Record: 20-15. Change on last season: +6
We seem to like winning 3-2: half of our past eight victories that have come by the same score, the odd run in five. This was a back and forth game. The Nationals took the lead in the second; we tied it in the fifth; they led in the seventh; we tied it up again in the bottom half of the innings. Then Chad Tracy drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth, after Troy Glaus and Shawn Green had singled.
It was a bit risky, challenging Jose Guillen's arm with Green, but third-base coach Carlos Tosca said of the Nationals' outfielder, "He was playing a little deeper than normal. I've kind of been watching him the whole series, and it just looked like his legs were bothering him. And you need your legs to throw." That may, or may not, be BS, but it worked.
Glaus had two hits, extending his streak of multi-hit games to three, while Craig Counsell had three and his glove work was bordering on the insane. Everyone (even Vazquez) had a hit, bar Cintron and...dare I mention it, or will I get my head bitten off?...Gonzalez, who has lost 44 points off his average in the past week, going 2-for-22. Sure it's only temporary though.
This proved just enough to back another solid performance by our pitchers: Vazquez went seven strong innings, fanning seven and walking none, while allowing six hits and two runs. That makes his K/BB ratio over the last three outing an impressive 23:0. Overall, his 6.38 in this stat makes him #2 in the NL, behind only Pedro Martinez at 7.00. Brad Halsey, of all people, is ranked =6th, and even Brandon Webb is =31st. Webb's figure this season, 2.20, is closer to his 2003 rookie year (2.53) than last year's walk-errific 1.38.
[We do still have some way to go to match the Twins, who have the top three of all baseball in this stat, all in double digits. They're led by Brad Radke who, in fifty-six innings, has walked one hitter, while striking out 34.]
Lance Cormier and Brandon Webb polished off the last two frames, permitting just one walk between them. The pair have been the closest we've got to a sure thing in the bullpen, throwing 32.1 innings between them, and allowing only three earned runs - none in 17.2 innings since April 22nd. I'm still not quite convinced Lyon is the answer as a closer: opposing hitters still bat .275 against him, but he's only allowed three walks all season. For now, I'll take it.
Heroes and Zeroes, Series 12: vs. Nationals, at home
Craig Counsell: 6-for-11, stellar defense
Brandon Lyon: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 3 K, 2 x one-run saves
Troy Glaus: 6-for-12, 3 RBI
Valverde: 0.1 IP, 2 H, ER, loss
Gonzalez: 0-for-10. It's the commentators' fault.
Feel the love! I say again, feel the love!. Yes, all of a sudden even ESPN.com are beginning to notice us, calling Javier Vazquez, "the big news of the season so far". It appears our chances of sliding quietly under the radar have finally evaporated. However, Dayn "the Pain" Perry still ranks us seventeenth, behind the likes of Detroit - who aren't even at .500 - proving his continuing obsession with run differential knows no bounds.
Last night's victory finishes off a 5-5 homestand, which is a bit disappointing. I'd like to have seen us get one more win off the Pirates, though they have been playing well above expectations - indeed, they've more road wins than any other NL team. But combined with the Dodgers going down, we're still just one game back of LA.
They play St. Louis and Atlanta until Sunday, so fingers crossed, we have a chance of passing them this weekend. But don't look now: the preseason favourite Padres have started putting together a good run. They've won eight out of ten, and are only one game behind us. Another thing to bear in mind about the schedule. We've played 22 games at home; the Dodgers and Padres only 14 each. That's a gap that's going to have to be made up at some point, so we really need to build a cushion for those road trips.
Looks like Snyder will be the regular catcher. Said Bob Melvin, "It hasn't really worked offensively enough, so I'm kind of shifting gears here a little bit. "We'll go with Snyder here maybe five out of six, or four out of five, or something like that." The writing is on the wall for Hill now, with Kelly Stinnett soon to be lurking in Tucson; you know they didn't sign him to play the minors. [Speaking of which, Randy Choate cleared waivers - surprise, surprise - and will report to Triple-A]
The World Baseball Classic will probably be coming to Arizona next spring. Our state would host one of the preliminary pools, with the likely participants here being the USA, Canada, Mexico and perhaps South Africa. I'm deeply enthusiastic about this prospect, an essential step to making baseball the global sport it deserves to be. Just a shame Britain hasn't a chance in hell of qualifying. :-)