Diamondbacks 5, Cardinals 6: [. . . .] - and not for the first time this season

Record: 30-47. Pace: 63-99. Change on last season: -1. Change on 2004: +1

Did I get the dates wrong? Was this an Azreous recap? It certainly had enough wackiness to qualify. To wit: a home-run by our starting pitcher. Another for the Diamondbacks that basically got fisted over the outfield fence. And yet another traumatic ninth-inning loss, this time helped by some woefully inept fielding from Aaron Heilman and Adam LaRoche. That led to three unearned runs scoring for the Cardinals, and a defeat truly snatched from the jaws of victory. Heilman was tagged with the loss and didn't allow a hit or a walk, the second pitcher in franchise history to do so (the first being Randy Choate in September 2006).

Details after the jump. Oh, hold my aching sides for I fear they may split...

On the plus side, Dan Haren is no longer the worst pitcher on the Diamondbacks with more than four starts to his name. He allowed three runs in eight innings, so got his ERA down to 4.56, which puts him back ahead of both Rodrigo Lopez and Edwin Jackson. He's somewhat lucky that the two runners Heilman inherited, though both scored, were counted as unearned runs. Let's start with that wacky ninth, where Haren was pulled after allowing two lead-off hits: I was somewhat surprised Heilman wasn't given a clean inning, as Dan had also struggled his way through the eight, giving up three hits to start things off before recovering with two K's an a fly-ball.

Anyway, enter Heilman, men on first and second, no-one out, and a pinch-hitting pitcher for St. Louis, obviously up there to bunt the tying run into scoring position. It's bunted, fairly firmly, to Heilman's right: he grabs it, and tries for the force at third-base. However, he is in a completely horrible position to throw and the ball sails wildly past the despairing Reynolds', going to the fence. One run scores, tying run on third, winning run on second. Still no-one out. Infield in. We then get an out, a hard-hit ball to Tony Abreu at short: he freezes the runner at third, gets the out at first. No-one moves, one out.

Next batter hits a hard groundball to LaRoche, who hesitates, then sees the runner from third heading for home. He fires the ball to Montero, but must have rolled a "1" or something, as - yet again - the ball sails wildly past the despairing fielder. Tying run scores. Winning run motors smoothly round from second-base to score, and seal one of the most ghastly losses of the season so far. It's bad enough to be beaten with hits, walks or even balks, goddamit - and heaven knows, all these have played their part this season. But this time, all it would have taken was one inning of decent baseball. And your 2010 Diamondbacks couldn't even manage that.

I have to say, this one did have the air of inevitability. I don't think I genuinely thought "We're going to win!" at any point during the game. It was more a case of "I wonder how we're going to blow this one?" and I'd like to thank the team for, at least, providing something new in that area. More evidence that the marketing motto for us this year should be "Well, at least you'll see something different." The Diamondbacks had fallen behind early, St. Louis scoring twice in the first, thanks to a wild pitch and an RBI double from Phat Albert. However, a two-run homer from LaRoche had put the game back level - it was his 12th of the year, increasing his trade value a bit, we hope.

And then things got weird. It strikes me that we've been selling Haren the wrong way. His performances on the mound this season have been barely league average, but his work in the batters box has been impeccable. So, instead of selling his as "a pitcher who can hit a bit," we need to be advertising him as "the best-pitching hitter you'll ever see," and just wait for the offers to roll in. Today, he homered off Chris Carpenter, a three-time Cy Young Top 3 player, who came in to the game having allowed only eleven long-balls to the 450 batters faced this year. In 244 previous career at-bats by pitchers against Carpenter, one - Glendon Rusch in 2004 - had gone deep. It's two now.

It was Haren's twentieth hit of the year - we're not even half-way through the season, and that has already tied the franchise record for a pitcher, set by Micah Owings in 2007. While going 1-for-4 this evening dropped his batting average to a "mere" .435, his slugging percentage increased to .630 and his OPS to 1.065. Know how many of the 219 NL players with Haren's 47 PAs or more, have an OPS above 1.065? None at all. Admittedly, this won't help our chance of trading him to the American League in the slightest. But, people! 1.065 OPS! That's better than Albert Pujols' career number. Buy now, while Haren lasts!

And then Mark Reynolds homered. Those five words don't quite do the act justice. If untroubled by external forces, it would certainly have been a hard-hit double off the outfield wall. Enter Cardinals right-fielder Randy Winn, however. In a feat reminiscent of a World Cup keeper trying to push a shot over the crossbar, Winn flapped at the ball with his glove as he ran back towards the track and, while still some distance from the wall, deflected it impeccably into the bleachers for a two-run homer and a 5-2 Arizona lead at that point.Given how much Mark had been struggling of late, he deserved a break, and good to see him go 2-for-3 with a walk and no strikouts today.

But the baseball gods giveth and the baseball gods taketh away. After that, we might have been forgiving for thinking they were on our side. Not so fast. In fact, the way the rest of the game unfolded, I present to you an audio-visual representation of tonight's Fangraph. The dark-haired girl plays the part of Diamondbacks' fans; the blonde girl is the Cardinals' fans; and the big guy is the god of baseball. The small pony is Mark's home-run and... Well, watch it yourself, and weep...


[Click to enlarge, at fangraphs.com]
Master of his domain: Adam LaRoche, +25.0%
Honorable mention: Mark Reynolds (with a little Winn-assistance), +23.0%
Dishonorable mention: Aaron Heilman, -69.0%

Not a happy GDT at the end there, you will not be surprised to hear. 'Skins and 'charmer were past three digits, with hotclaws rounding out the top three. Also present: Rockkstarr12, Turambar, blank_38, Dallas D'Back Fan, kishi, justin1985, emilylovesthedbacks, katers, BattleMoses, Jim McLennan, AJforAZ, Muu, marionette, Azreous, unnamedDBacksfan, 4 Corners Fan, pygalgia, soco, Clefo, JoeCB1991, Bryan J. Boltik, Stile4aly and Wailord. However, occasional visitors SolidDefense and FundamentallySoundBaseball were missing tonight for some reason...

Comment of the Night? Oh, if you insist. It needs a bit of background. As Fox Sports Arizona interview the opposition again after another dismal loss, 'Skins commented, in a peeved fashion, that we don't care what makes Tony LaRussa tick, which received the following response, and recommendations:

We do if it's a bomb strapped to his chest right?

by Dallas D'Back Fan on Jun 28, 2010 6:19 PM MST

See you tomorrow for another episode of the hilarious 2010 Diamondbacks season!

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