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AZ 3/3, Nationals 9/7 - Seventh-innings retch

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Record: 6-6. Change on last season: +2

Runs scored by Nats in 7th innings, Sat + Sun: 13
Runs scored in all other innings combined: 3

Ouch. That's gotta sting. Questions were asked of our bullpen during both Saturday and Sunday's games, and the answer was clear: "we suck". Two innings, five earned runs on four hits and two walks in the first game by Bruney, Choate and Gosling. But if you missed that, why not tune in yesterday for a near-repeat performance? Two innings, four earned runs, four hits and three walks, by Bruney, Koplove and Gosling.

We also discovered on Saturday that John Patterson has learned how to pitch since he left us - or we're forgotten how to hit. Seven innings, four hits, one walk, no earned runs: if he'd had outings like that when he was in Arizona, he wouldn't have been traded to the Expos for...Randy Choate. [ERA this season, 12.27 in five games] I suspect this may end up being a move we regret, and we seem to be all but clueless with regard to handling pitching prospects - Webb is the only one to have come up through the organization and given us more than one decent season.

Russ Ortiz didn't pitch badly, allowing only two runs until the sixth innings, when he allowed the first two to reach, and was pulled, first for Bruney, then Choate, who failed to do their job. Still, four earned runs in six innings is a bit high for someone being paid $8m per year, n'est pas? [Sorry - thought we were still playing the Expos] But on the whole, we can't blame him for this loss. Again, Castilla owned us, going 3-for-3 with 4 more RBIs and two runs scored, exactly the same as he did on Friday.

Offensively, Tracy had two hits, and Gonzo drove in all three RBIs, including his third home run of the season. But by the time our bats woke up in the eighth, we were already nine runs in the hole. We did get the bases loaded in the ninth, but Alex Cintron popped out to end the game and send us down 9-3.

Sunday's game had another good performance from Brad Halsey, whose performance almost mirrored Russ Ortiz - fine through six innings, then left in a tad too long, and our relievers proved worse than useless. Seven hits, no walks, and he departed having allowed only one earned run, before the two runners inherited by Koplove came round.

After getting the lead runner nailed at the plate, Koplove was quite awful, going two-run triple, walk, RBI single, K, IBB, RBI walk. The IBB made sense, since that brought up Christian Guzman, batting .114 this season. But Koplove walked him too, something that had never happened to Guzman with the bases loaded in his entire career, now in its 7th year.

Admittedly, Koplove wasn't helped by Koyie Hill not getting his throw off quickly enough, on what should have been a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double steal of second and third. And the game shouldn't even have been close at the stretch. We had a 3-1 lead with runners on the corners and nobody out, and completely failed to score - Gonzo hit into a double play, and Glaus flew out.

All the above is the kind of nonsense done by teams who lose 111 games, not those making noises about contending. On offense, Counsell had three hits and two RBIs; Tracy had two more hits, keeping his average up at .385. And at least our team was consistent, scoring exactly three runs every game in the series. Thanks to Otacon, az penguin, IndyDBack and Enoch for keeping the fires burning here while I fiddled at work.

Heroes and Zeroes - Series 4, vs. Nationals, on road.
Chad Tracy: 5-for-11, 3 RBI
----------------------------------------------
Snyder: 0-for-7, 0 BB
Choate: 1.2 IP, 4 ER
Koplove: 0.2 IP, 4 ER, loss

If there were few zeroes in the Rockies series, there were few heroes to be found here. Not in a batting lineup that averaged .206, and very obviously not in the bullpen. Tracy continues to do well, and is gradually making his way up the batting order. He's hitting a mere 160 points better than Clayton, and the writing is on the wall. In large, neon letters saying "Bench Royce", actually.

So we go from sweep to swept, and that's now nine in a row lost to the Expos/Nationals. The last time we beat them was so long ago...[how long ago was it?] that Raul Mondesi got the game-winning hit, the starting pitcher was Miguel Batista, and we averaged more than 31,000+ attendance at BOB for the set. My, how times have changed.

Back in the present, our offense has suddenly gone quiet - we scored forty-one runs in the first six games, but only twenty in the last six. I prescribe a trip to Coors...and, hey, that's exactly where the D'backs are going. If we don't score more than nine runs in this series, we'll know there's something seriously wrong. However, it threatens to be another significant strain on our bullpen arms.

Given this, was surprised to see Scott Hairston called up from Tucson to replace Jose Cruz, whose back problems finally sent him to the DL. I'd have thought a 12th pitcher would be a better idea than another backup position player, with a Colorado visit imminent. McCracken should get the starts in center while Cruz is out, with Hairston operating as a pinch-hitter. We also added an arm in Tucson, right-hander Kerry Ligtenberg; if our bullpen continues its current run of performances, I don't think it'll be long before some of these new additions are coming up I-10.

One of the main reasons for getting a satellite radio was that I can now listen to any baseball game I want. So far though, it's been limited to a few innings of the D'backs game on Sunday - that was an interesting experience, since XM seem to go with the home team, meaning I was listening to the Washington broadcasters, and their obvious bias (rather than our obvious bias). It did make a change from the regular guys, but the biggest difference was that every second advert seemed to use the word "federal". Guess this is big in Washington for some reason. ;-)

Finally, at the risk of tooting our own SportsBlogs trumpet, nice article in the New York Times today about us. No obvious spike in the number of visitors to the site as yet! There's also a new SportsBlogs general site, which is a good way to see all the content being published across the blogregation...but only if you can afford to waste a good hour as a result!