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AZ 8, Cubs 3 - We're #1! We're #1

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Record: 2-1. Change from last season: 0.

Well, well - look at that. Who's this atop the NL West this morning, with a 2-1 record and a 1/2 game lead over the rest of the division? It's your 2005 Arizona Diamondbacks! Okay, so we're still slightly less than 1/50th of the way through the season, but after the drubbing we took on Opening Day, I'm highly pleased with the way the team has bounced back to take the next two games.

We do seem to have the Cubs number though - they're the only one of the 15 other NL teams we posted a winning record against in 2004, going 4-2, and though they outscored us 23-19 this year, we come away with the series win. And, actually, tonight's win may have been only 8-3, but that was still our biggest in a long time: you've got to go back all the way to July 8, 2004 - 75 games! - to find a bigger margin of victory. We beat Colorado 9-3 that night; oddly, Brandon Webb got the win there as well.

He was adequate rather than overpowering last night, wandering in and out of trouble through much of the front 5 1/3 innings, allowing five hits, three walks and a wild pitch. He was, very obviously, totally gassed by the sixth, and should not have been left to bat for himself in the fifth. Given this, it's quite impressive he left with a 0 on the board - he was good at getting the big outs when he needed them, such as the first, where a Cubs hit and run turned into a line-drive double play. It was only Bruney serving up a three-run shot to Michael Barrett that spoiled Webb's shutout.

Koplove took care of the seventh and eighth with little difficulty, and Choate and Lyon the ninth. Surprised to see Lyon out in a non-save situation, but he only threw eleven pitches and K'd both Garciaparra and Ramirez, which was an impressive feat. I think, touch wood, that we may not be seeing much of Aquino in the ninth innings this year - if Lyon keeps this up, he could be our best closer in a number of years. Kim's 2002 franchise record of 36 saves could be in jeopardy. The rest of our pen may require me to make several pharmacy runs to Nogales for more Prozac.

Offensively, it was another good night, as we leapt out to a 7-0 lead by the fourth, with five straight two-out hits in that innings doing much of the damage. We banged out 13 hits in total, and drew another six walks: for the series, five starters hit above .350, led by Chad Tracy's amazing .545. Glaus came within a single of the cycle, with his first 3 RBIs - both the triple and homer went deep to opposite-field - and also stole a base. Cruz, Tracy and Gonzo had two-hit games, while Counsell did go 0-for-3, but drew two walks.

Only 26,789 at BOB for the game, which against the Cubs is pretty woeful. [We played them on a Mon-Wed in April 2004 too, but averaged crowds of 34,000+ then] I think people are waiting to get a handle on whether this team is any good or not, but I dread to think what the attendance will be like next week when the massively unpopular Rockies come to town. Last time they visited, Monday set a BOB record low of 22,070 [beaten later by 21,710 for a Brewers game], though we had lost 100 games by that point.

See here for the rest of my running commentary on last night's game, and to find out why Troy Glaus will be referred to, for the rest of the season, as "Glaus the Gross", no matter how many home runs he hits. ;-)

And we're #21 too! We're #21! TMR published their 2005 Fan Cost Index, and was surprised to see how well Arizona did, overall in the bottom third of major-league teams for cost. This was less because of our ticket prices (only marginally below average) than the fringe things like concessions. Our programs are a buck, beaten solely by Atlanta, who give theirs away, while the new $4 beer is 25% below average.

Just be glad we don't live in Boston. Assume a standard night at the ballpark for me and Chris is two average tickets, parking, two beers (for me - I'll assume the $4 ones here, even though that's for domestic...no, not if you paid me $4!), a soda (for her) and a pair of hot-dogs. Here in Phoenix that'd cost us $65.73; exactly the same at Fenway: $133.37. Ouch. And the Fan Cost Index only went up 5% following the World Series win: you were paying almost as much last year, following 85 championship-less years.

The economics of sports is interesting: the Yankees were second-most expensive, but third priciest were the Cubs. Obviously there's an element of supply and demand at work here - tickets to Fenway or Wrigley are notoriously hard to come by - but demand is clearly not linearly (or even tangentially) connected to success. However, lack of success does lead to lack of demand: the bottom three for ticket prices were Tampa Bay, Kansas and Colorado, who have not been sighted in the playoffs since the D'backs were created.

Oddly again though, just above them were the Marlins and Twins, and three of the past four World Series champs came in at below the average ticket cost. Meanwhile, the Giants gouged their average ticket price up 21% from last season, presumably expecting Bonds to pass Ruth and head towards Aaron. Looking a little premature that now, isn't it?

And a quick announcement of the birth, after last night's game, of another Diamondbacks blog, the as yet merely named AZ Dbacks, run by G Force. Welcome to the family!