Record: 28-24. Pace: 87-75. Change on last year: +8 (?!).
For those of you that don't know, Zach Duke made his return today from the disabled list, something a lot of us here at the 'Pit had been anticipating. After Galarraga's departure (well, demotion... as of writing), the Diamondbacks had a hole in the five spot in the rotation. Micah Owings gave it a go, and certainly functioned well as a replacement; however, he acted as a temporary stopgap, bridging the time between then and now. All we really wanted was a nice start, something to show us that Duke could hold his own as a fifth starter. Saying he did that would be an understatement. Heck, even saying he did that and a little more would be understating Duke's performance today. His awesomeness knew no bounds; in fact, it even carried over to the plate... hit the jump for a detailed account of El Dia del Duque.
The game didn't start off particularly interestingly - neither team managed a baserunner in the first - but it was nice to see Duke avoid any damage early on, something that the team's staff's been struggling with thus far in 2011. Houston's Bud Norris was the first to budge, allowing a leadoff single to Stephen Drew in the second. A one-out single from Miguel Montero advanced Drew to second, and a walk to Juan Miranda loaded them up, putting some big pressure on Norris. Evidently, it was too much, as a balk moved all of the runners forward a base, putting Arizona on the board with a 1-0 lead. Gerardo Parra sac'd one to center, allowing Montero to score the Diamondbacks' second run, before Zach Duke grounded out in his first at-bat with his new club. What a bum...
I'd fill some more space here with "Houston added a hit in the second, a double in the third, etc, etc", but it'd be pure fabrication: the Astros didn't manage to get on base against him until the fourth, when Clint Barmes hit a soft single to left. Yeah, he went through the order once, unscathed. Not bad, Dukester. Actually, the most notable part of Duke's night was actually the top portion of the fourth, the half in which Arizona was at the plate. Drew led off with a single once again (reaching second in the next at-bat on an error) and later scored on a Montero double to right. Miranda struck out, bringing Gerardo Parra up with a runner in scoring position and two down. Clearly, Houston wanted to avoid any unnecessary scoring with the pitcher's spot up next, so Parra was issued a free pass, bringing Duke to the plate with two on and two down. Zach was put in a quick 0-2 hole against Norris - just a strike away from ending the inning - and corked one into the left field bleachers (opposite field!) for a three-run homer, Duke's first bomb in his 376 Major League plate appearances. Not too shabby, Zach... not too shabby.
Really, I could just leave the recap at "the Diamondbacks kept pouring it on, and Duke kept on being awesome". But where's the fun in that? Houston didn't get their second baserunner until the sixth (on Duke's sole walk of the night), and didn't get another hit until the seventh, an inning in which they managed two (zomg what's wrong with you, Zach). Duke fought through it, though, and Houston couldn't get a run off of Duke, who exited the game after the seventh with a sparkling 0.00 ERA. All of you mathematical haters that say he can't maintain it with your newfangled numbers and formulas can go chill over there; imma be happy with my optimism right here. Ok, so maybe it's not quite sustainable, but a line of seven innings, three hits, one walk, and five strikeouts in your debut as a fifth starter? It'll be interesting to see where he settles down, but saying "better than Galarraga" doesn't seem to be too much of a stretch at this point. Plus, he's not a whiny little b-... er, ballplayer.
Arizona added two more in the eighth after Chris Young doubled (who leads the league in XBH, by the way) and Miggy singled him home and Parra hit a two-run shot to right. Zach the Second (referred to as some as Zach Kroenke) came into the game as Duke's replacement and performed decidedly worse than his starting counterpart. Although he pitched a clean eighth, he apparently missed the memo that said the whole "ninth inning suckage of 2010" deal was removed from the 2011 agenda. Despite the Astros' starting of the inning with single-single-double-single (followed by an RBI groundout), the three runs didn't stand up too well to Arizona's eleven. Pinch-hitting Angel Sanchez grounded out to Kroenke for the second out, and a popup from J.R. Towles ended the game, giving Duke his first win of the year. I'd say he performed admirably. And then some.
Duke of Hurl: Zach Duke (hitting + pitching) +28.5%
Had Four Hits I Forgot to Mention: Stephen Drew, +17.2%
Not Quite Zach Duke: Chris Young, -6.1%
A fair amount of us were here today to watch Duke's debut, as evidenced by the 900+ comments in today's GDT. Only one poster managed triple digits, as imstillhungry95 hit 100 on the dot, as Clefo and IHateSouthBend took second and third respectively. All involved today were: blank_38, piratedan7, hotclaws, BulldogsNotZags, Backin'the'Backs, txzona, dback4life, Jim McLennan, xmet, kishi, LiamNeeson, snakecharmer, Torpedosneak, DeDxDbacKxJroK, Zavada's Moustache, Bryan J. Boltik, shoewizard, The Goat, marionette, Scottyyy, Skii, Zephon, Sprankton, SenSurround, Rockkstarr12, RedBirdRevival, BattleMoses, nateasaurus, Gibbysdad, and TinySarabia.
Comment of the Day goes to txzona, with the following meme that has yet to die. Hey, it was apropos, so I'll let it slide:
We're going streaking, as today's win marks the fifth consecutive game to go in our favor. We're 13-2 in our last fifteen, something that my brain is still trying to process. Josh Collmenter takes the hill tomorrow against J.A. Happ as Arizona looks to win their sixth game in a row and sweep the Astros in their own place. See you guys tomorrow - oh, and hey, you can watch tomorrow's game, too.