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AZ 8, Padres 6 - Art Imitating Life

Record: 11-8, change on last year: +3

Not only is Kung Fu Hustle the most entertaining movie of the year so far (see the sidebar for a full review), it also has a great deal of resonance. For it tells the story of a bunch of plucky underdogs who possess unexpected skills, and use them to defeat their foes, against all expectations. Ring any bells?

Yep. The D'backs completed a sweep of preseason division favourites, the San Diego Padres, with an 8-6 victory at BOB last night, that sends us three games above .500. They finally broke out of their offensive slump, with fourteen hits leading to eight runs. Hell, in the third innings alone, we sent ten men to the plate, and scored as many runs then, as in any game since April 9.

The highlight of that frame was a three-run homer for Tony Clark, but Quinton McCracken also hit his first four-bagger of the season, in the fifth. Troy Glaus had his second three-hit game in a row, after sitting out yesterday - his performances, in this series at least, are pleasantly belying the theory he can't hit for average. Koyie Hill, McCracken and Alex Cintron all had two hits.

Cintron replaced Counsell, and batted leadoff; I get the strange feeling he's being placed in the shop window as a Nomar-replacement. Or is it mere coincidence he's suddenly getting a lot more playing time? Interesting quote from Alex in the paper: "You also play for 29 other teams - you're here today, but you don't know where you're going to be tomorrow." Hmmm...

In the comments, IndyDBack wonders what we would ask for in exchange? I think the short answer is "pitching". We're having to pick up other team's rejects like Javier Lopez to bolster our bullpen, which is no long-term solution. Though our starting rotation has been more solid than expected, I'm not confident there's any depth to it at all: Lance Cormier might be okay for a couple of starts, but beyond that? And there's not much coming up in our farm system to strike fear into the hearts of hitters. On the other hand, the Cubs bullpen is no deeper than ours, i.e. painfully thin.

I'd still far rather see Clayton or Counsell dispatched than Cintron, who I think has got far more potential - Clayton, especially, is a one-year rental, but I don't think even the desperate Cubs would bite. Mind you, they did sign Neifi Perez, so are clearly our rivals when it comes to acquiring weak-hitting middle infielders...

Back at the game, this positive feast of run-scoring eventually proved almost entirely necessary, despite Arizona cruising to an 8-1 lead with two out in the top of the San Diego seventh. One homer off Estes (who had tweaked his Achilles just before), and a very wobbly outing from Brian Bruney later, the Padres had the tying run at the plate. Brandon Lyon came on, let that tying run get on base, but ended the threat and, an innings later, nailed down his eighth save.

Estes took the win, with just three hits over seven innings, though he almost pitched for the cycle, as those hits were a double, a triple and a homer. He did walk four, but still got his ERA down below 4.00, and picked up his second win of the season, and even more impressively, his eighth straight against San Diego.

Beyond the baselines, the first of our "new" veterans came up from Tucson, Javier Lopez getting the call, while (to no-one's great surprise) Mike Gosling went down to Triple-A, to resume life there as an everyday starter. For the moment, at least.

Okay, and the Suns won. As frienetic pointed out, they did have to take a back seat in 2001. But there'll be no bandwagon-jumping for me. I have despised basketball with a passion almost since I moved out here; this hatred became cemented when UPN 45 replaced Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Suns games, what seemed like every other week. [Even though by this time, Buffy was well past its peak of greatness] So it would be hypocritical for me to start cheering for them now. :-)

Thanks also to Otacon and Ryan for stopping by. Ryan suggests giving Lance Cormier more to do, which might not be a bad thing; he's done well so far - 5 IP, two hits, no runs. But he and Lyon are the only relievers with an ERA under 5.50 after Bruney's little blowup. We'll see what Javier Lopez does, I suppose, but I'm not overly optimistic.

Heroes + Zeroes, Series 7: home vs. Padres
Brandon Webb, 8 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 1 ER
Alex Cintron, 5-for-8
Troy Glaus, 6-for-10
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Craig Counsell, 1-for-7
Brian Bruney, 2/3 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 3 ER

Not much to complain about, especially on the batting front where, in two of the three games, every starter bar the pitcher had a hit. However, top honours go to Webb, for continuing his run of very solid performances. Cintron hit the ground running, starting two consecutive games for the first time, and is increasing his value with every hit. On the downside, Counsell's opening tear seems to be over, while Bruney may be the next one sent back to Tucson.

One final note: if we discount the Opening Day disaster, our starters are, on average, pitching one out into the seventh innings. This is a marked improvement on last year, and I think I speak for most people when I say that the longer we can keep our shaky bullpen out of games, the better.