Well, I guess that was a little bit better [though it could hardly have gone much worse for Arizona than yesterday]. We has some respectable pitching performances (as well, admittedly, as some crappy ones), and a better level of production by the offense, led by Juston Upton's grand-slam off the left-field scoreboard which helped turn a four-run deficit into a Diamondbacks lead in the space of just half an inning. However, it wasn't enough, as wobbly performances from several alleged members of the A-bullpen, allowed the Cubs to snatch victory in the bottom of the ninth, and leave us still winless in 2010.
Things started off solidly enough from the pitching point of view, with both starters, Dan Haren and Carlos Zambrano, facing the minimum six batters through the first two innings - in Haren's case assisted by a runner being caught stealing, courtesy of Chris Snyder. That man was the only to reach against Haren, courtesy of a walk. Dan threw just 20 pitches and said afterwards that it felt "weird" to be pitching again. "I'm happy with the way it started. I don't necessarily put in 100 percent effort, I'm working more mechanics and getting a feel for all my pitches. I'm definitely where I want to be, but that being said I still have a long way to go."
The next pitchers for each team were almost as impressive, each allowing one hit in their two innings of work, to keep the score tied. For the Diamondbacks, that was Wes Roemer, who walked a man, but posted a pair of zeros. Chris Young got the game's first hit, doubling with two outs in the third inning as a pinch-hiotter for Haren, but was stranded in scoring position. After the Diamondbacks were struck out in the top of the fifth, it means that the sides had only two hits and no runs through the first nine half-innings. The second nine... Not so much, with eighteen hits and fifteen runs there.
Neither off-season veteran acquisition has exactly jumped out of the gates, but Aaron Heilman had an even worse outing than Bob Howry yesterday: five hits, a walk and four runs, all earned, in one inning of work against his former team - he also apparently almost got nailed by a comebacker to the mound. However, the Diamondbacks wasted no time getting that back and more, scoring five times in the top of the sixth, highlighted by Upton's slam. Cubs manager Lou Pinella was impressed: "I thought that was going over the scoreboard. That's a long wallop. Upton is going to hit a home run off anybody."
Homers were responsible for six of our seven runs, Ryan Roberts extending the lead to 6-4 with a solo shot (Greg Salvatore said it went "clear out of the stadium, between the left-field foult pole and the scoreboard"), and Cole Gillespie completing the scoring for Arizona in the ninth. That came after the Cubs evened things up. We'd got solid innings from Jordan Norberto and Bryan Shaw, but - wouldn't you know it? - the eighth proved troublesome. Clay Zavada had control issues, retiring only two of seven batters faced, on three hits, a walk and a hit batter. He had to be rescued by Esmerling Vasquez after the Cubs tied the score, with the bases loaded: Vasquez struck out the batter to end the inning.
However, the ninth... Not so much. As noted, Gillespie had given Arizona the lead, but Vasquez didn't even manage to retire a batter before the snowbirds clinched victory. on a walk-off double Two hits and another HBP turned our 7-6 lead into an 8-7 defeat, in front of 11,775 at the primitive hovel of Mesa Hohokam. Gillespie was the only Diamondback to reach safely twice, having singled before his blast. It was reportedly a much crisper performance by Arizona in the field: no errors, and Parra nailed a runner at home-plate on a sac. fly. So, while we lost, this was a far more palatable defeat, coming as it did in the bottom of the ninth, when there was hardly anyone you'd know left on the field.
Moving on to other things, obviously starting with the disquieting news about Webb having hit problems in his return from surgery. Steve Gilbert says, somewhat comfortingly, "Pain in the shoulder does not appear to be the issue for Webb right now, but it seems to be more a matter of letting the ball go without worrying about his shoulder." That makes it feel almost as if it's a psychological issue rather than a physical one, and Webb is still scheduled to face live hitters at his next session, on either Sunday or Monday. For now, I don't think we are quite at the time to panic. Plenty of time for that in due course...
Mark Reynolds is keen to get a contract sorted. "I didn’t know it would be this much of a distraction," he said. Seems the discussion centers on his first two years of arbitration in 2011-12, with the team telling him his salary this year will be set at $500K Reynolds went on: "It’s kind of annoying... The sooner the better with me. I want to know one way or the other sooner rather than later. It’s a good problem to have, but it’s to the point where I don’t want to come in after every game and check my phone and have meeting after meeting and take time away from my family. I’m certainly hoping that we can come to some kind of agreement, but I’m 100 percent fine if it doesn’t happen. I’ll play this year and we’ll see what happens next year." Looks like it's uncertainty he minds more than anything else.
And that will do. We're meandering around First Friday tonight; I'll be back tomorrow to keep an eye on things as we face the Giants in wine 'n' cheese territory.