Record: 50-54. Change on last season: +17
The future of the Diamondbacks stepped to the plate earlier today. It's probably entirely fitting for the season so far, that the future then proceeded to pop out with the bases loaded, but Conor Jackson is now, officially, in the building. Where were you when he had his first at-bat?
"I woke up quite a few times. I think I woke up at seven and couldn't go back to sleep." Aw, bless... Of all the places to make your debut, Wrigley may be the most storied - Yankee fans would doubtless argue for their stadium, and Boston fans for Fenway, but if I was going to play one game in the majors, it'd be in Chicago.
When he came to the plate with the bases loaded, I was scurrying to the record books, to see if any player had ever hit a grand-slam in their first at-bat. The answer? Not for a long time. Since April 21, 1898, in fact, when Bill Duggleby of the Phillies did it. And he didn't hit another homer for six years, so perhaps a good thing Jackson didn't follow suit. [For the record, the only AZ player ever to homer their first time up was Alex Cabrera]
Early on, this looked like we were going to rue a whole swathe of wasted opportunities. Runners on the corners, nobody out - fail to score. Based loaded, one out - fail to score. All we had to show for it was Chad Tracy's home run in the first, but Halsey was doing his bit, by keeping the Cubs off the board.
The turning point was probably the bottom of the sixth innings. After a leadoff double and a sacrifice put Gerut on third with one out, Halsey bore down and got the last out with the bases loaded. Gonzalez hit a two-run homer in the top of the seventh - the first by the G-Force in a long time - and we pulled away to victory from there. What a difference a month makes: after going 0-5 in June, Halsey has gone through July without a loss.
Our pitching staff has now gone 18 innings without conceding a run. Worrell allowed two base-runners but kept the streak intact in the seventh; Valverde struck out the side in the eighth; and even Aquino was perfect in the ninth. Good stuff. Between them, Medders, Valverde and Koplove have thrown 26.1 innings this month, and allowed two earned runs. Add the lurking Lyon and Villarreal, and it looks as if the various pieces may finally be beginning to click into place, even as Cormier's control deserts him (10 walks in 11 innings).
We had a lot of baserunners, thanks to 13 hits and nine walks, almost all from the middle of the order: Green went 4-for-4, Gonzalez had three hits, while Tracy and Clark both had two. However, Snyder went ohfer and left seven on base - something of a feat considering he also had two walks - and Counsell was 0-for-5, and this should, as noted, not have been a 1-0 game in the seventh.
But, shutting out the Cubs at Wrigley is always a good thing, and with the Padres win yesterday apparently proving a dead-cat bounce (as they get whipped 11-3 by the Cards), we're two games back. They now face the Reds and Pirates while we take on the Cubs and Astros: that's undoubtedly a harder schedule - no 300-game winners for SD to face, while we have two on consecutive days. However, the way things have been lately, who can tell?
And don't forget the Dodgers. Baseball Prospectus's Post-season Odds report give them a 12.5% playoff chance, above our 11.3%. [Admittedly, that's before today's loss. The Giants, at 1.8%, are basically out of it] If on Opening Day you'd said we'd be two games out of first, heading into the final third of the season, there's not a fan who wouldn't have taken that - four games below .500 or not.
G-Force Homer Watch
[At-bats by the G-Force since their last home run]
- Collectively: 4 at-bats [since Gonzalez, 7th innings, 28th July]
- Troy Glaus: 41 [6th innings, 15th July]
- Shawn Green: 45 [6th innings, 15th July]
- Luis Gonzalez: 1 [7th innings, 28th July]
Hooray! Gonzo finally breaks the streak after 131 at-bats, for the first G-Force homer in almost two weeks. And, despite turning up late, we set a new record for comments, cracking the fifty barrier for the first time! Thanks to andrewinnewyork, Otacon and Devin for joining in. Take the rest of the night off. :-) We'll hopefully see you all, bright and early (note to self!) for tomorrow's game, which again starts at 11:20am AZ time. Should be a good one.