The Diamondbacks won their division with a 92–70 record. The strength of their team was clearly the pitching duo of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. The primary weapon for Arizona on offense was Luis Gonzalez, who belted 57 home runs during the season. The Diamondbacks had outlasted the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS to reach their first NLCS.
The Atlanta Braves won their tenth straight division title, but it had not been by a wide margin in 2001. They struggled to an 88–74 record, their worst since 1990. Greg Maddux had another big season for the Braves, winning seventeen games. Chipper Jones was the leader of the Atlanta offense, batting .330 during the season to go along with his 38 home runs. After their embarrassing defeat to the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2000 NLDS, the underdog Braves blitzed the Houston Astros in the 2001 NLDS, sweeping them in three games.
Arizona won the series, 4–1.
Tuesday, October 16, 2001 at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix, Arizona
The 2001 NLCS began with an excellent pitching matchup of multiple-Cy Young Award winners Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux. Reggie Sanders plated a run in the first with a single to give Arizona a 1–0 lead. Meanwhile, Johnson dominated the Braves lineup. The Diamondbacks went ahead 2–0 after Luis Gonzalez drove in Counsell with a single in the fifth. Maddux would go seven innings, only surrendering two runs, but he would be clearly outdueled by Johnson, who pitched a complete-game three-hit shutout with eleven strikeouts.
Wednesday, October 17, 2001 at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix, Arizona
The Braves responded to Johnson's dominating performance with one of their own from Tom Glavine. Marcus Giles led the game off with a solo home run for the Braves off Miguel Batista. Glavine went seven innings, scattering five hits and giving up one run. The game was tied 1–1 going into the seventh, but Javy López hit a two-run homer to make it 3–1 Braves. Atlanta scored five runs in the eighth to break the game open. Brian Jordan drove in two of the runs with a double and B.J. Surhoff had another Braves home run. The 8–1 win evened the series at a game apiece.
Friday, October 19, 2001 at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia
Curt Schilling, who earned an MVP award in the 1993 NLCS against the Braves, got the start in Game 3 in Atlanta. Braves starter John Burkett gave up two runs in the third when Steve Finley doubled. That would be all Schilling would need, as he, much like Johnson, controlled the Braves lineup. Atlanta got a run in the fourth, but a Chipper Jones error at third base helped Arizona score three more runs in the fifth and knock out Burkett. Ahead 5–1, Schilling cruised the rest of the way, tossing a complete game and striking out twelve men.
Saturday, October 20, 2001 at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia
Looking to tie the series, Bobby Cox started Greg Maddux on short rest. For two innings, the move appeared to work. The Braves took a 2–0 lead on Diamondback starter Albie Lopez with an RBI double by Chipper Jones and a solo homer by Andruw Jones. However, the wheels came off for Atlanta in the third when they committed three errors and Maddux gave up four hits. When the smoke cleared, it was 4–2 Arizona. Manager Bob Brenly went for the jugular in the fourth, pinch hitting for Lopez to lead off the inning. The Diamondbacks connected for three straight hits, the big blow coming when Craig Counsell hit a two-run double to left to make it 6–2. Brian Anderson, who picked up the win, pitched 3 1⁄3. In the ninth, Arizona piled it on, scoring four more unearned runs, three of them coming on a Luis Gonzalez homer. The win put Arizona firmly in control of the series, ahead three games to one with a rested Randy Johnson set to pitch.
Sunday, October 21, 2001 at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia
Game 1 winner Randy Johnson and Game 2 winner Tom Glavine faced off as Arizona looked to advance to their first ever World Series appearance. Former Brave Danny Bautista broke a scoreless tie in the fourth by singling home Mark Grace. The Braves promptly tied the game when veteran Julio Franco led off the fourth with a home run, the first run Johnson had allowed the whole series. However, Arizona answered right back in the top of the fifth when Erubiel Durazo hit a two-out two-run blast off Glavine to make it 3–1 Diamondbacks. In the seventh, Franco added another RBI with a single that made it 3–2. But, Byung-Hyun Kim came into the game and kept the Braves from getting any closer. He pitched two scoreless innings and Arizona won its first National League pennant.
2001 NLCS (4–1): Arizona Diamondbacks over Atlanta Braves
Fox carried the National League Division Series over its network with its top broadcast team, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, calling the action of Game 1 and Game 2, and Thom Brennaman (himself a Diamondbacks broadcaster) and Steve Lyons calling the action of Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5. Game 5 of the 2001 NLCS was played at the same time as Game 4 of the 2001 ALCS and was a split national broadcast on Fox and Fox Sports Net. ESPN Radio provided national radio coverage for the fourth consecutive year, with Charley Steiner and Dave Campbell calling the action.
Locally, the NLCS was called on KTAR-AM in Phoenix by Greg Schulte, Jeff Munn, Rod Allen and Jim Traber, and on WSB-AM in Atlanta by Pete Van Wieren, Skip Caray, Don Sutton, and Joe Simpson.
In the air, left centerfield...and the Arizona Diamondbacks become the fastest expansion franchise to reach the World Series! In just their fourth year, they will move on he Fall Classic.