Record: 50-51. Pace: 80-82. Change on last season: -3
I was going to start with an analysis of the fifth inning, and how the game was decided by the difference in the respective performances of the two teams there - the Cubs executed solid baseball fundamentals, and the Diamondbacks didn't. I'll still get to that in a little bit. But that didn't end up being the turning point of the game. Far more decisive was the wild mismanagement of our bullpen in the eighth inning by Bob Melvin, which allowed the Cubs to score six runs, and rendered the three-run homer by Snyder in the bottom half, almost an irrelevance.
The choice of Owings for the eighth was somewhat puzzling to begin with, since it was still a one-run game at that point, and we were still very much in this. Ok, most of our 'pen had been used the previous night, but what exactly was Melvin saving Peña and Lyon for? Tomorrow's non-existent game? I'd have gone with one of our more high-leverage - or, at least, more experienced relievers. Certainly, not a converted starter making his sixth career non-start appearance, and his first ever in the major-leagues on less than two days rest. Or, if I did, I'd be sure to have someone else warmed up and ready to go, in case of any issues.
Not Melvin. Nooooo... It was clear from the start that Owings did not have his good stuff, walking Theriot on five pitches. Derek Lee then just missed totally crushing a pitch, and a hit by Ramirez put men on second and third with one out. That was the point where the other, warmed-up, experienced reliever should have come in, to keep the game close. Or maybe after Soto's single? No. Walking Fukudome on four straight balls, to load the bases? Leave him out there. It was only after four additional consecutive pitches had missed the zone, walking in a run, that Melvin deemed it necessary to go get Owings. His final tally: four strikes, fourteen balls. Then Rosales serves up a grand-slam to the first hitter faced, and the Cubs had turned a one-run lead to seven, in the space of just twenty pitches, our Win Probability evaporating from 25.9% to 0.5%.
Let's go back to the fifth inning though, as promised. We came in with a 2-1 lead, thanks to a two-run homer from Tony Clark - his first hit in his sixth game back with us. A single and a ground-rule double put men on second and third for the Cubs with no outs. With the pitcher up, Melvin opted to play the infield in, a decision immediately criticized as "risky" by Mark Grace. Score one for our former first-baseman, as Lilly bounced what would have been a simple grounder to third over the despairing grab of Reynolds and into the outfield. A run-scoring ground-out gave the Cubs the lead, and then Lilly stole third, Doug Davis apparently forgetting entirely that he was there. Only three pitchers in the majors have stolen a base this year, and it paid off as another ground-out allowed Lilly to score, making it 4-2.
Compare and contrast the bottom half of the inning, which started in great fashion, with a walk by Ojeda, who took second as the ball skittered away from the catcher, and came home on a triple by Hudson. That gave us the tying run on third, with no outs: surely, at the very least, we'd take care of business and basically reset the game. No. Mark Reynolds struck out, then Chris Young grounded to third and Jackson, going on contact, was caught on a rundown and eventually tagged. Finally, Young [who ended up at second during the rundown] was caught trying to steal third with two outs, a pointless exercise since he'd have been able to score on basically any hit. Instead of being back in the game, we still trailed, and by the next time we got anyone on base, we were trailing 10-3.
Doug Davis was ok: he allowed four runs over seven innings, on five hits and two walks, striking out six. It was basically one bad inning which undid him. At the plate, Arizona reached double-figures in hits, the same as the Cubs. Chris Young had three hits, all of them for extra-bases, while Drew reached safely twice, with a hit and a walk. Chris Snyder and Tony Clark each had home-runs, the latter a three-run shot in the eighth, that gave us a brief, feeble glimmer of hope - we even got the tying run to the on-deck circle in the ninth, but the final at-bat of the series was not one Chad Tracy will want to remember. We'll get to the Diamondbacks' offensive star of the game in a moment though.
Not quite the turnout in the Gameday Thread seen for the first two games, though there were only minor contributions from a few regular participants, for one reason or another. And, obviously, there was a great deal of streaming for the exits towards the end of this one, as I'm sure we all found better things to do! Present were soco, unnamedDBacksfan, DbacksSkins, Diamondhacks, kishi, emilylovesthedbacks, AJforAZ, Wimb, snakecharmer, dahlian, NewJackCity, utahdbacksfan, Muu, Zephon, srdmad, AF DBacks Fanatic, hotclaws, Scrbl, TwinnerA, mrssoco and foulpole.
Speaking of the last-named, I have to say, this Gameday Thread also gave us what may be the most ridiculous comment of all time. In the eighth, after a single to left, Jackson threw to third to try and get the runner there, an admittedly ill-advised decision which allowed the batter to advance to second. The recently-returned foulpole pounced: "Where was CJ throwing there? He has a baseball IQ of negative i." [Sic] Needless to say, no acknowledgment was given to the fact that Jackson has played only 25 games in the majors at left, or was only there because the Face of the Franchise rushed back from the DL and wrecked his hamstrings. Nor was a single peep of approval heard from foulpole during any of the five times Jackson reached base safely during the game, on three hits and two walks. Let me be blunt about this: foulpole, if you've come back to spout the same BS as before, you might as well go away again. Thank you.
I think we'd all have been happy to take two out of three from the Cubs if it had been offered to us before the series started, even if we still haven't managed to win three in a row during a span of 59 games since May 16. The offense continues to score more runs - 57 over the past ten contests, which is back to around the level of production we saw in April, even if the wins aren't quite coming yet. After an off-day tomorrow, the Diamondbacks hit the road against the Giants and Padres, and I am looking for Arizona to take two of three in both those series - already eagerly anticipating the marquee pitching match-up on Saturday, between Webb and Lincecum.
Random Off-Day Thread and Lolback of the Week to follow in the morning.