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Youth, inexperience killing the D-backs

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Jose Valverde reacts after he walked in the game-winning run during the 11th inning in Game 2.
Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Jose Valverde reacts after he walked in the game-winning run during the 11th inning in Game 2.
Ross D. Franklin, Associated Press

PHOENIX — Two losses away from elimination, the Arizona Diamondbacks insist they aren't pressing.

"We're playing the same we've played all season," rookie Justin Upton said.

But the results have changed for the winningest team in the NL.

Arizona's 3-2, 11-inning loss to the Colorado Rockies on Friday left the Diamondbacks in a 2-0 hole as the best-of-seven NL championship series heads to Denver.

Even after a disappointing defeat in front of a towel-waving crowd of 48,219, the Diamondbacks wouldn't admit that their lack of postseason experience may be catching up to them.

"We're still playing with confidence," said closer Jose Valverde, who walked in the winning run.

But they're not playing with intelligence, one of their trademarks this year.

Stephen Drew had a costly brain freeze in the ninth. With Arizona trailing 2-1, Drew singled to center, sending Chris Young to third. Then Eric Byrnes hit a slow chopper to second baseman Kaz Matsui, whose flip to second pulled Troy Tulowitzki off the bag.

Young scored and Drew was called safe at second. But Drew began jogging toward the dugout. Tulowitzki, who had started to argue with umpire Tom Hallion, saw Drew run and tossed to third baseman Jamey Carroll, who tagged Drew for the second out.

"When I took him out, it looked like he touched the bag from my standpoint," Drew said. "I looked back and no call, so I'm figuring I'm out. I start heading back in."

Then Drew saw third base coach Chip Hale.

"He's saying, 'Go back,"' Drew said.

Too late.

That blunder took the potential winning run out of scoring position. And it loomed large when Valverde, working his second inning, walked Willy Taveras on four pitches to force in the winning run in the 11th. It was only the second time that Valverde had worked more than one inning this year.

Manager Bob Melvin said he didn't regret leaving the right-hander in the game. Valverde threw 42 pitches, 10 more than his previous season high.

"You've got to keep him in there," Melvin said. "He's the closer, in there for two innings. And once he gives up a run, you go get him. You've got to at least go with your best until they get a run."

Third baseman Mark Reynolds opened the door for the game's first run when he let Todd Helton's hard smash go through his legs in the second. Helton scored on Yorvit Torrealba's two-out single.

After veteran Tony Clark led off the bottom half of the second with a double, Reynolds and another rookie, Jeff Salazar, struck out. Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez walked Chris Snyder and struck out Augie Ojeda to end the threat.

In the fifth, the Diamondbacks loaded the bases and again failed to score. With two on and one out, Byrnes reached for a pitch out of the strike zone and fouled out.

After a walk loaded the bases, Reynolds killed the threat by striking out on three pitches. First base umpire Larry Vanover called him out on a checked swing, and Reynolds glared and swiped the air with his bat.

The Diamondbacks' problems began in the opener, when rookie Justin Upton was called for interference while trying to break up a double play at second base, thwarting a late-inning rally.

That game ended when another rookie, Miguel Montero, was thrown out trying to leg out a double with his team trailing 5-1.