like it’s his last

This feature on Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Eddie Oropesa appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun in April 2002.

Living every day like it’s his last

By Ed Odeven

PHOENIX (April 20, 2002) — Veteran pitcher Eddie Oropesa treasures every day. For him, every day is a blessing, another day to do what he loves.

“Every day when I wake up I thank God, come to the ballpark and give 100 percent,” he said.

With Oropesa’s optimistic outlook and pitching talents, he’s been a positive addition to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

A free-agent pickup by the D-backs during the off-season, Oropesa arrived at the D-backs’ spring training camp in Tucson as a non-roster invitee. A slight hamstring strain limited his availability during Cactus League action — he made six appearances. And with injuries causing veteran pitchers Armando Reynoso (neck), Todd Stottlemyre (shoulder), Matt Mantei (elbow) and Greg Swindell (shoulder) to begin the season on the disabled list, Oropesa was given an opportunity to make Arizona’s Opening Day roster.

It was not an opportunity Oropesa would waste.

“He got the ball and little by little he was breaking in,” D-backs pitcher Miguel Batista said.

“He was really excited the day they told him he made the team.”

Through Friday, Oropesa, a submarine-style lefty, has been the busiest reliever out of the D-backs’ bullpen, making 11 appearances. He’s tied with four others for the most appearances in the National League. Oropesa’s ERA sky-rocketed to 5.23 after a shaky outing Friday.

PURSUING A DREAM

Oropesa, 30, was born and raised in Cuba. He attended the University of Matanzas. On the baseball-crazed island where talent is abundant, Oropesa made the Cuban National Team.

However, he yearned for more. He wanted a better life for his family. He wanted to pursue his dream of playing in the major leagues. And he wanted freedom from dictator Fidel Castro’s communist regime.

“When I had my first opportunity, I said I wanted to defect,” Oropesa said.

While in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1993 for an exhibition game between a Cuban traveling team and a team from South Korea, Oropesa defected. He climbed over a fence at the ballpark and never looked back. Oropesa’s wife Rita was pregnant at the time with the couple’s first-born child, Edilberto, back in Cuba.

It was not an easy road to take. Oropesa toiled for eight years in the minors, starting with the St. Paul Saints of the Independent Northern League in 1993. He pitched in four games that year for the Saints, posting a 3-1 record with a 1.93 ERA.

The Los Angeles Dodgers drafted him in the 14th round of the amateur draft the following year. The well-traveled Oropesa pitched for Vero Beach in 1994, San Antonio, Vero Beach and San Bernardino in ’95, San Bernardino in ’96, Shreveport in ’97, The President Lions in Taiwan (Chinese Professional Baseball League) in ’98, Fresno, Bakersfield and Reynosa (Mexican League) in ’99 and Shreveport again in 2000.

Many ballplayers would have given up and changed professions. Oropesa did not. He kept with it, kept striving to get a shot at “The Show.”

Oropesa, a non-roster invitee to the Philadelphia Phillies camp last spring, made a good impression, pitching in 13 exhibition games without giving up an earned run.

Finally, he made his major-league debut last season with the Philadelphia Phillies and pitched on Opening Day

“I’ve gone through so much, fighting and struggling,” Oropesa was quoted as saying at the time in the Miami Herald. “There were times in the past eight years I felt my head was going to explode from all the pressure inside it. I came here to be free, to have a future, to give my son a life different from the one I had, and to see him in the crowd.”

“It’s hard to play so many years in the minor leagues, especially those first few years when my family was back in Cuba,” he said earlier this week.

Oropesa’s wife and three kids and his parents now live in the United States. He said they are grateful to enjoy the freedom and opportunities that exist in America.

Pitching in Cuba helped prepare Oropesa for the high-pressure situations of being a major leaguer. He said that no ballplayers influenced his pitching style. Instead, he credits his father, Eddie, for passing on to him his love for the game.

“I thank my father every day for taking me to the park in Centrales Espana, Cuba,” he said.

MAKING HIS MARK

Oropesa feels grateful for the opportunity to pitch for the D-backs.

“I was very happy when they called to my against to come to spring training to try out for the World Champs,” he said.

“Every day when I come into the ballpark, I’m ready to play. They gave me the opportunity, so I want to give 100 percent.

