Record: 76-76. Pace: 81-81. Change on last season: -9
Elimination number: 7. Playoff odds: not good
Brandon Webb's Cy Young chances were given a leg-up by his team-mates, who pinned an L on Tim Lincecum's forehead for only the fourth time this season, thanks to a two-out RBI single by Adam Dunn in the eighth inning. That scored Conor Jackson from second - he'd just stolen a base to get there - and made a somewhat fortunate winner of Juan Cruz, who gave up the tying run, a solo homer to Molina, in the top-half of the inning.
Poor Randy Johnson: that's now four quality starts in five outings, and not a single win to show for it, despite an ERA of 3.23 over that time. Tonight, he went toe-to-toe with Lincecum, who was aged four when Randy Johnson made his major-league debut in 1988. The Giants struck first, loading the bases in the first before Johnson retired a batter. However, all they managed was a sacrifice fly - not just in that inning, but for the next six beyond that. San Francisco only had one at-bat with a man in scoring position against Johnson after that: the nearest they came to scoring was when Aurilia was thrown out trying to go first to third, which ended the third.
Meanwhile, Lincecum was proving as good as advertised, even though his change-up didn't seem as crisp as on his previous outings against us. We did manage to get runners on base, and even as far as third-base [Eckstein in the third], but it was until the sixth inning that we broke through, with the score at that point still 1-0 to the Giants. Drew doubled to lead things off, and was [sigh] bunted to third by Ojeda. Jackson took a nasty blow off the hand from Lincecum to put men on the corners with one out, but Dunn went down swinging, unable to deal with a steady diet of off-speed pitches from the San Francisco ace. By throwing 118 pitches, Lincecum became the first pitcher to throw that many in three consecutive outings, since Jason Schmidt in June 2004.
That left driving the runners home up to Upton, and it looked like he had flown out harmlessly to left field, with a defensive swing on another change-up that was barely inches off the ground. However, Velez - not a natural outfielder - either misjudged the ball very badly, or it suddenly turned on its afterburners, because it jetted right over his his despairing grab to go all the way to the wall. Both base-runners scored on what was ruled a triple for Upton, and Arizona found themselves with an unexpected lead. Johnson and Lincecum traded zeroes in the seventh, before the Big Unit was pulled for a pinch-hitter, having thrown 92 pitches. He allowed one run on eight hits and walk over the seven innings, striking out four.
Lincecum was rewarded for his outing - and for staying in the game after being hit on his non-pitching hand when trying to bunt in the fifth - by being taken off the hook in the top of the eighth, thanks to Molina's homer. But he was put right back on it in the bottom half, with all the action coming after two men were out. Jackson singled - his second hit of the night, raising his average to .353 during his ten-game hitting streak - and promptly swiped his ninth base of the year. Dunn, who'd failed to get the man home from third with one out in the sixth, achieved some redemption by driving in a run from second, his 94th RBI of the year. David Eckstein also enjoyed a two-hit night, though for the third time in this four-game set, the Diamondbacks didn't get a single walk.
Chad Qualls then closed things out with a 1-2-3 ninth, though was made to work pretty hard for the outs, not least by Ishikawa, who fouled off a number of tough pitches before finally looking at a full-count strike. The victory pushes Arizona back to the .500 mark - ah, I remember the heady days when that was good enough for first place in the NL West, most recently on July 25. Of course, we've gone 3-7 against the Dodgers since then, which certainly hasn't helped things in the standings. As noted, they squeaked past the Pirates in 12 innings - a loss might have started to make things somewhat interesting, but their lead instead stays at 3.5 games.
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Master of his domain: Randy Johnson. +30.9%
Highly honorable mention: Upton, +27.3%. Honorable mention: Qualls, +16.8%
God-emperor of suck: Juan Cruz, -13.1%
Dishonorable mention: Augie Ojeda, -12.1%
The narwhals continue to work their horny magic, as it were, and Arizona has a four-game winning streak for the first time since August 1. A wide and varied - that's a polite way of saying bordering on the criminally off-topic - Gameday Thread, though it seems that every time I announced my departure, the Giants scored. It was therefore deemed wise to keep quiet my ninth-inning haircut. Present were Azreous, snakecharmer, DbacksSkins, emilylovesthedbacks, soco, Gravity, nargel, mrssoco, kishi, foulpole, unnamedDBacksfan, TwinnerA, AZWILDCATS, hotclaws, Diamondhacks, 4 Corners Fan, damdrs1717, Zephon and singaporedbacksfan. I trust we all learned a little bit about what counts as acceptable language, too. :-)
And the team heads off to their final road-trip, visiting Colorado and St. Louis before coming back to Arizona for the last three games of the season. This is the final stretch: never say give up, not while there is lolnarwhal mojo to be invoked.