Diamondbacks 4, Nationals 7: Wee Willie Harris hits one out of town.

Record: 30-25. Pace: 89-73. Change on last season: -2

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:  That one hurt. In the first two games, we were never really in them, so the defeat was more inevitable than anything too disturbing or shocking. This one, however, was looking pretty good into the seventh inning, as we kept the game even, and Micah Owings continued to make his case for being the best number three starter in the continental U.S.  (take that Shaun Marcum – USA!!! USA!!! USA!!!).  But then it got worse…

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if the front six innings were stellar baseball.  But I was honestly beginning to geek myself up with the hope that my first ever Snakepit recap would be about the Diamondbacks finally snapping their four-game losing streak.  The defense may have been a bit shaky:  in the second inning Chris Young misplayed a shallow pop-up into a single that turned into one of two runs and four innings later Orlando Hudson joined him by botching two ground balls that allowed Christan Guzman to score on a sac fly.  The offense may have underwhelmed us: in the fifth inning they managed to load the bases with one out and score only one run – over all they managed two solo home runs, four singles, five walks and only four runs.  But by god, this game had promise.

The offense and defense were only supposed to be footnotes in this recap, because for six innings Micah was outstanding.  Owings started off the game allowing only five hits (three of which should have been outs), no walks, six strikeouts and one hit batsmen.  He announced his presence with authority as he attacked the strike zone throwing only 66 pitches through the first six innings.  With the bat in his hand he finally broke his out of his 0-11 slide as he drew a walk and contributed a rally-extending single.  The stars looked to be aligning themselves to give this team an emotional victory off of a dominant starting pitching performance and just enough offense.  Then the seventh inning came and the wheels fell off for Owings…

After inducing a fly-out, Owings hit his second batter of the game.  Another single put runners on and first and second and returned doubt to the newly tied game.  Then, in a feat of game-altering improbability not seen since July 24, 2005, Wee Willie Harris hit a three-run home run to blow the game open and assure all the Diamondbacks fans watching that no, this would not be the night the streak comes to an end.  Ladies and gentleman that is not a typo.  Willie Harris, he with the career OPS+ of 68, he with the .169/.300/.305 batting line coming into tonight’s game, and he with all of eight home runs in 1302 career at bats took Micah Owings long with a three run homer that put the final dagger into this team’s heart.

If you continued watching the game after that point, I commend you, but I wouldn’t blame you if you turned the t.v. off.  Nevertheless, there were at least some positives.  Tracy got a couple hits and his first home run of the season, Hudson continues his offensive tear and Scherzer pitched a dominant inning and two-thirds before struggling some.  While the team was only down two runs in the bottom of the ninth, one could not help but get the feeling that Melvin was already conceding the game.  In that inning Max allowed a walk, a ground out, a single and another walk to load the bases.  37 pitches had been thrown, but there was nary a rustle to be heard from the left field bullpen.  While Scherzer managed to work out of the inning allowing only one run (his first run allowed as a reliever this season), the fight was gone as the team went down in order in the ninth.

The positives are becoming harder to find and I know that there are many that went to jump of the bus, but I just want to remind you that it could be worse.  Specifically, we could have last year’s offense.  This team’s  107 OPS+ is thirteen points higher than last year’s 93 OPS+.  Moreover, as hard as it may be to believe, this team has still been rather fortuitous hitting with runners in scoring position; the team’s OPS is 14 percent higher with RISP than with base empty.  Hard as it may be to believe at the moment, this team can and will score more runs. 

The true difference between this year and last is luck.  As Jim has noted, this team has yet to win a game scoring three runs or less.  In 2007, we won 16 such games.  That was with a worse pitching staff and a defense that was only marginally better.  I know it was cliché here last year to bag on the predictive powers of Pythagoras, but what we’re looking at here is good old-fashioned regression to the mean.  The 2007 Diamondbacks that "just knew how to win" were a fluke.  If we want to do the same this year we’ll have to it the old fashioned way – by hitting more and allowing fewer runs.  Hopefully, that comes sooner rather than later.

Of course, when you combine a lackluster game with a Friday night the net result is one of the shorter Gameday threads of the season.  I'll leave it to Jim to fill out the names, but there wasn't much of conversation of interest to be found.  Tomorrow sees us send Brandon Webb (9-2, 3.01) to the mound to face Jason Bergman (1-1 4.50).  Normally this would be seen as a dawn's first ray of hope, but I have to admit that it's even getting difficult for me to get all that enthused.  If you are going to the game (and why wouldn't you?) remember that it's a 5:10 start.  You'll also be able to see the first use of the new Chase Field weekend roof management plan.  Apparently they plan to close the roof for the beginning of the game and open it three innings later once the sun has gone down.  It seems like a reasonable compromise to fight the hot, desert sun, but more importantly, who doesn't enjoy watching the roof open and close?  At the very least, it will provide a nice distraction from the performance on the field.


20080530_nationals_diamondbacks_0_score_medium
[Click to enlarge in new window]
Master of his domain: Chad Tracy, +13.8%
Honorable Mention: Orlando Hudson, +12.1%
God-emperor of suck: Micah Owings, -47.3%
Dishonorable mention: Conor Jackson, -14.1%

You know it's a bad evening in the Gameday Thread when even 'skins can't reach 100 posts. :-) Harris's homer basically turned the faucet off on everyone's interest, mine included, and what was looking fairly robust at that point, rapidly gurgled down the plughole of forgettability. Thanks to those who took part: we deserve better than this team, folks. Present were unnamedDBacksfan, snakecharmer, dahlian, DbacksSkins, foulpole, srdmad, IndyDBack, emilylovesthedbacks [welcome!], RAMJB [officially warned, after a number of comments teetering towards trollishness], Muu, kishi, TwinnerA and  soco.

Thanks also to dahlian for the recap; you'll notice from the footer that he has now formally joined the rotation, giving him the ability to...well, I'm not quite sure what it lets him do. I think post stuff on the front-page mostly. Welcome, anyway!

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