What if Aramis Ramirez had not gone hitless for the series?
What if they could have gotten that one clutch hit? That hit that might have changed the outcome of one inning, or maybe one game, or maybe even the whole series.
"I think the problem is all three games we tried to do too much," Alfonso Soriano said Saturday. "[Arizona] played well and they pitched well -- and we did nothing. We had a lot of opportunities tonight and the last three games, and we did nothing."
That was the consensus among the Cubs, whose offense disappeared in the National League Division Series. There wasn't that key hit. Not from Ramirez, who is one of six finalists for the Major League Baseball Clutch Performer of the Year Award presented by Pepsi. Not from Soriano, who was named Pepsi Clutch Performer of September after hitting .320 with 27 RBIs and a franchise-record 14 home runs in the month. And not from Derrek Lee, who hit .333 (4-for-12) with four singles against Arizona.
The big three of Soriano, Lee and Ramirez combined to go 6-for-38, with 28 runners left on base in the series.
"It's playoff time, adrenaline takes over, and I think we tried too hard," Ramirez said. "We didn't hit. If you don't hit, you don't win."
Ramirez's disappearance was perhaps the biggest surprise for the Cubs. The slugging third baseman entered the series hitting .310 on the season -- and .255 with 16 extra-base hits in his career against Arizona -- but went 0-for-12 in the playoffs, reaching base only once on a walk in the fifth inning of Game 3.
"He struggled with the series, but we didn't do much offensively," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "What did we score, six runs in three games? Hard to win that way."
The Cubs as a team hit just .194 (19-for-98), with 27 strikeouts. At least one runner reached base in 13 of the Cubs' 27 innings -- including seven of nine innings Saturday -- but the Cubs could not take advantage, finishing the series 2-for-23 with runners in scoring position.
"When you don't score runs and you leave a lot of people on, it looks lackluster, but it wasn't," Piniella said. "These guys gave effort, they really did. They wanted to get it done. [Arizona] caught us for three games, but we just didn't swing the bats.
"They just caught us cold."
After belting a franchise-high 45 home runs in September, the Cubs had just one in the postseason -- a two-run shot by Geovany Soto in the second inning of Game 2 in Arizona. Soto's homer gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead, but the Diamondbacks answered back with four runs of their own in the bottom of the inning. That brief lead was the only lead the Cubs held all series.
In Game 1, Piniella's top 5 hitters finished 1-for-20, with Lee's single their only hit. In Game 2, pinch-hitter Daryle Ward's two-run double in the sixth was a welcome addition to Soto's home run. The only problem was the Diamondbacks were still ahead, 8-4.
The offense's struggles peaked in the fifth inning of Saturday's 5-1 loss. With the Cubs trailing, 3-1, Ryan Theriot walked to lead off the inning -- it was the fourth time in the game the Cubs had their leadoff hitter reach -- and one batter later, Cliff Floyd and Ramirez both walked to load the bases against Diamondbacks starter Livan Hernandez. Mark DeRosa came to the plate with one out and worked the count to 3-1. DeRosa swung at Hernandez's next offering, but rather than coming up with a crucial hit like his walk-off single against the Cincinnati Reds on Sept. 17 at Wrigley, he grounded to shortstop Stephen Drew for an inning-ending double play.
"The one at-bat I need to come through, I didn't get it done," DeRosa said. "That's what you take from it -- period, the end. I didn't get it done. I don't worry about my teammates. I trust in my teammates. You never point fingers. You look at yourself if you're a man. You look at yourself. I didn't get it done."
It was not just DeRosa. The Cubs offense as a whole did not get it done.
"We dug holes for ourselves and couldn't get out of them," Floyd said. "You can talk until you're blue in the face, but it's about scoring runs and keeping them off the scoreboard as much as you can.
"I thought we had every ingredient possible to do what we had to do. We fell short. We have a bunch of great guys in this locker room, great competitors. We weren't just happy to get to the playoffs. It wasn't just, 'Thank you, we made it.' We felt we were going to go a long way. It's going to be some tough days ahead to get past this."