Two for the price of one today, since I spent last night over at Jobing.com Arena, watching the Coyotes roll over the Canucks, 5-1, for their biggest margin of victory this season. I think the highlight was watching Phoenix score a goal on a delayed penalty call, after the Canucks pulled their goalie for an extra attack. The puck bounced off Viktor Tikhonov's stick into the unguarded net - as he never had actual 'possession', the goal stood, though he then still had to serve the penalty. Our colleagues over at Five For Howling have the video. All in all, a thoroughly fun time.
Diamondbacks 6, Royals 13
It was certainly more entertaining than looking at the box score on yesterday's rout by the Kansas City Royals down in Tucson. And it seemed to be going so well, too: I looked in at the box-score after three innings, and Arizona were three runs up, with Brandon Webb pitching shut-out ball. I was therefore distinctly unimpressed to see the final numbers, with the Royals clubbing us for twenty-two hits and thirteen runs. Seven of the hits, and four of the runs, came off Brandon Webb, and raised his spring ERA to 8.18, giving up seven hits to the KC hitters, along with two walks.
But as Steve Gilbert points out this is hardly anything new. Our ace says, "You look back at my springs, and I've never really had good numbers. I'm looking forward to getting more amped up." Bob Melvin agrees: "It's not a concern. If he was all over the place and his velocity was down and his breaking ball wasn't crisp, then it would be a concern." Indeed, his ERA is very close to what it was in 2008, when it was 7.90. You probably recall he won nine straight starts once Opening Day arrived. Same in 2006: his Cactus League ERA was 6.35, but he didn't lose a regular-season game until June, and went on to win the Cy Young award. On that basis, I'd probably be more concerned if he was pitching well...
No-one escaped, with every Diamondbacks pitcher giving up as many, or more, runs than innings pitched. Jordan Norberto relieved Webb in the fifth after he'd let the first two batters reach, and hit hit pitch-count for the day of around eighty - Norberto allowed three hits and a run of his own, in addition to the two inherited runners. He was followed by Travis Blackley who, as noted yesterday, did absolutely nothing to enhance his bullpen chances, by giving up eight hits in three frames of work, leading to four earned runs. Finally, Evan MacLane had the worst afternoon of them all, giving up more runs (four) than he got outs (three), thanks largely to a three-run homer with one out in the ninth, off the bat of Royals' 1B, Billy Butler. Yuck all round, as far as the number went.
At least the offense didn't do too badly, getting thirteen hits of their own. Leading the way was Eric Byrnes, who went 3-for-3 with a run batted in, but was thrown out on his first stolen-base attempt of spring. The same fate befell Felipe Lopez, who has yet to steal a base succesfully - not quite what you want from your leadoff man. He did have a walk, a hit and two RBI, though that only get his spring average up to .176. He has only had 17 Cactus League at-bats, however, thanks to the World Baseball Classic. Chris Young, Josh Wilson and Augie Ojeda each had a couple of hits, with Josh Whitesell joining Lopez on a hit and a walk. There were errors by Wilson and Justin Upton.
Diamondbacks 12, Padres 7
Today, another starter got shelled, with Dan Haren giving up a two-run homer in the first inning to Edgar 'No, not that one' Gonzalez and another in the second to Jody Gerut, on his way to a 5-0 deficit after just two innings. However, that was it off Haren, and he ended up going five frames with no more damage to the scoreboard, albeit on nine hits. He didn't walk anyone, and struck out five Padres on the day - in mitigation, it must also be said that the box-score lists the wind in Peoria as "22 mph, Out to CF." It certainly is blowing briskly here today, and that would help balls leave the park - I've no specific evidence, but suspect those homers could have been deep fly-ball outs at Chase.
Max Scherzer was the other main pitcher used this afternoon, going three innings in his second outing of the Cactus League. He gave up five hits, and two runs, both earned, but did keep the ball in the park. It probably helps that only one fly-ball out was recorded by Scherzer, with three coming on the ground and a solid five Padres carried their own bats back to the dugout with them, over three innings. Leo Rosales completed things, with two strikeouts and a hit in the ninth. I think, allowing for the gusty conditions, this wasn't a bad outing for the Arizona pitchers, as our trio fanned a total of twelve San Diego hitters, without allowing a walk. Conversely our batters got seven free passes, only striking out twice - and one of those was by Scherzer.
This proved an equal-opportunity breeze, certainly, and the 5-0 deficit didn't exactly last long, being entirely erased by the middle of the third. This was thanks to a pair of three-run homers: firstly, Chris Young went deep with two men aboard and one down. Then, an out later and another two men on base, it was Miguel Montero's turn to repeat the medicine, giving the Diamondbacks the lead. They continued to pile on, shell-shocking the San Diego pitching with a barrage of extra-base hits: by the time the Padres got their next run home, in the bottom of the seventh, Arizona had scored twelve times without answer.
Leading the hit parade was Chris Young, who went a triple short of the cycle, with seven total bases and four runs driven in. Not far behind was Chad Tracy, who started at first and had three doubles and two RBI. Montero reached safely four times, adding three walks to his home-run, and Augie Ojeda had a hit and a couple of walks. Lopez, batting leadoff, had two doubles, Ryan Roberts a single and a homer, while Reynolds had a walk and a hit. It may only be spring, but Special K is cutting down on the strikeouts so far: he has eleven in 37 at-bats, for a 30% K-rate, compared to 38% last year. Young (23%/26%) and Upton (30%/34%) are also showing a small improvement, one hopes may carry forward.
Nick Piecoro looks at Chris Young's struggles, based on an ESPN Insider report. As he says, not much we probably couldn't have worked out for ourselves: "Young struggles against off-speed stuff and likes to chase pitches down and away." No kidding. But the number are painful. Down and away, Young hits a mere .128, and misses when he swings 42.4% of the time. He has been working on pitch recognition this spring, and getting better figures there is going to be key to Young's production. And here's a really good interview with Darin Sutton on KTAR, discussing the upcoming season, and how the franchise can capture the imagination of the valley. He also has some frank comments about Mark Reynolds, his style of presentation - how he has to appeal to all ranges of fans - and his off-season sabermetric studies. Almost 20 minutes long, so get a beverage. :-)