"Wind: 23 mph, L to R." That's probably the line which stood out on this afternoon's box-score more than anything, and the start of today's game was delayed due to bad weather. That may help explain why only 2,500 fans made the trek out to Goodyear today, to catch the Diamondbacks play the Reds. The rest of us missed what was probably our best performance of the season to date, a convincing 10-4 victory, making it well worth the wait for the Diamondbacks, in which Arizona outhit the (pseudo-)home team 14-6.
It has been a wet year so far: we've had 4.36 inches of rain in Phoenix. Which may not sound much, but it's already an inch more than we got in all of 2009. No truth to the rumor that Augie Ojeda had to be staked to the ground today, to prevent him from flying off into the countryside. However, the rest of the news - y'know, the less fictitious stuff - can be found after the jump.
Billy Buckner was a bit better today than in his first start, going three innings and allowing two runs. He was victimized by the long-ball, both runs scoring on solo shots from Reds hitters. Those were the only hits Buckner allowed in his outing, and he also struck out three batters, but as well as the deep flies, I note that only one of the six outs he allowed came on the ground, which tends not to be a great indicator of success at Chase. It's pretty much the reason we got rid of Yusmeiro Petit, as you'll recall [Petit, incidentally, was waived by the Mariners and cleared them - he allowed two runs in two-third of an inning for them today. No home-runs though!]
In his defense, there is some suggestion Buckner was a tad unlucky, with at least one of the homers being helped out of the park by the stiff breeze. Said manager AJ Hinch afterwards, "I thought Buckner threw the ball well for the most part. He got a couple balls up a little bit. It was somewhat tough conditions for him, but he persevered. It was important to get him three innings. He's really, really focused on competing for this job. This is one of the first real opportunities to break into the big leagues."
Juan Gutierrez and Bryan Shaw followed Buckner to the mound. Gutierrez walked one batter, but got the benefit of a double-play, so faced the minimum three batters. Shaw allowed a hit but posted a zero. The defense continued to suffer some problems in the next couple of innings, in each case with an error leading to an unearned run for Cincinnati. In the sixth, Leyson Septimo's own mistake, along with two hits off our 24-year old lefty, gave the Reds a free run. And an error by Ryan Roberts compounded Blaine Boyer's own problems, as he walked two and a double in his inning of work.
Roque Mercedes was particularly impressive in the eighth inning, striking out the side, and Jose Marte completed the victory with a scoreless ninth. Mercedes has struck out more batters in the first week of spring training than anyone bar Billy Buckner, while Marte has yet to allow a hit or walk, albeit only in two innings of work. In that category, Marte joins Leo Rosales, as perhaps the most impressive early showings; Juan Gutierrez (2 IP, 0 H, 1 BB, 3 SO) and Mercedes (2 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 4 K) are likely not far behind among our relievers.
However, today was more a day for the offense to come through, led by Conor Jackson. CoJack has continued his strong showing from the Dominican Winter League, and parlayed that into a hot start in the Cactus League, going 6-for-12 with a home-run and two doubles thus far. He went 3-for-3 and drove in a run this afternoon, and has yet to strike out this spring. Greg Salvatore braved the rain in Goodyear and, in his report on the game, says that Jackson "looks exactly this spring as we would hope - fully energetic, back to his playing shape, and hitting ropes to left again." That's excellent news, obviously.
Even more damage was done by Justin Upton, who cranked his second home-run of the preseason out of Goodyear, a two-run shot in the fifth inning. Add an RBI single and he has driven in eight over five games, the most in the Cactus League. Also performing well for the Diamondbacks this afternoon - and in no particular order, beyond the box-score... Augie Ojeda singled in two runs, as part of a three-run eighth, as did Chris Snyder in the four-run fifth. Drew Macias and Kelly Johnson each had a hit and a walk, while Cole Gillespie, starting in CF, went 2-for-4 on the day.
It's probably still a little early to be doing 'Heroes and Villains,' but since I kinda plugged the pitchers, a quick overview of who has hit the plate running might be nice. At this point, Stephen Drew leads the hitters, having gone 5-for-10 with three walks - an OBP of .615 is just what you want from the lead-off spot. His OPS of 1.515 narrowly pipping Jackson (1.455), with Upton in third-place (1.247) among those with ten or more PAs. At the other end, Gerardo Parra has yet to warm up, having gone 1-for-11, albeit with a couple of walks.
Another day of not much to report. Those of a queasy disposition may wish to avoid the fairly-graphic description of Chad Qualls's season-ending injury last August and the subsequent rehab. Here's how Qualls tells of the incident: "I remember twisting to get out of the way and then hearing what you hear when your back cracks - you know, that crunching noise? - and then I just felt an immense amount of pressure on my kneecap. I looked down and saw the side of my pants where my kneecap was, and I was like, 'Oh, shit!'" According to Piecoro, Qualls' knee remains "swollen and a little tender," though his first appearance on Sunday went well.
Tomorrow will be, for the most of us, the first chance to see the Diamondbacks, with tomorrow's game against the Dodgers being shown live on the MLB Network (weather permitting, obviously). I'll be setting the Tivo for that one, but there will be a gameday thread posted for it. So hope to see a few of you in there.