These Arizona Diamondbacks are no desert mirage, and the Chicago Cubs are on the brink of despair once again.
Rookie Chris Young hit a three-run homer and Stephen Drew tripled in two more in an 8-4 victory Thursday night that put the Diamondbacks ahead 2-0 in the best-of-five NL Division Series.
Unless they turn it around at Wrigley Field, the Cubs will make it 99 years and counting without a World Series title. The Billy Goat Curse would still reign.
Three years removed from a 111-loss season, the young Diamondbacks are one victory from the NL Championship Series. They can complete a sweep Saturday in Chicago, where Arizona will send Livan Hernandez to the mound against Rich Hill.
Eric Byrnes had an RBI triple for the Diamondbacks, the first team since the 1906 White Sox to have a league's best record and worst batting average.
They won yet again with timely hitting, solid starting pitching, sound defense and a strong bullpen.
Doug Davis gave up a two-run homer to Geovany Soto in the second, then settled in for three scoreless innings. The Arizona left-hander, acquired in the trade that sent Johnny
Estrada to Milwaukee last offseason, allowed four runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings overall. He struck out eight and walked four.
Davis also had an RBI sacrifice bunt. He left to a standing ovation, at least from the Diamondbacks' portion of a crowd that included a large share of Chicago fans.
However, reliever Juan Cruz promptly gave up a two-run double to pinch-hitter Daryle Ward, with both runs charged to Davis. That was the only mistake the Arizona relievers made. Tony Pena, Brandon Lyon and Jose Valverde each threw a scoreless inning to close it out.
Valverde had to pitch around an error by second baseman Augie Ojeda that left two runners on base. But the right-hander struck out Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez to end it, two of Chicago's 23 strikeouts in the first two games.
The Cubs' lefty starter, Ted Lilly, lasted just 3 1/3 innings, allowing six runs and seven hits.
And the best laid plans of Lou Piniella might be for naught.
The Cubs' manager pulled ace Carlos Zambrano early, with the score 1-all, in Game 1 on Wednesday because he was planning to pitch him on short rest Sunday in Game 4.
Now there might not even be a Game 4.
There were more Cubs fans on hand for this one than Arizona's 3-1 victory Wednesday night, and they were roaring early when Chicago took the lead on Soto's two-run homer in the second.
Matt Murton led off the inning with a single, then Soto ran the count to 3-1 before lining one into the left-field seats to give the Cubs their first lead of the series.
It didn't last long. With runners at second and third and two outs, Lilly had a 1-2 count on Young, but ran it to 3-2. Then the Arizona rookie hit a 421-foot shot into the left-field seats and the Diamondbacks led 3-2.
Lilly wound up and slammed his glove to the ground as the ball sailed over the wall, and the Cubs trailed the rest of the way.
Drew, who had another outstanding defensive night at shortstop, followed with a broken-bat infield single. Byrnes missed a homer by about a foot, hitting one off the top of the left-field wall for a triple that brought Drew home, and it was 4-2.
In an example of how things are going in this series, Ojeda led off the Arizona fourth with a bunt and was ruled safe by umpire Greg Gibson when he slid with an arm across the bag. Replays showed that first baseman Lee missed the tag, but both of Ojeda's feet were out of the basepath, which should have made him out.
Piniella complained, but not with much enthusiasm.
Young walked with one out, then Drew -- now drawing shouts of "Drewwwwwww," lined one into the right-field corner drew for a triple to boost Arizona's lead to 6-2. That was the end of the night for Lilly. Kevin Hart, called up from Triple-A Iowa in September, struck out Byrnes and Conor Jackson to end the inning.
The Diamondbacks added two more in the fifth off Hart. Mark Reynolds and Justin Upton walked, then Ojeda had an RBI single, to the chants of "Aug-ie, Aug-ie" from the crowd.
Davis brought the eighth run home with a bunt. Reliever Michael Wuertz fielded the ball in front of the mound and tossed to Soto, but Upton easily made it home safely.