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Byrnes' energy rubs off on D-backs

Byrnes' energy rubs off on D-backs

CHICAGO -- If he wasn't 31 years old and working on his fourth Major League team in three years, Arizona left fielder Eric Byrnes would swear he was back playing at UCLA all over again.

"You just do not see this kind of chemistry," Byrnes said after the Diamondbacks dusted off the Chicago Cubs, 5-1, in Game 3 of the National League Division Series. "You see it in college, where guys live together, go to parties together. This is rare."

It was probably only fitting Saturday that the player standing in the middle of the visiting clubhouse at Wrigley Field was the one who helped foster such a harmonious environment with his infectious energy and his whatever-it-takes philosophy.

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Byrnes has essentially become the face of the franchise this season even though he never puts himself above others, even when the Diamondbacks awarded him with a three-year, $30 million contract at midseason.

On Saturday, Byrnes did his part to stand out, as he made up for a slow start this series -- he was 1-for-7 entering Game 3 -- with three hits, two RBIs, a stolen base and a home run that proved to be the knockout blow as Arizona put the finishing touches on its three-game sweep of the stunned Cubs.

The home run was certainly nice, but it was Byrnes' hustle -- imagine that -- that proved important in the fourth inning when the Diamondbacks were holding a 2-0 lead, but had the bases loaded with no outs.

When Cubs relief pitcher Mike Wuertz struck out Stephen Drew for the first out, the partisan Cubs crowd started to roar, perhaps sensing that they could escape the inning without a run. Byrnes took care of that.

By not hitting the ball out of the ballpark.

Byrnes bounced what appeared to be a sure double-play ball to Chicago third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who shoveled the ball to Mark De Rosa for the force, but the speedy Byrnes narrowly beat the second baseman's throw to first to keep the inning alive and, more important, allow a run to score for a 3-0 lead.

Two innings later, Byrnes chased home another run with a solo homer off Cubs lights-out reliever Carlos Marmol for a 4-1 lead that essentially took any wind out of the sails of a potential Cubs comeback.

"He's awesome. He plays hard and his energy carries over to everyone else," Arizona reliever Brandon Lyon said. "The way he plays the game, it's fun to watch. You want to watch to see what he's going to do next, what he's going to do to help us win."

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That just doesn't always manifest itself in getting a hit or a running grab in the gap. There's other ways to lead and Byrnes has found that out in Arizona, even if he's unwilling to point a finger at himself.

"It's a team, and it's as much of a team that you are going to find in professional sports," he said. "You've got 25 guys pulling for each other. I've never heard a guy complaining about playing time. I'm so proud of these guys. This is the closest team I've ever played on."

And Byrnes is a big reason for that, said Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin.

"There's no better example out there of how we want to do things in Arizona than what Eric Byrnes does," Melvin said.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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