“They gave me the opportunity. I need to say thank you to the organization for giving me the opportunity.”

It’s an opportunity that doesn’t rattle him. He has proven he has the nerves and the inner strength for this profession.

“(Playing) in the major leagues is like (playing in) Cuba,” Oropesa said. It’s hard to play for your country, especially when it’s a communist country.”

It may be hard for Oropesa to remain one of the league’s best-kept secrets.

“He’s a guy who has come a long way,” Batista said. He knows how to pitch. He just needed an opportunity and so far they are giving him the opportunity.

“He’s opening people’s eyes…They can think he can do the job as well as anybody else.”

Here’s where Oropesa figures to be a top commodity:

“There are going to possibly be situations in the fifth or sixth inning of games where you have to get a tough left-hander out and then that same situation may occur in the eighth or the ninth,” D-backs manager Bob Brenly said.

Like fellow southpaw submariner Mike Myers, Oropesa has had his fair share of success against righties, too.

“I think he’s fine against righties,” Brenly said. “Him and Myers are fine against right-handers. They both have such an unorthodox delivery that hitters, right-handed or left-handed, aren’t used to seeing. They both have tremendous movement on their pitches.”

Movement is a word that perfectly sums up Oropesa’s adult life. After all, he’s pitched for 14 teams in three countries on two continents in the past nine years. It’s been a journey well worth it.

Snapshot of future Hall of Famer Big Unit’s career in 2002

This column on just-elected Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun on May 23, 2002.

As Unit gets older and better, comparisons to Ryan inevitable

By Ed Odeven

I’ve seen the amazing Randy Johnson start four games this season at Bank One Ballpark. He’s won all four of those starts.

That’s what the Big Unit does: He dominates like few pitchers ever have in the history of baseball. Johnson, 38, is now 65-23 with 1,178 strikeouts in 843 innings since joining the Diamondbacks in 1999. (Take a moment to fathom those out-of-this world statistics; and while you’re at it, ponder what the Houston Astros — knowing what they now know — would give if they could get a “re-do” an ill-fated decision and go back in time to sign Johnson to a free-agent deal in December 1998.)

An intimidating 6-foot-10 left-hander, Johnson is a cool, composed performer on the mound. Coming at ’em with the trajectory and velocity of missiles, Johnson routinely fires 96-to-98 mph fastballs at hitters. Those fireballs are hard enough to hit.

Then, when trouble arises Johnson reaches back and adds a little more heat, a little more punishment to befuddle opposing batsmen. Johnson has a knack for showmanship, as he demonstrated on Opening Day, throwing a 101 mph pitch to San Diego’s Deivi Cruz on the game’s next-to-last pitch.

And let’s not forget his devastating, knee-buckling sliders. That’s what Johnson used to deliver the knockout blow to Cruz and give Arizona a season-opening win. Cruz whiffed on a slider, sending the frenzied crowd home with a smile. There have been plenty of smiles during Johnson’s tenure with the team and three straight Cy Young Awards to go with it.

Johnson is tied with teammate Curt Schilling for the major league lead in victories. At an age when most pitchers are showing signs of slowing down, Johnson appears to be getting stronger and better. He has lasted at least seven innings in each of his 10 starts this season.

The best parallel one can use to explain Johnson’s maturation as a pitcher is Nolan Ryan, the game’s all-time strikeout king with 5,714. As a youngster, Ryan tried to simply blow batters away with his fastball. He lacked pinpoint control, and essentially tried to win games by throwing, not pitching. Ryan settled down and became a great pitcher.

Similarly Johnson has learned to pitch. He has learned that his slider sets up his overpowering fastball. He has learned that even on an “off night,” he can deliver the goods and keep his team in the game.

After surrendering three runs and six hits, pegging two batters, walking three and fanning 10 against the Giants on Tuesday, the word in the Arizona clubhouse was that Johnson pitched well enough to win, even if it wasn’t a vintage Johnson performance

“Crafty is the perfect word for it,” D-backs catcher Damian Miller said to describe Johnson’s performance. “People get spoiled because of what he’s capable of doing. …Even a crafty Randy is still the best pitcher in baseball.”

It’s hard to find a convincing reason to argue with Miller’s point.

