The day started off badly, with the news that starting pitcher Zach Duke will miss 6-8 weeks in total, thanks to a broken hand. And it didn't get much better, as the televisual treat of this afternoon's game at SRF@TS turned into another defeat for the Diamondbacks - their sixth in a row, sinking the Cactus League record to 5-15. Another crowd of over twelve thousand at the game, taking Arizona's tally for the year over six figures: just a shame the performance was one which should, largely, have remained hidden on the back fields.
Daniel Hudson started for Arizona, and didn't actually pitch too badly, especially in the first couple of innings, where he broke out a particularly-effective slider, something which has always been very much his third pitch in previous years [his excellent fastball and change-up being his bread and butter]. If that does indeed prove to be the case, then it's a great weapon to have, and will make him even more likely to be a key component of our rotation in the coming years. He retired the first eight Cubs batters faced this afternoon, four of them on strikeouts, and looked to be cruising at that stage in proceedings.
However, the final out in the third proved troublesome, and it took him five attempts to get it, albeit not helped by a Ryan Roberts error. That helped the Cubs score two runs, one unearned. The fourth inning didn't open much better: Hudson allowed a solo home-run to lead things off, and then Brandon Allen appeared to lose a ball in the left-field sun, letting it clank off his glove for a three-base error. One out later, Hudson's afternoon was done: the inherited runner would score against Jordan Norberto, giving him a final line of four runs, two earned, on three hits and walk, over 3.1 innings - probably the best outing by a starter we've seen during the losing streak.
After Norberto, David Hernandez pitched a solid inning, but Carlos Rosa struggled in the sixth, allowing three hits and walk. They resulted in two more Chicago Runs, although one was unearned - Rosa loaded the bases with no-one out, but then fumbled the ball trying to come home for the force-play. He then struck out the next better, issued a bases-loaded walk, and finally did better with another comebacker, throwing home successfully this time, and Miguel Montero then getting the runner at first. Rafael Rodriguez, Leyson Septimo and Sam Demel threw the final three frames, Septimo allowing a RBI single following a walk and hit batter.
We outhit the Cubs by a margin of 13-8 - the three unearned runs proved costly today, and we also hit into no less than five double-plays, capped off by Wily Mo Pena's pinch-hit game-ender (he represented the winning run at the time, as we had scored three in the ninth to make the score look more respectable). Kelly Johnson, Gerardo Parra and Allen each had two hits, while Ryan Roberts had a hit and a walk. Allen clubbed his first home-run of spring, and Chris Young's double was the only other extra-base hit for the Diamondbacks this afternoon. With three errors and Johnson's caught stealing, it wasn't a very positive show, as far as those fundamentals go.
Still, it was fun in the Gameday Thread, where we racked up 367 comments. DbacksSkins is clearly in regular season form with 95 comments, more than twice as many as the second-placed snakecharmer, with blue bulldog in third. Also taking part were: njjohn, Wimb, JoeStock, pygalgia, Jim McLennan, dbacks25, Dallas D'Back Fan, NASCARbernet, 4 Corners Fan, jinnah, xmet, emilylovesthedbacks, brian custer, Alfred E. Neuman, and dbacks watcher.
An off-day for Arizona tomorrow, marking the rough mid-point of spring training. After the generally mediocre, shall we say, performances of the first twenty games, we'll be hoping for better in the second-half - they were speaking to Kirk Gibson during the game, and he basically said he wants to be impressed. In other words, he hasn't been so far, and I can hardly blame him. The offense seems to have been not too bad, but in just about every other area - defense, pitching, base-running, etc. - we've been short of the mark. Time to step it up, lads.