Record: 65-53. Pace: 89-73. Change on last season: +18.
It was a game full of disappointment. One that threatened the good feelings pulsing through the veins of every fan in Arizona and beyond as the Diamondbacks stood on the precipice of losing any numerical edge in the division. It was a game that featured poor defense, bad luck, batter lost at the plate, and a late deficit. Don't get too excited. After the pride comes the fall.
But the Diamondbacks haven't fallen yet. Down to their last out, they found a way to keep it going. After that, anything can happen. And it did.
Joe Saunders has been due for a regression. The blistering July couldn't continue, and he couldn't possibly get better. Maybe he wouldn't turn into Barry Zito instantly, but luck was eventually going to abandon him. And it did tonight in spades. He didn't look particularly bad, but the Astros obviously weren't fooled by anything he was bringing to the plate. He posted a line of 6 innings pitched, with 5 earned runs off 11 hits, 2 walks, and only 2 strikeouts.
He unfortunately couldn't manage a single clean inning, and there were Astros all over the basepaths. It was all Houston for most of the game, and they scored fairly early to set the pace. In the third Jose Altuve made his way on with a single, then proceeded to steal second. Carlos Lee wasted no time in bringing home Altuve on a single of his own, and the Astros were up 1-0.
They would extend their lead in the top of the 5th, and by that point it seemed like the game was over. It started with the cardinal sin of walking the leadoff batter. To make matters worse, that batter was the opposing pitcher Bret Myers. Jason Bourgeois blooped a single that Justin Upton couldn't quite reach in right field. Then Altuve continued to be a thorn in the side of the Diamondbacks by successfully bunting his way on to load the bases, all with still no outs. A disaster was brewing, the kind that soft throwing magicians like Saunders or Doug Davis specialize in. Would our pitcher be able to get out of the jam?
No. JD Martinez, who seriously just needs to find some other team to pick on, launched a double to deep left that scored 2 runs. I'm not going to lie, when he hit it I had the nightmare image flash before me of a grand slam. So 2 runs isn't so bad. Carlos Lee was up next, and although he lined out for the first out of the inning, it was enough to bring Altuve in to score. 4-0 for the visitors, with a runner on third with still only one out. So all the Astros needed to do was hit it into the outfield and they'd be up a five spot. Luckily for Arizona, Brad Mills was apparently lobotomized before the game and elected to dial up a suicide squeeze, which the Astros ballsed up beyond belief to eliminate the runner at third. Still, a 4-0 deficit in the 5th inning seemed to be more than enough for the turgid offense the Diamondbacks had been rolling out so far.
I don't know what it is, but sometimes the Diamondbacks make the most random pitchers look like 1999 Pedro Martinez. Tonight it was Bret Myers turn to be mystifying, and he hogtied the D'backs fairly well for awhile. Before the 8th inning he had only given up 1 run while striking out 4. Okay, so maybe not '99 Pedro level, but the Diamondbacks looked lost. They finally got some fight in them in the 8th, though, to set the stage for a tremendous ending.
But we're not at the ending yet, we're still in the 8th inning. By this point the home team was down 5-1. Gnashing of teeth had commenced in the Gameday Thread, and only got worse when Sean Burroughs was tapped to pinch hit for Brad Ziegler. He promptly lined out, to the surprise of no one. Willie Bloomquist continued to be useful, however, and as the next batter drew a walk. Ryan Roberts, tired of taking crap from the Astros and Myers, tattooed a ball to deep left for an RBI double. He was then brought home by a nice Texas Leaguer by Miguel Montero to bring the score to 5-3.
The Diamondbacks bullpen was lockdown as usual, with Ziegler, Brian Shaw, and JJ Putz combining for 4 innings of work with only 1 hit, 1 walk, and 2 strikeouts. Say what you will about other parts of the team, but the bullpen kept it close to give the offense a chance to prove themselves.
