Record: 65-60. Pace: 84-78. Change on last season: -6.
Magic number: 37. Playoff odds: 55.2%.
I'm moving the FanGraph up, since they say a picture is worth a thousand words - and that's true for the above, which illustrates nicely the snooze-fest that was the second-half - up until Brandon Lyon's spectacular meltdown. There were certainly a thousand words uttered in SnakePit Towers during the ninth, in a wide-ranging discussion which included Brandon's parentage, his leisure activities, and a future career, based around the phrase, "D'you want fries with that?" In non-save situations over the past month, the results have been less than impressive: 2.1 innings, resulting in 11 hits, three walks and seven earned runs. That's a good part of why his ERA on July 18 was 2.37; it's now 4.60.
Today, Lyon came in with a comfortable 7-3 lead, but retired one of the six batters he faced, and Melvin had to go to Tony Peña, with the tying run on third and only one out. [I have to say, our Win Probability at that point felt an awful lot lower than the unemotional 62.3% claimed by FanGraphs!] He got Hundley to ground back to him, and calmly threw to Snyder, catching the runner coming home in a rundown. By the time the tag was made, men were on second and third, so the Padres were a bloop away from taking the lead, but Peña got the hitter to fly out to Chris Young, to preserve the victory, and send San Diego to a record of 3-56 when trailing after six innings. It was Tony's first save since May 16th, and I think few will begrudge him the position as Master of his Domain tonight.
That made a winner out of Doug Davis who pitched - and I can hardly believe I am typing these words - a quality start, allowing two runs over six innings. If the mark of a great pitcher is being able to get the victory despite not having his best stuff, i nominate Davis for the Cy Young this year. Because he was frickin' awful early on: unable to find the strike-zone with anything apart from batting-practice fastballs, with virtually all the outs being hard-hit balls that happened to find fielders. The second was particularly wretched, the first four Padres all reaching, to score one run and load the bases with no-one out.
However, all San Diego managed to add on was a sacrifice fly and, as so often, Davis worked through the issues. He ended up producing his best outing of August, giving up seven hits and two walks in six innings, fanning six. He threw 100 pitches - only 58 of them were for strikes. He turned it over to the A-bullpen, where Qualls has a perfect seventh, though Rauch struggled a bit in the eighth, with two hits and a walk, leading to an earned run. The coroner's report which was the ninth has already been sufficiently re-hashed, I feel - but I do think a debate should be opened on whether Lyon remains as closer down the stretch. He shouldn't be fatigued: at 47.2 IP, he's well short of his total last year , but the results of late have been far from comforting.
Fortunately, the offense proved just up to the task, breaking out early - for the third time in four games, we sent nine men to the plate in the first inning. Arizona were able to take advantage of wildness from opposing starter Banks, who walked no less than seven in four innings of work. That included four in the first inning, and we scored four times as a result, on RBI singles by Jackson and Snyder, and sacrifice flies sent out there by Reynolds and Burke. The patience at the plate was especially crucial on a night where San Diego outhit Arizona 13-7. It is, certainly, due in part to bad pitching and a small sample size, but we've been averaging six walks per game since the arrival of Adam Dunn - that compares to 3.4 over the 118 before he got here. Dunn himself had two more, for a total of nine in seven games.
He also got his first home in an Arizona jersey, a two-run shot in the fourth to right, even though he clearly didn't get all of the pitch. So he reached safely three times, increasing his OBP for the Diamondbacks to .485. Ojeda, Young and Snyder all followed suit in this department, and Conor Jackson had two hits - that was good to see, as CoJack had been scuffling, having gone 5-for-34 with two RBI in eight appearances, since his last multi-hit game on the 7th. He singled home a run in the seventh, what turned out to be a crucial insurance run, even if we didn't realize it at the time of execution.
An unsurprisingly busy thread, with over 750 comments. I would have participated more, but dinner, a large bag of cookies and sloth kept me in front of the television set [when I should really have been much more productive!] Also present were utahdbacksfan, DbacksSkins, TwinnerA, soco, snakecharmer, Azreous, AZWILDCATS, foulpole, seanprh, 4 Corners Fan, kishi, Scrbl, emilylovesthedbacks, The Main Man, singaporedbacksfan, SongBird, J Up, Muu, hotclaws, pepperdinedevil, Zephon and dbacksbj.
With the Dodgers going down to Colorado, we're back in first place, all by ourselves. I've decided to tempt the baseball gods by posting our Magic Number, which is the number of Arizona wins and/or Los Angeles losses necessary for us to reach the playoffs. If we drop out of first, it will be replaced by our anti-Magic Number, the number of Arizona losses and/or LA wins necessary for us to be eliminated. I'll also post the playoff chances, as worked out at CoolStandings.com, but those sometimes don't get updated until post-recap, so those may be TBA depending on when we play. The current 55.2% figure is the best since August 6.
Who should close for Arizona down the stretch?
Juan Cruz (16 votes)
Brandon Lyon (38 votes)
Tony Peña (18 votes)
Chad Qualls (11 votes)
Jon Rauch (56 votes)
Closer by committee (24 votes)
163 total votes