Diamondbacks 1, Nationals 0 - Webb Joins the Thirty-Third Degree

Record: 67-51. Change on last season: +8. Pace: 92-70
Playoff odds: 62.6%. Playoff Magic Number: 41

Quote of the day: "The Diamondbacks have to start losing soon. They get blown out, then barely squeak out wins. Eventually, they have to start losing the close ones, and when they do, they'll tumble." -- True Blue LA

Yes, I know I used that quote in yesterday's Gameday Thread, but what better way to respond than by continuing to do exactly what our NL West rival blog says we shouldn't be doing: squeaking out another win, and not losing the close ones. I love the fact that this team is continuing to defy "conventional" baseball wisdom, slaughtering one of the sacred cows of sabermetrics and nailing its hide to the walls of Chase Field. "Run Differential? We don' need no steenkin' run differential!"

Yesterday...well, what is there to say about Webb that we haven't already? His fourth straight start where the opposition has been unable to score a single run off him. Here's his line during that time:
Webb: 32 IP, 21 H, 6 BB, 29 K, 0 R, 0 ER, 0.00 ERA
Oh, and hitters are batting .181/.221/.241 against him in those four games. He becomes the first starter this season to go four consecutive games without allowing a run, and I think it's the longest scoreless run by a starter since the late Cory Lidle had five straight in August 2002. And Lidle's the only pitcher to have passed four since Orel Hershiser in 1988. That's the kind of high-altitude territory Webb is on the verge of entering.

The difference last night - and, indeed, during much of the streak, was the return of Webb's ability to control his pitches. Notice how the walks have all but evaporated. In six starts since the All-Star break, as well as an ERA of 1.01, he has allowed only nine walks in 44.2 innings - 1.83/nine IP. In the last six starts he made before the All-Star break, that figure was 3.23, and his ERA was 3.92. Now, he can throw the sinker for a strike, almost at will, and hitters are no longer able to lay off, knowing it'll probably drop out of the zone. Said Webb, "Last two games I was able to locate my fastball as well as I have been all year, probably a little better. That's probably about the only difference. I had a pretty good feel for my changeup, curveball right now, too, and getting some strikeouts on those pitches."

A somewhat brave decision of Melvin to send Webb out for the ninth, given he was already at 106 pitches - in a 1-0 game, it's easily the kind of choice open to second-guessing. "I wanted to go out there and finish the game, especially 1-0," said our ace. I didn't want anyone to go out there and lose my game for myself. We looked at the lineup and felt pretty comfortable with who was coming up and how I'd approached them earlier in the game. When you get into the ninth inning, it all comes back, and I felt twice as good in the ninth as I did in the eighth." And he retired the Nationals in order on 13 pitches, Washington not getting the ball out of the infield.

Webb needed to be at his best, as the offense certainly wasn't. Our inevitable issues against unknown lefties reared their head again, and we managed only four hits during seven innings of Lannan. a pitcher who started the season in High-A ball, and who possessed a total of 53 innings experience above Double-A. coming into the game. But we were hitless the first time through the order, and scored our only run in the fourth, when Upton tripled home Byrnes, who'd just (needlessly, as it turned out!) stolen second. That was our only two hits until Lannan tired in the seventh: Webb hit for himself with the bases-loaded, but just missed lining a ball into right.

[Not that it matters in the slightest, but Webb's batting average has now dropped to .039, worst in the majors by anyone with 50+ PA's. Mind you, the modern-era record is probably safe: that would be the .016 (1-for-64) posted in 2004 by none other than...Doug Davis. That was the lowest figure since Ron Herbel went hitless in 52 PA's for the Giants back in 1967. Herbel is one of five players with a zero batting average since 1901, along with Bob Buhl (85 PAs in 1962), Bill wight (75, 1950), Karl Drews (54, 1949) and Ernie Koob (57, 1916). Still, as long as Webb keeps posting shutouts, he can go up there without a bat, for all I care.]

Padres lost. Dodgers lost. Mets lost. Phillies lost. Cubs lost. The results yesterday could hardly have gone more our way, if we'd hand-crafted them [well, been nice if Houston had beaten Milwaukee, but you can't have everything]. Net result: even the run-differential predictions are currently in love with Arizona. The "toin-coss" approach, favored by SportsClubStats.com, gives us an 82.5% chance of success. A fairly-restrained number of comments: I think it's a lot harder to say anything in a 1-0 game. I mean, there's only so often you can say "Another ground-out to second." Present were DiamondbacksWIn, frienetic, VIII, bjn, andrewinnewyork (Upton's triples are definitely leg-assisted, shall we say), johngordonma, soco, Devin, DbacksSkins [a late, pinch-hit comment!], Englishdback, Muu and TwinnerA were present, so lots of breadth to be found.

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Brandon Webb (pitching), +76.1%
God-emperor of suck: Chris Young, -9.6%
Honorary "Well done!": did we mention Brandon Webb?

soco floated the idea of an AZ SnakePit get-together at a game later this year, and I'm enthusiastically up for that. Discussion is going on in this diary, so sweep on over and chip in if you're interested. At the moment, the most popular choice seems to be the last weekend home series of the year, against the Dodgers on Sept 22-23, but the debate is ongoing. Should be a blast, especially as that could be the series where the Magic Number shrinks to zero...

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