Record: 22-13. Pace: 102-60. Change on last season: +3
Your attention please. During the early stages of today's Gameday Thread, a picture was posted which contained a small typographical error. A corrected version of this photograph follows below. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.
The quote that form today's title is courtesy of Dahlian in the Gameday Thread, and eloquently captures the frustrating nature of today's defeat. Either that, or a cat wandered across his keyboard. I can cope with Byrnes' relentless recent streak of suck: he's now 5-for-50 in the past dozen games, with no walks or extra-base hits and 12 K's. But today, his flamboyant flailing at strikes finally caught up with him in the eighth inning, and set a new nadir. The victim was Augie Ojeda, who'd singled to lead off [in a one-run game, mind], but was called out as he stole second, on catcher interference by Byrnes. Eric's violent afterswing was judged to have blocked the Cubs' catcher's attempt to nail Ojeda, wiping the tying run off base. Yes, Byrnes is the only player we have who can strike out into a double-play... :-(
And it started so well too, with Chris Young homering in the first inning, which must have brought back memories to the Cubs faithful, since he did exactly the same thing in the same stadium, the last time these two teams met, in what turned out to be the finale of the 2007 NLDS. We sat back, and waited for the offense to kick the door in against the shaky Lilly.
And we waited.
And we waited.
But nothing showed up. We had two-out hits. We had runners in scoring position. We just never quite managed to combine the two, and get hits on the rare occasions we had runners in scoring position. Our best chance was probably the fourth, where Jackson walked, then stole second [as pointed out in the Gameday Thread, he is 3-0 in stolen bases this year, better than a certain someone's 4-2...] with no outs. However, Upton, Reynolds and Snyder all went down swinging. Conversely, the Cubs did their damage the hard way. After Haren had fanned the first two hitters in the fifth, DeRosa doubled, and Johnson was intentionally walked to get to the pitcher...who promptly drove in the tying run with a single. An RBI double then gave the Cubs the lead, and inevitably led to some second-guessing of Melvin, especially since Haren had retired 15 of 17 hitters when the walk was called for.
Said Melvin, "You've got to. In a 1-0 game like that, you have to. Johnson's hitting [.346] with runners in scoring position and if Johnson gets a hit there, I feel worse than I do. You've got to make the pitcher beat you in that situation." This is where I point out a) the evidence for clutch hitting is scant at best, b) and becomes basically non-existent, when your sample-size is 26 at-bats. Yes, that .346 figure is based upon exactly nine hits for Johnson with RISP this year. S'funny: 26 at-bats are sufficient to get a guy an intentional walk, but almost twice as many are apparently not enought evidence to merit moving a certain someone down the order. This is one aspect of Melvin's managerial style that drives me nuts: the abuse of stats, such as batter vs. hitter match-ups, to decide lineups and tactics. In this case, it bit him in the ass.
Good outing by Haren; if only he could have got the last out in the fifth. Up until that point, his stuff was nasty and causing a lot of problems for the Cubs hitters. He pitched seven innings, allowing just those two fifth-inning runs, on a total of five hits, two walks and five strikeouts. The Tribune reports that Haren actually lost 10 pounds in weight, after he went down with an upper respiratory infection earlier this season - that'd be the one providing all those "flu-like symptoms." And, quite probably, the same one currently treating my upper respiratory system as some kind of biological theme-park. "I felt great. I’m finally getting back to normal," he said after the game. Encouraging to see: I particularly liked the solid groundball-flyball ratio of 11:5 posted by Haren today.
Cruz pitched the eighth and final inning to the Cubs hitters, and performed his one-man version of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The good would be the three K's; the bad, the homer allowed to Lee; the ugly, probably the two walks and two hits he gave up, but as the homer was the first of these, he sauntered off with the bases loaded and no further damage down. Still, that's 12 walks and 17 strikeouts in only 13.2 innings: there's rarely nothing eventful about a Juan Cruz relief appearance. Nothing much to write home about at the plate, as we managed only four hits and two walks, while fanning twelve times. Jackson was the only player to reach safely more than once, getting both free passes.
I do wonder why Burke got the start - he went 0-for-3, to reduce his season average to .140, while Ojeda has his pinch-hit single, increasing his BA to .368. One also questions what purpose Robbie Hammock serves on the roster, now he has apparently fallen out of favor as Randy Johnson's personal catcher. In seventeen games the D-backs have played since Hammock's last start, he has just five plate-appearances - and three of those were in the extra-inning defeat to the Padres on the 26th. Speaking of catchers, Chris Snyder gets props, saying he has worked with hitting coach Rick Schu: "Chris’ bat speed is really good when that (left) shoulder really stays closed and his hands work," Schu said. Whatever they're doing is clearly working.
Only two D-backs made it into positive territory win-wise: Haren, despite being tagged with the L, and Jackson, at +4.7%. The WP dip in the eighth inning will henceforth be known as the Byrnes Trench. Thanks to those who skipped work or otherwise made it the day game this afternoon. Present, at least in spirit, at Wrigley were: El Stuart, 4 Corners Fan, kishi, njjohn, hotclaws, foulpole, Turambar, isoldout, singaporedbacksfan, IndyDBack, dahlian, Craig from Az, TwinnerA, Augie's Army, shoewizard, DbacksSkins, Azreous, Snakebitten, Xeifrank, snakecharmer, peeklay, manphibian, srdmad and soco.
Another day game tomorrow, with Scherzer getting his second start - hopefully with better results. Disturbing to realize that we just lost the game pitched by our best starter this series, but it looks unlikely to lose us any real ground, as the Astros are 6-0 up over the Dodgers with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. And with that, I'm off to dose myself with NyQuil and go to sleep!