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AZ 3, Nationals 4 - Cruz control

Record: 18-15. Change on last season: +4

[Transcript of a phone call yesterday afternoon, between Bob Melvin, and Tucson Sidewinders' manager, Chip Hale]

"Hello, Chip, Bob here. Is Jose Cruz ready yet?"
"Jose? He only arrived yesterday!"
"But isn't he hitting .333 and slugging .667?"
"Yes, Bob. In three at-bats."
"Don't think you understand the situation, Chip. We've got Quinton McCracken in center."
"Ah. I see your point."
"Let me put it this way. Does Cruz need to be wheeled into the outfield?"
"Has he fallen down in the batter's box?"
"Does a count of moderately-functioning limbs pass 3?"
"Okay, that's good enough. Send him up."

And so, Jose Cruz Jr's "rehab assignement" lasted just one game before he got yanked back to play with the big boys. Said Melvin, "He was here for a reason, and one of the reasons was because he swings the bat." Ah, that's where McCracken has been going wrong. However, it wasn't Q who was disposed of, but Matt Kata - about the only one who still had options left; probably the second-best option under the circumstances.

Another sub-20,000 crowd at BOB, likely hit by the Suns playoff run - though I wonder how many at the park just couldn't get in to America West Arena? Maybe that's why Gonzalez and Melvin got themselves tossed, so they could slip off and watch. Said Gonzo, "I probably shouldn't have gotten thrown out of the game." No kidding - especially when it means McCracken takes your spot. Next time you get worked up, Luis, take a look over at the dugout, and if you see Quinton taking off his jacket, do us all a favour, and just walk away.

A somewhat bitter Gonzalez also said: "We're fine regardless of what our announcers or any of the other announcers say... We don't need people telling us we can't drive in runs and things like that. We know what we can and can't do in here. A month ago [people] said our pitching stunk, and now the fans are saying they're doing great and our hitters can't hit...We [couldn't] care less what everybody else says, because those are the same people that are going to be riding our coattails if we get to the playoffs saying what a great team this is."

Few things annoy me more than exceedingly well-paid athletes griping about...well, anything. Luis Gonzalez is paid more than ten million dollars this year - 25 times as much as the President of the United States - to wave a bit of wood at a ball. And if he fails seven times out of ten, we're still happy. Given the circumstances, all behaviour other than being very, very grateful is unseemly.

Back in the game, we were 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, though at least this time we weren't radically outplayed, as has been the case in the past couple. We never led, though did come back from a 3-0 deficit in the seventh, to tie it on a two-run shot by Tracy and a sac fly from Shawn Green. However, Jose Valverde's second unacceptable outing in a row, giving up more hits than outs, stuck him with the loss and Washington/Montreal beat us for the tenth straight time.

In the starting role, Webb wasn't bad - nine hits through seven innings, but no free passes, and he struck out six Nationals. That line was probably better than eventual winner Hernandez, who also went seven, allowing three runs and six K's, but gave up six walks in addition to eight hits.

Three of those were for Counsell, with two to Glaus and Tracy - the latter was moved into the #2 spot, with Cruz in the sixth spot, and Clayton dropped to seventh. Much credit for Cruz, who had no less than four walks - as Otacon pointed out in the comments, almost half as many as McCracken and Terrero, combined, have managed all season [Thanks also to William K, IndyDBack and Ryan for tearing themselves from the Suns rout].

Perhaps that was just the Nationals pitchers deciding that they might as well give him a free pass, so they could get to the soft underbelly of our lineup: Clayton, Snyder and the pitcher's spot, hitting a combined .202 this season. As Enoch pointed out yesterday, while CF and SS are obviously deficient holes in our offense, catcher may be worse yet, relatively speaking, with 1B and RF also below average.

The spring training success of Hill and Snyder, which convinced the club to dump Kelly Stinnett, now seems a very long way away. Melvin's not happy: "It's tough splitting [playing time] sometimes, offensively. We knew that may be the case. Certainly, we need to get more production. If that means catching one of them on a little more of a regular basis, that's something we could look at." Hill or Snyder? Probably the latter; I'd hope so, in the long-term, he's likely to be the one sticking around.