Opening Day 2002: World Series champs look ahead

This column appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun.

SNAKES SAVOR PAST, BUT LOOK TO FUTURE

By Ed Odeven
PHOENIX (April 1, 2002) — The hardest feat in professional sports is to win back-to-back championships.

The easiest way to slip is to become complacent and let the feelings of invincibility seep into a team’s collective psyche.

Make no mistake about it: The defending world champion Arizona Diamondbacks will not march from city to city in 2002 and pat themselves on the back.

Those feelings of championship euphoria lasted until left-hander Randy Johnson fired his first fastball of the game on Monday. (Officially, today’s pregame World Series ring presentation ceremony marks the end of the pandemonium that followed Luis Gonzalez’s game-winning, Game 7 hit in last year’s Fall Classic.)

The D-backs embrace a we-mean-business-now attitude, and it all starts with Bob Brenly. The second-year skipper’s professionalism and blue-collar persona guarantee the team will not rest on its laurels, especially considering that only three National League teams have successfully defended a World Series title, and none has done so since the Big Red Machine in Cincinnati in 1975 and ’76.

“After tomorrow’s ring ceremony all the hoopla will be over with and we can settle back in and continue playing,” first baseman Mark Grace said. “Today is Opening Day, tomorrow is a special day that we’ve been waiting for — a lot of us for a long time. And once that’s over we can get right back to our daily routine.”

Brenly called the day “special,” but said he’s ready to move on.

“It was on my mind to keep the players focused on the job at hand,” Brenly said after the D-backs’ 2-0 victory. “We all enjoyed the heck out of what happened last year. We hope to do something similar this year. The sooner we can forget last season, the better.”

As the 47,025 spectators who were at Bank One Ballpark fell asleep Monday night, they had plenty to remember:

*Visions of Johnson’s eight strikeouts dancing in their heads. Johnson saved his best for last, firing a 101 mph fastball past Deivi Cruz on the game’s next-to-last pitch and striking him out with a nasty 90 mph slider to end the game.

*Grace’s seventh-inning homer to right and stellar defense at first base, scooping up every ball thrown in his direction.

*Danny Bautista’s run-scoring double in the third that brought Tony Womack home for the only run the Big Unit needed.

Johnson, 38, is clearly the catalyst of this aging team, a team of clutch 30-something veterans like Grace, Tony Womack and Steve Finley and younger guys anxious to continue their rise to stardom like Byung-Hyun Kim, Junior Spivey and Bautista.

“Everybody is waiting for guys like that to falter,” Gonzalez said of Johnson. “The guy keeps getting better every year. Everyone in here believes in his abilities and all the other guys.

“We just pull in the same direction. That’s what helped us get through last year and that’s what will help us this year again.”

It won’t be an easy task, considering championship-contending teams need consistency, players having career years and, yes, a stroke of luck now and then.

Schill the Thrill takes the hill today. Baseball’s best 1-2 pitching punch began the season with a dramatic knockout blow. Now it’s Curt Schilling’s turn to do what he did so many times last season: Replicate Johnson’s mastery over batters with his right arm.

As Gonzalez, the consummate professional put it, “We don’t care who it is as long as somebody grabs the keys to the car and drives us to the next level.”

The D-backs are already there.

The hardest part is staying there.

Feature flashback – Randy Johnson

This article appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun.

Headline: As Unit gets older and better, comparisons to Ryan inevitable

By Ed Odeven

(May 23, 2002) — I’ve seen the amazing Randy Johnson start four games this season at Bank One Ballpark. He’s won all four of those starts.

That’s what the Big Unit does: He dominates like few pitchers ever have in the history of baseball. Johnson, 38, is now 65-23 with 1,178 strikeouts in 843 innings since joining the Diamondbacks in 1999. (Take a moment to fathom those out-of-this world statistics; and while you’re at it, ponder what the Houston Astros — knowing what they now know — would give if they could get a “re-do” an ill-fated decision and go back in time to sign Johnson to a free-agent deal in December 1998.)

An intimidating 6-foot-10 left-hander, Johnson is a cool, composed performer on the mound. Coming at ’em with the trajectory and velocity of missiles, Johnson routinely fires 96-to-98 mph fastballs at hitters. Those fireballs are hard enough to hit.

