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AZ 2, Giants 9 - Land of the Giants

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Record: 39-41. Change on last season: +10

"We looked really bad for the first three innings -- really bad. We weren't pitching, we weren't hitting, we weren't fielding, we weren't doing anything... We have to start playing better, right now. That's all there is to it." -- Bob Melvin.

If an alien invasion had actually occurred last night, in the middle of the fifth innings, it would probably have come as a blessed relief. Martian heat rays? I yawn, distractedly. Gigantic metal tripods harvesting human for who-knows what ends? Bring it on. Can all hardly be any more horrific than our performance last night.

Swept by the Giants. Let me say that again: swept by the Giants. If there was a week where our pretence at being a legitimate contender was exposed, this was it. The Giants - without their star hitter or closer, and clubbed 33-8 in their previous series by Oakland - came to our house, and won the three games by a total of seventeen runs.

At the end of last month, we were 30-22. Now, after a 9-19 record for June, we're two games below .500, and going down faster than Paris Hilton after one too many cocktails. Said Tony Clark, "There are no words of wisdom at this point of the season. There's no magic switch. We're in the middle of the season. You've got to continue to work. I think we have a group that will do that. I don't think anybody in here will ever throw in the towel."

Throw in, perhaps not. But clutch it defensively, certainly, and the writing is definitely on the wall, with Melvin hinting darkly: "Yeah, there's things you can do. We're at the point." Curious to know exactly what he means by that, and indeed, who it was directed at. Over the weekend, I'll take a look at our players' June performance (or lack thereof) - perhaps that'll give us some clues.

Estes stunk, and he knew it, offering up no excuses: "Horrible. Terrible. About as bad as you can pitch. The team needed me tonight and I didn't do my job. It's frustrating, disappointing, pretty much any negative adjective you can think of. It wasn't what we needed tonight. The team needed better than that and I didn't deliver."

That's true - no performance where your starter gets pulled in the third innings, and allows seven earned runs can ever be described as acceptable. But when your hitters go 4-for-29, it's clear there's plenty of blame to go around. It wasn't like the Giants' staff were overpowering - they only struck out five all night - we just couldn't get any offense.

Our bullpen performed credibly, allowing one earned run in 6.2 innings of work, while Gonzalez and Green smacked homers - the latter his first-ever as a pinch-hitter. But if you were still around for those, you're a better fan than I was last night. This was a night when even I might have left the ballpark early; though with barely 21,000 there to start with, there wasn't much of a rush to beat. Many more performances like this, however, and we may find ourselves looking back nostalgically at crowds starting with a "2".

Heroes and Zeroes, Series 26: at home, vs. Giants
Tracy: 5-for-9
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Cintron: 1-for-10
Bruney: 0.0 IP, 3 ER
Estes: 2.1 IP, 7 ER

Heroes prove very hard to come by - Tracy's four-hit performance in the opener was the highlight, though credit Valverde for throwing four innings, and allowing only one earned run. Won't be long before his arm falls off, I imagine. On the down side, Cintron just beats out Glaus (also 1-for-10, but at least with RBIs), while Bruney's hapless performance turned the opener into a laugher, and Estes ensured we never had any chance in the finale.

June wasn't a kind month for anyone in the NL West - no team managed a winning record, and the Rockies came closest, with 12 wins. As a result, we didn't actually lose that much ground on the Padres, but it does show the gulf between us and genuine credibility as a team will not be filled by a reliever or two. There are just too many deficiencies; it's probably best to swallow a healthy dose of reality, and treat the rest of 2005 as preparation for next season.

Because, have you seen our schedule this month? It's brutal. Dodgers on the road, St. Louis and the Reds at home, Padres away, Florida and Atlanta at home, then end up at the Brewers and Cubs. I think the only three days we'll avoid losing will be the All-Star Break. If you thought June was bad, July could see some severe turbulence. Fasten those seat-belts...

And take a glance across the right, where you'll see a new feature. No longer are polls relegated to the diaries, we can now put one on the front page! So, who's been the D'backs MVP for the first half? It's a slightly different question from the 'All-Star Game' one posed a few weeks back [results to be unveiled on Sunday...though since you can still check it out, it's hardly a secret!], so consider your responses carefully...