Record: 1-1. Pace: 81-81. Change on last season: 0
Well, that ninth inning certainly gave me a chance to practice some of those choice epithets, from yesterday's "foul language in 19th century baseball" treatise. We entered the ninth, as in the opener, with a two-run lead, Qualls and Pena having again posted scoreless innings on the back of six frames from our starter. As above, so below. However, Brandon Lyon diverted drastically from Monday's script, going single, single, three-run homer (after a failed bunt!), to dramatically snatch defeat from the jaws of victory without even teasing us by, oh, retiring any hitters.
Expect the second guessing to begin immediately. For Jose Valverde never had an outing where he failed to retire a batter. He only allowed three earned runs in two of the 253 games he played for us. I also note that Brandon Medders and Jose Cruz were both warming up in the bullpen during Lyon's appearance, indicating that Melvin was perhaps not over confident in his closer. On the other hand, crank the Wayback Machine to the second game of last year, and you'll find Jose Valverde blowing the save that day too; he allowed two runs in the bottom of the eleventh at Coors, to end up tagged with the loss.
Still, when I wrote about Lyon and his qualifications as closer yesterday, "I suspect we won't know for sure until he's blown his first save - how he responds to that, will be the true test of his mettle," I must admit, I was kinda hoping it would take him less than 24 hours to deliver said blown save. :-( Lyon's incredible ability to avoid the long-ball last season, with no homers in his first 44 appearances, has not continued into this year, pretty much as predicted. And now we need to see whether he can follow the advice of famous baseball analyst Rudyard Kipling:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,..
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same...
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man closer, my son!
We'll see, before too long, whether Lyon is a man or a mouse. If he can come back from this - and it's difficult to imagine a more horrific, disastrous pit into which to be plunged - then we'll be okay. Best, perhaps, to get it out of the way early on. And with that, we'll move on.
Dan Haren made his first start, pitching five great innings and one fairly-sucky one. The net result was a quality start, with Davis going six innings and allowing three earned runs, all of them coming in the fourth inning, on a pair of home-runs, with a walk between them. We'll take that, especially since he was feeling less than 100% on his arrival at the park - seems a common issue, with Conor Jackson forced out of the game in the fifth inning [more on which later]. Haren allowed four hits and a walk in six innings, striking out four too. Overall, a very respectable start; the home-runs could be a problem (and this was thought likely to be an issue), but outside of those, he was solid, and even had a double and a sac-fly; not bad for someone whose last hit was in June 2005. Qualls and Pena were, once again, extremely solid, each with one hit in their inning.
On the offense, good outings by Hudson, 2-for-3 with a walk, and Stephen Drew, who also had two hits, including his first homer of the season. Chris Young had a double to lead off the game, and scoring our first run on a groundout, and had his first-ever three walk game, which is just what we want to see from our leadoff hitter. However, I certainly feel that we should have added on a few more runs; overall, the Diamondbacks were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The most painful failure was in the top of the ninth, where we loaded the basis with one out. Byrnes had a hideous AB, which ended when he managed to run into his own batted ball and was out on interference, then Chris Burke struck out swinging, setting the stage for Lyon's implosion.
Still, what can you say? It's only one game, even if it's one we should certainly have won. I also note that Jose Valverde, in his Astros debut, coughed up the go-ahead run to the Padres in the eighth inning, but ended up the lucky winner, as Trevor 'I used to be quite good, y'know' Hoffman allowed four runs in the ninth. [On that note, a big hello to Phantom and California Penal over at GLB, who were gloating about AZ blowing the save, "On a three-run shot, no less," moments before Hoffman allowed a three-run HR of his own. Beautiful] To sum up, San Diego Colorado and the Dodgers all lost, so no ground lost to our rivals tonight. There are only two unbeaten teams left in the National League: the Brewers and...pauses to rub eyes...the Nationals? It's a long season.
The Conor Jackson issue is worrying. According to mlb.com, Jackson was taken to hospital after complaining of shortness of breath. Doctors there took chest X-rays, gave him some medication and said it was possible that he had pneumonia - so much for the "flu-like symptoms" which were reported, eh? That would be a real blow for our cleanup hitter, though he did get back to the park before the end of the game, "They're going to start me off on antibiotics and see what happens," he said. Hope he gets well soon - and, possibly just as important, doesn't infect anyone else on the roster.
Right up until the middle of the ninth inning, that was a thoroughly enjoyable Gameday Thread, with a turnout only fractionally short of Opening Day. Present and correct were bcloirao, kishi, dstorm, njjohn, Muu, Craig from Az, seton hall snake pit, DbacksSkins, Azreous, foulpole, Mr. Philosophical, hotclaws, 4 Corners Fan, unnamedDBacksfan, isoldout, oklahomasooners [welcome back!], Wimb, singaporedbacksfan, Captain D Bag, snakecharmer, frienetic and Wactivist. Early start tomorrow, folks: afternoon game in the Nati, so that'll be about as stern a test of Gameday Thread attendance as imaginable...
However, there is a 70% chance of rain there tomorrow afternoon, according to the forecast, so it seems there is a good chance the game might be delayed, or possibly even postponed. This is the only time we'll be in Cincinnati, so that would mean a return trip would have to be squeezed into the schedule somewhere. Wondering if that would mean they'll skip Davis's turn in the rotation (given his situation), or just push it back a day to Colorado? That's probably getting ahead of ourselves. Gameday Thread [weather permitting] to follow in the morning.