Then, when trouble arises Johnson reaches back and adds a little more heat, a little more punishment to befuddle opposing batsmen. Johnson has a knack for showmanship, as he demonstrated on Opening Day, throwing a 101 mph pitch to San Diego’s Deivi Cruz on the game’s next-to-last pitch.

And let’s not forget his devastating, knee-buckling sliders. That’s what Johnson used to deliver the knockout blow to Cruz and give Arizona a season-opening win. Cruz whiffed on a slider, sending the frenzied crowd home with a smile. There have been plenty of smiles during Johnson’s tenure with the team and three straight Cy Young Awards to go with it.

Johnson is tied with teammate Curt Schilling for the major league lead in victories. At an age when most pitchers are showing signs of slowing down, Johnson appears to be getting stronger and better. He has lasted at least seven innings in each of his 10 starts this season.

The best parallel one can use to explain Johnson’s maturation as a pitcher is Nolan Ryan, the game’s all-time strikeout king with 5,714. As a youngster, Ryan tried to simply blow batters away with his fastball. He lacked pinpoint control, and essentially tried to win games by throwing, not pitching. Ryan settled down and became a great pitcher.

Similarly Johnson has learned to pitch. He has learned that his slider sets up his overpowering fastball. He has learned that even on an “off night,” he can deliver the goods and keep his team in the game.

After surrendering three runs and six hits, pegging two batters, walking three and fanning 10 against the Giants on Tuesday, the word in the Arizona clubhouse was that Johnson pitched well enough to win, even if it wasn’t a vintage Johnson performance

“Crafty is the perfect word for it,” D-backs catcher Damian Miller said to describe Johnson’s performance. “People get spoiled because of what he’s capable of doing. …Even a crafty Randy is still the best pitcher in baseball.”

It’s hard to find a convincing reason to argue with Miller’s point.

Column flashback – A conversation with MLB announcer Ernie Harwell

After a one-on-one, 30-minute dugout chat with announcer Ernie Harwell, before a Diamondbacks-Tigers game, my column appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun on June 17, 2002.

Headline: Harwell, and a little history

None of those legendary announcers has matched the longevity of Mr. Harwell, who’s now in his 55th season of broadcasting Major League Baseball games. That’s right 55 years.

I had the privilege of sitting down with Harwell in the Detroit dugout before the Tigers-Diamondbacks game on Saturday evening at Bank One Ballpark to discuss his amazing career. Easygoing, polite, articulate and funny, Harwell instantly made me feel like we had been friends for years. By all accounts, that’s one of his signature traits — he is kind to everyone he meets. (A day later, he greeted me in the elevator and remembered my first name. Incredible, eh? How many thousands of names has he uttered in his career?)

Like countless boys, Harwell, 84, grew up yearning to be a professional baseball player. Athletically, he didn’t have the talent to make it. That didn’t stop him from finding another way to be around the game.

Confident, perhaps a bit daring, and motivated, Harwell first pitched his case to become a journalist to one of the prestigious sports magazines of his youth.

“In 1934, when I was in high school I wrote a letter to The Sporting News and told them I should be the Atlanta correspondent,” he said smiling.

“They didn’t know I was only 16 years old. They gave me the job.”

That job entailed covering the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association. It led to a six-year stint at The Atlanta Constitution “doing stuff nobody else wanted to do while I was in high school and college,” he recalled.

After graduating from Emory University in Atlanta, Harwell was unable to find a job at a newspaper. So he went for an audition at radio station WSB in Atlanta. He’s been in radio ever since, except for four years during World War II when he served in the Marines and held the post of sports editor for Leatherneck Magazine.

“It was sort of accidental. I was a failed sportswriter,” he quipped.

Print journalism’s loss has been broadcast journalism’s gain. Since becoming a play-by-play voice for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948, Harwell has worked for New York Giants and Baltimore Orioles. He has been with the Detroit Tigers since 1960.

Remarkably, Harwell has only missed two games in 55 years.

“I’ve been very lucky,” he said.

Neither of those absences was due to illness: He missed the first game to attend his brother’s funeral; he missed the second game to attend National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Salisbury, N.C.