And prove themselves they did, eventually. It didn't start out so hot, with Kelly Johnson continuing to struggle by striking out to open the inning. Xavier Nady should have been the second out, but the Astros screwed up the third to first throw, and he was safe. Gerardo Parra, he of Fear the Ears, stepped up to the plate looking to be the hero. But it wasn't in his destiny tonight, and he, too, struck out. At this point, the inning should have been over, if not for that defensive miscue. But with that fourth out, the Diamondbacks had Paul Goldschmidt up to the plate.
Every Arizona fan has been waiting to see more of Goldschmidt's power. Some players have the Kanye West song "Power," as their walk-up music, but Goldschmidt is the rare player who legitimately deserves the verse "no one man should have all that power." Well, he does, and he has it in spades. He battled Mark Melancon for 6 pitches, and then just destroyed the 7th with a swing that tied the game.
It wasn't over yet, though. We rolled to extra innings after Willie Bloomquist grounded out. After Putz dispatched the Astros with ease, the Diamondbacks were ready for a chance to end the game for good. Roberts led things off, and like he has all season, he was the spark plug to get things started. He scalded a ball that couldn't be handled by the shortstop Clint Barmes, and was safe at first with no throw. Justin Upton, looking to make up for a tough day out in the outfield, singled to put two on with no outs. Sergio Escalona, a left-handed specialist, was brought in to face Montero. Our All-Star catcher did his best to battle, but ultimately flied out to shallow enough to not allow the runners to advance.
For some odd reason, Brad Mills elected to keep Escalona in to face the right-handed Chris Young. It was the second decision of the day that I'm sure Mills would love to have back. Mark Grace, as Young walked up to the plate, mentioned how this signaled that the Astros didn't think Young had it in him right then to get a big hit. Young only needed to see two pitches to destroy that theory, and the ball, to launch the Diamondbacks to a win and a full game up on the Giants atop the NL West.
It was a tough game with a happy ending, and no one had more embarrassing day than Upton out in the field. Now to be fair to our All-Star outfielder, part of the problem is his range and that he has too much of it. There were three balls hit to him tonight that he could not convert into outs, two of which that hurt the Diamondbacks. The first one was a legitimate error by Upton, as it just hit the heel of his glove as he glided over to make the catch. The other two would have been miracle catches, however, with both needing a slide to even be in the position to get the glove near the ball. Maybe he's guilty of sliding when he should have just let the balls drop and not get by him, but he certainly isn't guilty of not putting effort into trying to make the play.
Jedi Master: Paul Goldschmidt (48.9%)
Jedi Knights: Chris Young (22%), JJ Putz (14.7%)
Jar Jar Binks: Joe Saunders (-16.5%)
That #$%!ing Kid In the First Prequel: Kelly Johnson (-12.1%)
An extra inning game with a great walkoff? Yeah you'd better believe that it generated a massive GDT. We exploded for 1300 comments in one thread, and amazingly only two were in the Century Club: DbacksSkins and I. We were joined by: BulldogsNotZags, Rockkstarr12, since_98, JustAJ, Clefo, 4 Corners Fan, kishi, Jim McLennan, porty99, hotclaws, blank_38, NASCARbernet, iheartdbacks, Sabean's_Folly, asteroid, GuruB, AZDBACKR, Zavada's Moustache, Husk, edbigghead, dbacks13, Dallas D'back Fan, piratedan7, TinySarabia, CaptainCanuck, Ian A, iTalk2Cornfields, txzona, Dan Strittmatter, Turambar, Muu, The so-called Beautiful, Jm3, Backin'the'Backs, mbarnard11, Augdogs, rfffr, jinnah, Jdub220, Coach Cleats, leftyheat1, Skii, Britback, Prosopis, mrssoco, Conrad Kaczmarek, Shane Yeo, andrewyno, njjohn, Brian MacKinney, and Frank Squishy.
Although not the most rec'd, these two comments by Zavada's Moustache truly captured the feel of the times. First, before Paul Goldschmidt pinch hit in the 9th:
And then after the home run:
Wake up, MLB. The Diamondbacks are coming for you.