Gameday Thread, #151: 9/20 vs. Dodgers

Lowe (11-13, 3.57)
Vazquez (10-15, 4.71)

As this season drifts gently from "break-even" into "tax deductible" territory for Arizona, your attention drifts elsewhere in baseball. Such as the American League, where the three division front-runners combined have a smaller lead than any of the teams atop the NL.

The Yankees - who started the year 11-19 - have closed to within half a game of Boston. The White Sox have seen a 13-game lead over Cleveland slashed to 2.5 in little more than five weeks. And the Athletics continue their long duel with the Angels, which has seen no more than three games separate them since July. In contrast, all the senior circuit has to offer is a fairly-interesting wild-card race, which doesn't even involve anyone in the NL West.

It's against this background of disinterest that the Diamondbacks face the Dodgers, in the penultimate home series of what is finally turning out to be an eminently-forgettable 2005 season. Expectations have been lowering as rapidly as attendance - playoffs! Well, maybe .500. Er, 75 wins? 70? - and the only thing left to look forward to is discovering the new name for Bank One Ballpark on Friday.

Even the coming of the first Great White Hope, Conor Jackson, has been a disappointment. I mean, no-one expected him to hit .350 out of the starting gates, but a sub-Mendozan .197 in his first 33 games? He'll be as keen to close the book on this season as anyone.

But as we come to the last dozen games, there's still a few things to be decided as far as the D'backs statistical leaders go in various categories. Some are pretty much sewn up (Glaus has probably got the HR [36], RBI [93] and K [138] crowns in his pocket), but there are a few up for grabs.

Such as the batting average crown. With Clark not looking to get enough plate-appearances to qualify (unless he gets about 12 at-bats per game from here in), this looks like a two-horse race between Tracy (.299) and Green (.294). In third-place currently - and you'd have got long odds against this before the season started - is Royce Clayton at .266.

Green looks to have the edge in hits (175-143 over Gonzo), but doubles is still anyone's race: Green leads with 35, but Gonzalez, Counsell and Glaus are all within half-a-dozen. Triples is a tie between Clayton and Green with four, while walks is another close category: Glaus has 77, with Counsell (74) and Gonzalez (71) still there or thereabout.

Luis has also met most pitches with his body, the only man to reach double-figures. Counsell has a clear lead in stolen-bases, as you'd imagine - his 24 is three times as many as the next man (Royce Clayton), and is not far short of the 34 recorded by everybody else on the roster put together.

But perhaps the biggest tussle is for the coveted Rally-Killer belt: which Diamondbacks will ground into most double plays? Royce Clayton sprinted off to an early lead in this category, with five in April, almost matching his walk, RBI and extra-base hit totals for the month (6 each). Shawn Green surged back with six in August, however, Royce has delivered three times in September so far, locking the scores up at 17-17. And don't discount Gonzo, on fourteen. [The franchise record is 20, by Danny Bautista last year]

Manafactured thrills? Certainly. But when two teams, a combined 31 games under .500, face each other in late September, that's likely to be all the thrills we're going to get. At least until the new ballpark gets named on Friday. My money's on Chase Park. ;-)

Tonight, we face Los Angeles, who won't be seeing .500 this year either. However, Derek Lowe has an 0.90 ERA over his last five starts, which is not what our slumping offense wants to see. Well, slumping, bar Tracy, Clark and Cintron: in the past week, outside that trio (21-for-45, 13 RBIs), everyone else has hit .178 (29-for-163), with only four RBIs.

We send up our Overpaid-but-occasionally-worth-it Starter (TM), Javier Vazquez, for another turn on the Wheel O' Random Results. Two-hitter? Or eight earned runs in three innings? Where she stops, no-one knows...

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