Instead of hanging around too long, Harwell decided to retire after this season while he’s still a respected announcer.

“I felt the time was going to come sooner or later when I had to hang it up,” Harwell said, “and I decided this year would be my last one. … I felt like I could really go another four or five years, but I didn’t want to stay around long enough for people to say, ‘Why didn’t that old guy quit?’ I wanted to stop before everybody told me to.”

Harwell said his No. 1 thrill as an announcer was calling Bobby Thomson’s famous “Shot Heard Around The World” homer in the 1951 playoff that propelled the Giants into National League pennant winners.

Old-timers remember Russ Hodges’ unforgettable “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” call. Well, Hodges and Harwell alternated between TV and radio that year. Harwell was assigned to the TV telecast that day, Oct. 3, 1951.

“I just said, ‘It’s gone!’ and then the pictures took over,” Harwell said.

Fortunately, Harwell’s legacy will live on.

Cancer survivor & baseball enthusiast Jason Kurtz

This column appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun. Interviews were conducted at the local hospital.

MORE THAN A GAME

March 24, 2006
By Ed Odeven
Sun Sports Editor

During the long offseason, Opening Day can’t come soon enough. For baseball fans, it’s an unofficial national holiday, a day that’s marked on our calendars since, well, the day after the previous World Series ends.

For Flagstaff resident Jason Kurtz, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ 2006 Opening Day at Chase Field will have an even bigger meaning: a celebration of life.

Fittingly, on April 11, he’ll return to the place where his life took a turn for the better.

Kurtz will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Diamondbacks-Rockies game.

“It’s such a simple task,” Kurtz was saying Friday morning at Flagstaff Medical Center’s main lobby moments before he walked with visitors to 3 South, the medical/surgical unit he works at as a clinical coordinator.

“We have a softball team on our floor. Anybody can throw a ball, but I just know when you get on a field with 50,000 people looking at you, the most remedial, simplest tasks can be difficult.”

Not that he’s complaining, though.

Kurtz already knows what he’ll wear to the game: his D-backs jersey and hat — and a huge grin, too.

“It’s my one opportunity to step on a major league pitching mound,” he says, smiling.

A year ago, popular former D-back Mark Grace and Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg threw out the ceremonial first pitches at Arizona’s first home game.

Kurtz, 32, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on April 10, 2003, just weeks before his wedding.

After undergoing nine months of high-dose chemotherapy, the cancer was not eradicated from his body. So he received a stem-cell transplant in 2004, but that failed, too.

What followed was several agonizing months of radiation and chemotherapy for the D-backs’ season ticket holder.

Now it was August 2005 and the cancer had spread to Kurtz’s lungs and bones. He was gravely ill and stopped working at FMC.

One option remained: a bone marrow transplant. Nobody in Kurtz’s family was a match, but fortunately one was found — a 38-year-old woman from the East Coast.

But before he had the transplant, Kurtz’s wife, Dawn, encouraged him to go see a D-backs game, a source of enjoyment for both of them on the many weekends they attended home games, as they made the trip from Flagstaff to Tucson.

Kurtz was feeling miserable, but reluctantly agreed to go, if only for an hour to see the D-backs and Rockies on Aug. 7.

Jason and Dawn, who’s also a nurse, showed up at the game and planned to sit in their customary seats in the left-field bleachers.

Didn’t happen.

One of the D-backs’ ushers upgraded their tickets, giving them front-row seats behind home plate. (Says Derrick Hall, Arizona’s senior vice president of marketing and communications, “If our VIP tickets are not being utilized for whatever reason on any given night, we’ll go up to random fans and ask them if they want to move down to those seats.”)

What a treat that night was for Kurtz.

“I will never forget that special night for as long as I live,” Kurtz tells the small crowd assembled on 3 South, including a broadcast crew from “Diamondbacks, Playin’ Hardball,” the team’s weekly TV show, which was taping a segment.

As he made his customary walk around the ballpark during that game, Hall was informed of Kurtz’s battle with cancer by the stadium worker who gave him and his wife the upgraded tickets and he was immediately touched by the fans’ loyalty to their team.

“I just thanked them for being there under those conditions,” Hall recalls.

