Record: 48-52. Change on last season: +17
Another day, another one-run game. That's three in a row, but at least we take two of those, on the back of a sterling performance from Vazquez: three hits over eight innings. Okay, two of those left the ballpark, both solo shots to Andrew Jones, who is perhaps the hottest hitter in baseball at the moment. The rest of the Braves? 1-for-22 with two walks and 10 K's. It was a pitching clinic, with fastballs and breaking balls being mixed to devastating effect.
If I harp on about that, it's because, offensively, we hardly set the world on fire, with two largely-fortunate runs in the first and Tony Clark's homer being all our offense could produce. A should-have been double play turned into a single, and the two unerased base-runners both came round to score. Two hits for Clayton (leading off for the first time in five years) and Gonzalez, and nine in all, but 1-for-8 with RISP. Some things never change.
I will admit to agreeing with Bob Melvin, however, when Jones faced Bruney in the ninth, representing the go-ahead run. Asked if there was tension when Jones came to the plate, he replied, "There was some." No kidding. However, one groundball back atcha later, Jones was retired, and one further out, the game was safe. Thanks to Devin, William K, englishdback, Daniel, and andrewinnewyork for their thoughts.
Y'know, if our starting pitchers keep producing this kind of lights-out performance (in this series: 22.2 IP, 14 H, 4 BB, 5 ER), then I may be forced - quite against my will - to start getting excited about this team once more. Two wins against the Braves = two games gained on the Padres, who at the moment couldn't score if they were trapped inside Lindsay Lohan's panties.
I mean, you thought it was bad when we scored just 14 runs in the seven game homestand before the All-Star Break? In the past seven games, the Padres have a total of 12 runs to their name - they've scored one or less in five of those. They're leading the NL West, but as William K pointed out, would be fourth in the Central...and dead last in the East. [Though the theory that we play up to our opponents' level doesn't seem to have much basis in fact - we're 19-22 against NL teams currently above .500.]
On the other hand - and I'm probably going to use up an entire month's quota of cliches in the next paragraph - if you reach the playoffs, games before that are meaningless. It's not how you play in April that counts, it's how you play in October. In a short series, anything can happen. And so on. Certainly, our performance over the weekend against the most-likely first-round opponents, Atlanta, is cause for optimism.
And take 2001, for example - a year we might just remember. Ask the Mariners, winners of 116 games, if they made it to the World Series. Indeed, of the seven postseason series that year, only two went to the team with the better record, and Arizona were a mere sixth - above only Cleveland and Atlanta - in terms of regular season records. And no division champion since then has won the World Series.
Looks we might have a sudden rush of pitching; Villarreal, Lyon and Ortiz are all apace with each other on the rehab trail. One imagines Ortiz might have to throw some more, as a starter [and Gosling is the obvious candidate for Tucson when he returns], but as for the other two? Aquino and Medders, I would suspect. It won't be Valverde or Cormier; Koplove has been okay since his AAA stint, and we didn't get Worrell to send him to the minors. I'd probably rather see Bruney dispatched than Medders, but that seems unlikely.
Andrew in NY asks, "Is there any word at all about the D'backs interest in Cameron? Has his name come up at all?" Back in January, it was mentioned in the East Valley Tribune that we might be interested in him, but since then, very little. I heard about this recent rumour elsewhere, and think as described - Looper and Cameron for Conor Jackson - it seems very doubtful.
Andrew suggests a slightly more toned-down version (Cameron for Tracy and Montero), which is perhaps more plausible, but there are a lot of teams other teams out there - Yankees, Cubs, Orioles, Rangers, Cubs and Astros - that could use Cameron's services. However, we already have a log-jam looming in the outfield, which is why we've seen Tracy playing LF, and Shawn Green being asked about CF. Acquiring another outfielder seems pointless, I'd say.
Indeed, there have been few trade rumours around AZ recently, at least compared to last year, when Johnson and Finley's names were on every talk-radio hosts' lips. In today's Banana, Dan Bickley writes, "Nothing would justify shipping away a piece of the future for short-term reward, especially when a first-round playoff exit is all but guaranteed...The best course is simply to wait."
And that seems to be the general feeling. With the return of Lyon and Villarreal, our bullpen would (hopefully) no longer require new blood, and the official line seems to be that the team we've got is 'good enough' - if they play up to their potential. Any significant trade action seems, at the moment, unlikely.