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AZ 3, Giants 8 - Going Under

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Record: 35-36. Change on last season: +8

The view from below .500 is radically different from the view you get with a winning record. Even at one game over, you can still credibly say something like: "The NL West is very weak this year - 85 wins might be enough to win it." However, as soon as you slip below .500, you know you are not going to the playoffs, and your aim suddenly shifts to reaching that level.

This is now what faces the Diamondbacks, after their fifth loss in a row, and a performance which was sub-par in a whole variety of ways, not least the old nemesis, RISP. First innings, men on the corners, one out: Glaus and Clark fail to deliver. Third innings, second and third, nobody out: Clayton, Gonzalez and Glaus fail to deliver. And don't even get me started about the seventh: bases loaded, nobody out, and we produce a sac fly and a double play. 2-for-11 with RISP.

You know your offense has problems when Royce Clayton and Quinton McCracken have as many hits as the rest of the line-up combined. But that was the case last night: Clayton went 3-for-4 and McCracken added a couple of hits. Glaus was 0-for-4 with seven men left on base. Of 104 NL hitters who've had 50+ plate-appearances with runners in scoring position, Glaus's .190 BA ranks 95th - we also have Shawn Green (.211, 90th) and Chris Snyder (.150, 102nd) down there.

Still, at least Glaus was in the lineup, suggesting his wrist injury was nothing too bad. However, it turns out that Ortiz has a stress fracture in his ribcage, and will take at least two weeks off before even looking at starting to throw again. And speaking of injuries, Oscar Villarreal - remember him? - ended up in a Cleveland hospital over the weekend after passing a kidney stone.

Meanwhile, Javy Vazquez found a new excuse for his five-inning, ten-hit performance: blame the baseballs. Moaned Vazquez afterwards, "They were terrible. Those were the worst balls I've ever pitched with." In case you didn't know, balls are rubbed before each game with a substance called Lena Blackburne Rubbing Mud (which is in the Hall of Fame!), to take the shine off without scratching them. Vazquez claimed this wasn't done properly here, hence his poor performance. S'funny, didn't seem to bother the Giants.

And you just know our bullpen had to get in on the act - four runs in three innings of work, all charged to Lance Cormier, who is looking very mortal recently. In his last four outings, he's thrown 5.1 innings, allowed nine hits, four walks, and been charged with eight earned runs. That zero ERA he had for his first month must seem like it came from a different universe now, and an "injury" may be looming - or would, if we had anyone credible left to bring up.

However, as William K pointed out in the comments (thanks to Carlos and Daniel for stopping by too - and an admirable lack of gloating from the latter, Giants fan!) Medders made his big-league debut and allowed only a walk in an innings. Certainly, I'm not prepared to anoint him the resurrected body of Goose Gossage yet, but at this point, any scoreless innings pitched by a newcomer to the bullpen, is better than we've been getting.

Ooh, catfight! Following the Banana's claim of clubhouse tension around Jose Cruz, and the picture of Darth Vader taped to his locker, the team have come up with their "explanation". Says "Nothing could be further from the truth, according to Cruz, his manager and teammates. In fact, Cruz himself put the picture up before the game even started. Knowing he loves "Star Wars," the photo was shown to him, and the light blue highlighter under the eyes was added because as part of the Prostate Cancer Foundation Home Run Challenge, players wore light blue sweatbands. "I thought it was cool, so I put it up," Cruz said."

And yet, here's a quote from the original piece: "Cruz was visibly upset and later, when reporters approached, he stammered something to the effect that he is a big "Star Wars freak" and the picture of Vader "came in a box with other stuff," but that didn't appear to be the case." Someone, somewhere is very clearly telling porkies, as we used to say in Britain. And there was I, almost willing to believe the club, right up until that guff about the highlighter.