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AZ 6, Dodgers 3 - View From The Top

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Record: 14-8. Change on last season: +5

ARIZONA       14  8 
Los Angeles   13  8
San Francisco 10 11
San Diego      9 13
Colorado       6 13

The Diamondbacks lead the NL West and...

No, let's just bask in the glory of that for the moment: "The Diamondbacks lead the NL West". I've been doing this for almost two years, during which time Arizona has played 312 games, and I've never been able to say that before. Early season cheats excepted ("Look! We're only one game out!" "But we've only played one game?"), the closest during my tenure as a blogger was 3 1/2 games back of the Giants on July 9-10, 2003. They then came to town, took two of three from us, and we've never been legitimately in the title hunt since.

So, pardon me if this is all somewhat novel. It's like climbing up the inside of a tall, dark bell-tower, only to emerge at the top into brilliant sunlight. Somewhat disoriented, you blink, and cling tightly onto the railing, for fear of toppling over the edge and plummeting back down into the dark depths. It's way too early to call this the greatest turnaround in baseball history, but now our destiny is entirely in our own hands: win the remaining 140 games, and the division is ours. ;-)

A relatively easy win for us last night - a whole three-run margin of victory, our biggest in two weeks. We seem to like Wednesdays: we're 4-0 when we play on one, and our three largest wins (8-3, 5-2 and now 6-3) have all come on that day of the week.

The key was Counsell getting HBP with the bases loaded, driving in the tying run. LA didn't agree; said Dodgers catcher Jason Phillips, "Counsell is notorious for getting hit on pitches like that. He's a pesky guy, so he doesn't have many friends in this clubhouse. I said something to him when he was up in the 9th inning, because the ball was a strike and it only missed him by an inch and a half."

Let's see, shall we? To the start of the 2005 season: Counsell's career total HBP = 19 in 2496 at-bats. Jason Phillips = 19 in 791 ABs. Case closed: pot, kettle, black. Anyway, one out later, Gonzo had a clutch 2-RBI single, and we kept the Dodgers in check from then on. Luis Terrero had to grab a shot from Drew at the top of the fence, but that wasn't the best defensive play of the game; give that to Counsell catching a foul pop, then somersaulting into the new box seats. Hey, you wanted to get closer to the action.

Speaking of the crowd, a full house at Dodger Stadium, thanks less probably to the presence of the (now NL-West leading!) D'backs, than a fleece blanket giveaway - even if the blanket honoured the 1962 and 1966 World Champion Dodgers. Should have been 1963 + 1965; for their team's sake, I hope the scouting reports are a little better researched.

Halsey clearly didn't have his best last night, but bore down when necessary; you can argue it's the mark of a good pitcher to keep your team in every game. Nine hits over five innings, but no walks, and though his ERA is up to 3.21, I think he'd be a credible candidate for Rookie of the Month, if they had it. Cormier got the win for his sixth innings, and has still to give up a run; Koplove walked two but allowed no hits in the 7th/8th. Javier Lopez got the save - I believe Lyon was getting a new arm transplanted from a gorilla.

Clayton was dropped to eighth, amid roars of "About time too!" from most of the D'backs community (including Enoch + Otacon in the comments section). "Yeah, but it [stinks]. It's nothing that's fun," said Clayton - though it was unclear whether he was talking about hitting eighth, or his .232 average when the change was made... Thanks also to frienetic, William K, Ryan and Daniel for popping in and sharing this novel experience of division leadership. I can see my house from here! :-)

Heroes + Zeroes, Series 8: road vs. Dodgers
Brandon Lyon: 2 crucial saves
Javier Vazquez: 8 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K
Luis Gonzalez: 5-for-12, 3 RBI
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Koyie Hill: 1-for-8, 5 K

It seems almost churlish to pick any zeroes on a team which did something never before accomplished, sweeping the Dodgers in LA, but consider this a mild tap on the wrist, Mr. Hill. Lyon deserves top honours, for locking down the two opening games, while Vazquez continued to bounce back, and Gonzo's clutch 2-out hit last night was the game-winner for us.

It's a well-earned day-off for the D'backs today, who can reflect on two straight sweeps before heading into the wide-open plains of Petco Park. I might even have a chance to look at my fantasy team this afternoon, whom I notice are limping along in 8th place with no starting pitching to speak of. But, really: who needs fantasy baseball when the real thing is just so much fun?