Record: 45-34. Change on last season: +8. Pace: 92-70
Quote of the Day: "We could have lost it all in that one inning. The Saenz at-bat was huge. Then Valverde comes in and closes it out. We like to bring in Jose in a clean inning. We don't like to have men on. But with the limitations we had down there, we had to do it." -- Bob Melvin
Perhaps the finest moment of the year so far came in the top of the sixth, with the D-backs clutching a 1-0 lead. The TV commentators had just delivered a long hagiography (look it up) on how
Mother Teresa Luis Gonzalez had spent time with some folk from the local Boys' and Girls' Clubs, doing a "meet and greet". All very laudable, but a) do we need a description that seemed to last longer than the actual event, and b) can we now expect equal time for the charitable work done by current members of the team?
Anyway, Gonzo smacked a ball to right that Byrnes absolutely butchered, and it went to the wall behind him. Luis motored smoothly round first, ready to put the tying run on second with no outs. But Byrnes corralled the ricochet and sent a laser throw on the fly - and, I note, with no Louganis-like flipping - to Drew. He slapped Gonzo on the top of his head as he slid, and Gonzalez was left, as Darin Sutton brilliantly put it, to "meet and greet" his team-mates back in the dugout. Thank you, baseball gods.
Bit of a tense game last night. In only four of the 40 Dodger plate-appearances, was the tying or go-ahead run not at the plate. Three of those came in the ninth - I guess it says something that the least exciting part of the game was a Valverde save! The Dodgers seemed permanently to threaten, but kept coming up empty, going 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Not that Arizona was much better, only 1-for-5, though Byrnes' top of the seventh single did at least break a lengthy oh-fer in that situation.
Until thar RBI, it looked like Lowe might take the loss, despite not having allowed an earned run. [That's more common for starters than you'd think: Doug Davis has done it twice this year already] All we'd managed was a hitless run in the first, on two walks, an error and our MVP, Sac Fly. After that, Webb and Lowe posted eleven consecutive zeroes, and Arizona had only six hits all night. Hairston had two, while Drew, Hudson and Snyder all had a hit and a walk.
Webb seemed to pitch better from the stretch, but got invaluable help from Snyder. Our catcher got the lead runner at third on a Lowe bunt attempt in the fourth, and repeated the medicine on a Pierre bunt in the seventh. Crucial plays, for which Snyder deserves enormous credit. That helped Webb throw seven scoreless frames, despite allowing five walks and seven hits. He's the first pitcher to allow 12 baserunners in 7+ shutout innings this year: only one man since 2002 has allowed more [Carlos Silva's complete game, 14 baserunner start on August 3rd, 2004]
The eighth, however, was the key, despite AZ having added an insurance run. The utterly useless LOOGY Randy Choate extended his record this year to three batters and three hits, as he failed to retire either Gonzo or Loney. Cruz got Nomar swinging, then walked Ethier, to load the bases with one out. However, to cheers from SnakePit Towers, he got Saenz swinging too, and Jose Valverde got the last four outs, for his first save longer than one inning since September 2005.
Given the excitement, a relatively quiet Gameday Thread. Certainly, in my case, I was too scared to move from in front of the TV, except a brief rant against Randy Choate. MFAN, oklahomasooners, hotclaws, singaporedbacksfan, Ridster, Goose, DbacksSkins and our newly-degreed Wimb were present, as Arizona rose once again to the top of the NL West, albeit tied with the Padres. Stock up on the Tums, folks: we're not even half-way through the season yet...
The win provided our bullpen with some crucial breathing space. Tony Peña was unavailable because of having an infection removed from his thigh [ick!], while Lyon and Slaten were basically marked 'For Emergency Use Only'. Getting seven innings from Webb was thus absolutely crucial, though a seat should definitely be saved on the next Tucson bus for Randy Choate.
Bizarre, late-afternoon start time today, for Randy Johnson: 3.40pm? We're over one big hurdle with this victory, and can still get the expected split if we win today. Let's do that, go 6-4 on the homestand, and head on the road still atop the division.