Kurtz’s bone-marrow transplant took place last September at University Medical Center in Tucson. He remained at the hospital until Nov. 23, 2005, the day before Thanksgiving, recovering from his transplant.

A recent CT scan revealed that Kurtz is now 100 percent cancer-free, and it’s no shock that he’s eternally grateful to his donor.

“I don’t know who she is, but she saved my life,” Kurtz says now.

Two weeks ago, Kurtz sat down and penned an e-mail of gratitude to Hall and the D-backs for the positive feelings they gave him before he encountered this life-altering medical procedure at UMC.

“We enjoyed ourselves so much,” he writes. “For three hours, I was lost in the magic of the D-backs. Not once did I feel sick or feel pain.

“In fact, the whole time I was there I didn’t need to take any medication. I can’t begin to tell you how great it is to feel normal and good when you’ve had the weight of the world on your shoulders for so long.

“…That game meant so much to us, thank you. My wife was nearly in tears just seeing me so happy and comfortable, something she hasn’t seen in a while. My mind and spirit where now ready for what was ahead.”

A copy of that letter is proudly on display in Hall’s ballpark office.

Kurtz, a former Army medic and football player at Tucson Canyon del Oro High School, plans to start a foundation to help others who are going through similar experiences.

He envisions this foundation as one that serves the needs of Flagstaff, which includes actively encouraging people to become nurses — a nursing scholarship will be offered every semester to help offset the severe shortage of nurses.

“We want to make more nurses and we want to make people that have cancer more comfortable financially, emotionally and spiritually … here, locally,” said Kurtz, who became a nurse eight years ago.

One visitor suggests Kurtz, who plans to go with a baseball theme for the foundation, calls it The Winning Run Foundation. Another recommends First Pitch Foundation.

Kurtz says both are fine ideas, but he isn’t ready to name the foundation just yet.

On an airplane flight two weeks ago, Hall brought Kurtz’s letter with him. During the trip, members of the D-backs’ front office were discussing who might throw out this year’s first pitch on Opening Day. They threw out a few names — ex-Arizona State golfer Phil Mickelson and some well-known singers — as possibilities.

Those were fine choices, all concurred.

But then Hall took out the letter and read it to those on the plane.

That changed everything.

“It was unanimous. Everybody said, ‘This is the first-pitch (guy),'” Hall recalls.

And so Hall made a call to the Kurtzes. Dawn answered the phone (Jason was out fishing, like he was during their belated honeymoon in Homer, Alaska, last May) and later relayed the exciting news to her husband.

And you already know he’s thrilled about Opening Day.

Before, the 6:40 p.m. game, Kurtz will be introduced to the fans, Hall revealed, including a touching video tribute of him reading the now-famous letter he wrote to the D-backs.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a dry eye in the house,” Hall decides.

Kurtz already knows a thing or two about Opening Day lore, especially about U.S. presidents — John F. Kennedy and George W. Bush, for instance — who have thrown ceremonial first pitches at big-league ballyards.

“I’m going to be better than JFK, because he threw like a girl,” Kurtz jokes, as the visitors laugh hysterically. “But I have to admit, say what you want about Bush, (but) Bush threw the ball in there pretty good. So I need to be somewhere in between there, between Bush and JFK.”

All kidding aside, Kurtz says he hopes his moment in the spotlight can inspire others.

“This is bigger than me,” he adds. “I don’t deserve to throw out the first pitch.”

But he is, and that’s a great reason to celebrate Opening Day.

2002 NL Division Series – Game 2 article

This story appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun and earned first place in the Arizona Associated Press Managing Editors sports deadline reporting category for 2002.

AGAINST THE WALL

October 03, 2002 10:00 pm
By ED ODEVEN
Sun Sports Staff
PHOENIX — For the Arizona Diamondbacks, it’s officially time to push the panic button.

The Diamondbacks wasted a brilliant pitching performance by Curt Schilling, seven innings, one run, seven strikeouts, after tying the game at 1 in the eighth inning. They blew the lead in the ninth and lost 2-1 to the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday in Game 2 of the National League Division Series at Bank One Ballpark.

The Diamondbacks trail the Cardinals 2-0 in the best-of-five series. Game 3 is Saturday at Bush Stadium in St. Louis.

