Record: 1-1. Pace: 81-81. Change on last season: 0.
Poor Dan Haren. Life just isn't fair. Yesterday, Brandon Webb got shelled for six runs in four innings, and escaped with a no-decision. Tonight, Haren pitched seven brilliant inning, spoiled only by a solo shot to Troy Tulowitzki, and ends up taking the loss. Anyone who thinks a W-L record is really of any meaning as far as assessing a pitcher's quality, should have the box-score from tonight's game tattooed on their forehead.
I'm not sure what happened to the offense overnight, but it wasn't pretty, whatever it was. Four singles and a Stephen Drew double: that was the sum total of the production this evening. Drew had two of our five hits, plus a walk, while Jackson got a hit and a free pass. That double, with one out in the sixth, was the only time after the second inning that we had a man in scoring position, but Chad Tracy popped out to shallow left and, after a Conor Jackson walk, Miguel Montero went down, swinging as if auditioning for 300, on a pitch that was somewhere around his neck. The white flag was run up the flagpole by Arizona at the end of the seventh, when we saw Eric Byrnes pinch-hit for Haren, lining weakly out to the infield, while Jon Rauch warmed up. I think we all knew that was game over, man - game over.
Arizona's best chance of breaking through against Ubaldo Jimenez - who reduced his career ERA against us to 2.18 - came in the second. After Jackson singled and Montero struck out, Mark Reynolds legged out an infield hit, despite the best efforts of Tulowitzki to throw him out. Justin Upton then worked a solid walk, showing fine plate discipline, to load the bases with one out. Admittedly, Haren was at the plate. but since the departure of Micah Owings, he has been our pitcher who knows best how to handle the bat. However, that proved not to be the case today, as he rolled into a double-play, ending the inning and sucking the life out of the stadium. [26,637 in attendance tonight - obviously, a drop from Opening Day, but they did get to enjoy the game with the roof open]
It would be unfair to condemn Haren for his actions, since it's not as if any of the other hitters exactly covered themselves in glory, and you can't expect him to do everything. He certainly did a beautiful job in his main role - on the mound. Haren pitched seven innings of three-hit ball, with no walks and nine strikeouts; he struck out the side in the fifth, unfortunately, after allowing Tulowitzki's long-ball to deep left, leading off the inning. He stranded a lead-off double on second in the first, and also got out of a jam in the third when a wild pitch put a man on third-base with one out. Dan then struck out the #1 and #2 for the Rockies to end that threat. No: Haren was about the least of Arizona's problems tonight: before the game, I was hoping for a quality start, and he more than surpassed those expectations.
The bullpen, on the other hand... As noted above, it was largely taken as a sign of surrender when we saw Jon Rauch warming up, and so it proved when he came in to replace Haren in the eighth inning. He got the first batter, but a double, RBI single, groundout and walk followed: with two on and Todd Helton up, Bob Melvin turned to LOOGY Doug Slaten, but the results proved as disappointing as yesterday - Helton singled, to make the score 3-0. The inherited runner was charged to Rauch, giving him an ERA of 27,00: it may be early days, but on the basis of tonight it does not seem that the hideous spring training numbers were an exaggeration. About the only plus would be, better for him to give up a pair of runs when we're 1-0 down, than when we're 1-0 up. Situational suckage: that's what we saw tonight.
Slaten, too, is making a pretty good case for finding himself on the bus to Reno next week, when Max Scherzer comes back to the roster. It didn't help things that one of the other candidates for the trip, Juan Gutierrez, saw his first action, and provided the only decent performance from our relief corps. Gutierrez retired all four batters he faced, with a pair of strikeouts, first bailing Slaten out in the eighth and then sticking around to pitch the ninth, with the game now slipping from the Diamondbacks' grasp. That gave the pitching staff a total of eleven K's for the night, with just the one walk: those numbers, and three earned runs, were certainly a massive improvement over those yesterday. But the way Jimenez dominated the offense, we could have been perfect and all that would have got us is extra innings.
But, to end the recap on a happy note, it's probably a good thing we didn't have a save situation tonight, since Chad Qualls was not at the park. That was because his wife gave birth to a baby boy, Caiden Joseph at 8:40 p.m. this evening, so congratulations to them both. Now, Chad: get your butt back to the ball-park, because our bullpen needs you. Indeed, we could probably use Caiden Joseph too: before you know it, he'll be throwing a rattle out of his pram, in the mid-90's, with devastating late movement... [And anyone notice Brandon Lyon got smacked about for three runs in an inning of work, and took the loss for Detroit today?]
The losing pitcher of record in tonight's game, also gets to be master of his domain. Indeed, he would also have been god-emperor of suck, at -17.5%, for his performance at the plate, but starting pitchers are exempt there. Normal volume resumed in the Gameday Thread too, with just shy of 500 comments from 26 people. Present were; Turambar, kishi, DbacksSkins, unnamedDBacksfan, Phoenix Stan, Gravity, hotclaws, Wimb, snakecharmer, luckycc, dbacksbj, emilylovesthedbacks, TwinnerA, mrssoco, LucaMaz3, Tom (RFTN), singaporedbacksfan, J Up, DKuon, oklahomasooners, Snake Bitten, ASUJon, Azreous, Muu and soco - emily topped the chart, with 101 comments. Dbacksskins had almost twice as many comments over on Purple Row as he did here, which seems more than a tad disloyal...
And, for the first time this season, we get to utter the immortal words: "Well, at least the Dodgers lost, too." The Giants take an early lead in the NL West, having opened their record today with a win over the Brewers. I suggest they enjoy it while it lasts, because with all due respect, I don't see them being there for very long. Tim Lincecum lasted even less time than Webb, but the Giants' offense put up a ten-spot on the Brewers. After our wacky Opening Day yesterday, I wouldn't have expected anything less.
Here are the post-game audio clips from tonight's contest. Dan Haren talks about his at-bat with the bases and Troy-boy's home-run, while Justin Upton is disappointed at wasting a fine effort from Haren. Bob Melvin talks about both starting pitchers as well as Jon Rauch - he points out the velocity was a bit better from Rauch, hitting 92 mph on the gun, better than it has been, but the end result is what matters. Finally, there's a chat with Max Scherzer who is scheduled to start Thursday for Class-A Visalia against the Lake Elsinore Storm, just to stretch out his pitch count, before returning to the club. He seems pretty on board with the team's caution.
Audio courtesy of KTAR 620
The rubber contest in this first series of the season takes place tomorrow afternoon, with a 12:40 start, and Azreous on the recap, for the first time this season. Davis vs. Morales is the match-up, and having seen both an offensive slug-fest and a hard-fought pitching duel between starters, we'll see what that will bring. Hopefully, an Arizona win, to send us into the upcoming, important series against the Dodgers with a good frame of mind.