You'd have been forgiven for abandoning this one early (or "Pulling a Dodgers fan," if you will) and beating the rush by departing Salt River Fields early this afternoon, because another poor start by Joe Saunders was followed by a poor fourth inning from Mike Hampton and Sam Demel. By the middle of the frame, the Diamondbacks were ten runs down, and the prospect of extending our winning streak past "one" seemed slim indeed. But Arizona pulled off what was probably the biggest comeback in the history of the ftranchise, pouring on for thirteen unanswered runs, including an eight-run eighth, to pull out a thoroughly unexpected victory.
Indeed, it was so unexpected, MLB Gameday was sucked into an alternate universe, freezing in the middle of the big comeback, and eventually shambing along to report our victory, 17 minutes after it actually happened. Hah. No such delay when we lost, was there?
Admittedly, five of those runs were unearned, but the eighth inning did come off a pitcher, in Logan Ondrusek, who was a regular part of the Reds bullpen last year, so it wasn't as it we teed off on some no-name A-ball guy. I think we need to honor the offense, by starting with them and the fifteen hits the accumulated. Two were by Willie Bloomquist, and two more by Ed Rogers - Brandon Allen went one better than that pair, by getting his two hits in the same inning. He drove in a run with a triple when he came up second to bat, then two more with a double as the eleventh of our 12 hitters in the frame. It should have been over after three runs, but a two out error prolonged things; though we'd already managed to hit for the collective cycle by that point, doing so in just the first five batters.
Chris Young nailed his third long-ball of the pre-season, a two-run shot with one man out in the sixth, and Adam Eaton also had a two-run blast, as part of the mega inning. To give you some idea, no NL team during the regular season has come back from such a margin since 1994, when the Astros beat the Cardinals, despite being 11-0 down after three innings. [The last team in the majors to come back from ten down were the A's against the Twins in July 2009.] Of course, in a regular-season game, there's no way any manager would hang a reliever out there to allow eight unearned runs and blow the game. But, still... W00t!
Credit must also go to Demel, Jordan Norberto, Joe Paterson and Brian Sweeney, who shut the Reds out for five innings, on a total of one hit and two walks. The only time the Reds even vaguely threatened after the fourth, was when Norberto walked the first couple of batters he faced, in his second frame of work, the seventh. However, he retired the next three hitters faced, so no damage was done. Good to see another quality inning from Paterson, who is continuing to perform the best of any of our left-handed relief candidates. Mind you, the way Hampton pitched, yours truly would probably have qualified this afternoon.
He was just part of an embarrassing front half of the game which saw him, Demel and Saunders combine to allow ten hits, three of which were home-runs (including one by the opposing pitcher), three walks, and ten runs in four innings. IHSB reckoned that for Saunders stuff, it was a case of "Off-speed good, fastball hittable," while Saunders himself said "My arm probably felt a little too good. I tried to overthrow some pitches," but that he could have gone five innings. Given what happened in the fourth, maybe he should have carried on. Instead. his finall line was four runs in three, on six hits, with no walks and two strikeouts.
Walk. Home-run. Home-run. Ground-out. Walk. Walk. That was the entirety of Hampton's outing, and his chances of making the Opening Day roster - already slimmer than a supermodel - took another clobbering. Admittedly, his ERA was not helped by Demel allowing both runners he inherited from Hampton to score. But even discounting that, it's almost impossible to look at the other numbers on his pre-season line, which is now 16 hits and seven walks in 8.1 innings, and see someone who will be a positive contributor to the bullpen.
Jarring news off the field, where the J.J. Putz injury may not be as trivial as hoped. It's all a bit vague, but MLB.com reports, "Putz could miss the remainder of Spring Training if a muscle injury in his back is more serious than anticipated." Well, yeah. I could miss the remainder of Spring Training if my head falls off too. It's aggravating due to the lack of info, with even Kirk Gibson vague: "He's not getting an MRI or doing anything like that... They're going to treat him and really just see how he is every day. If we head three or four days down the road and there's not significant improvement then I think you'd look at different types of testing." And a replacement closer, one suspects.