“It’s tough. It means you’re in an 0-2 hole going back to their ballpark,” Arizona manager Bob Brenly said moments after the Cardinals beat Arizona and co-aces Randy Johnson and Schilling in back-to-back games. “It’s probably the understatement of the season that our work is cut out for us.”

Said Schilling: “(We) certainly didn’t expect to leave here down 2-0. It is what it is. We’re going to have to find a way to right the ship, 48 hours to get this thing going. They’ve come out and done what they had to do.”

Edgar Renteria initiated St. Louis’ ninth-inning rally with a leadoff single to left. Renteria advanced to second on Mike Matheny’s textbook sacrifice bunt and scored the go-ahead run on Miguel Cairo’s RBI single up the middle off reliever Mike Koplove (0-1).

“I was just looking for a fastball to hit somewhere hard,” Cairo said, smiling like someone who just won the lottery. “I got the fastball right in the middle, a little in, but I tried to hit it to the middle. I got lucky today.”

St. Louis closer Jason Isringhausen slammed the door on Arizona with a 1-2-3 ninth, setting down pinch hitter Chris Donnels, Tony Womack and Junior Spivey in succession.

Responding to a question about why he didn’t bring in Erubiel Durazo to face Isringhausen to begin the ninth, Brenly said the lefty slugger would’ve been used later in the inning if the opportunity came up.

Arizona ended its 14-inning scoring drought in the eighth inning. Greg Colbrunn reached on an error by St. Louis third baseman Albert Pujols, a high chopper that nipped his glove. With two outs, Quinton McCracken delivered a game-tying double to right.

Trailing 1-0 in the seventh with two outs and Schilling up next, Brenly opted for offense and brought in righty pinch hitter Chad Moeller against Steve Kline, a lefty.

Moeller lined the first pitch up the middle for a single and Womack followed with a walk. St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa yanked Kline and brought in righty Rick White to face Spivey.

Spivey worked the count to 3-2 before slapping a grounder to a charging Scott Rolen as Alex Cintron, who pinch-ran for Moeller, came racing toward third. Cintron collided with Rolen and was called for runner interference to quell the rally.

Rolen left the game and was diagnosed with a left shoulder sprain, necessitating Pujols’ move from left field to third base.

“You can’t point the finger at Alex,” Spivey said, adding that he was sure Rolen would have made the play. “I was the guy with the bat in my hands. I couldn’t put it through the hole. I didn’t come through.”

Rolen had X-rays taken at the ballpark, and although they were negative, the Cardinals are not optimistic that the injury is a minor one. He will be re-evaluated today, and LaRussa said it’s “very questionable” that Rolen will play again in this series.

Schilling escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, fanning Jim Edmonds on an 3-2 splitter in the dirt. St. Louis loaded the bases with singles by Matheny and Fernando Vina (who went 4-for-5) and a walk — the first issued by Schilling — to J.D. Drew.

In the third, the Cardinals took a 1-0 lead on a two-out home run to left by Drew on a low-and-away 2-2 fastball by Schilling. It was Drew’s second career postseason homer, the first coming in last season’s NLDS against Arizona in Game 5 (a game-tying solo shot off Schilling — the only run Schilling gave up in the series). Schilling was not shocked Drew tagged him for a round-tripper.

“He’s got so much power,” Schilling said. “You know, I haven’t seen the replay of the one today, but everyone said he was out in front. He’s such a good hitter. He got the ball elevated. That was all he had to do with that pitch.”

Cardinals starter Chuck Finley allowed four hits in 6 1/3 scoreless innings before leaving with a muscle cramp in his pitching hand.

The D-backs were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, and they stranded runners in every inning except the third, fourth and ninth. In the series, they are batting .206 (14-for-68).

“It’s been a battle,” McCracken said. “Good pitching beats good hitting, and they’ve had the hits that have been falling. We haven’t.”

That can make this a frustrating profession at times.

“I was talking to (Koplove) in the ninth,” Schilling said, “I said, ‘It doesn’t make it easier, but sometimes you do your job here and still get beat.’

“It’s part of competing at this level. You know, it doesn’t make you feel any better, but that’s life.”

And life doesn’t get any easier on Saturday for the reigning World Series champs in a must-win game.