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AZ 1, Cardinals 2 - A day when baseball hardly matters

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Record: 41-45. Change on last season: +10

Pardon me if I'm not at 100% today; my attention remains on this morning's events in London - CNN plays in the background as I write this. But with a heavy heart, life goes on.

So that's why Vazquez pitched well; though the trade had completed, he actually joins my fantasy lineup today - which, of course, is too late for me to benefit from his three-hitter last night. At least, unlike the first two games of this series, we fought the Cardinals all the way, with Vazquez showing signs of competence largely absent from our performances so far. After allowing a home run to the second batter he faced, he then sat down seventeen in a row, and through eight innings, he'd faced just one batter over the minimum.

Then, in the ninth, Javier Molina led off with a double that landed fair by about three inches and - unlike Arizona - the Cardinals executed. One sacrifice brought him to third with one out. "What a perfect situation for a squeeze," Vazquez said. He knew it. Bob Melvin knew it. Brennaman and Williams on the TV coverage knew it - and even called the specific pitch it'd happen. Didn't matter. The suicide squeeze was perfect, the Cardinals took the lead, and even though we got the tying run to third, we lost again.

Let the record show I was less than delighted by Bob Melvin's decision to let Vazquez bat for himself in the bottom of the eighth, having thrown 104 pitches. If there'd been someone on base for him to bunt over, I could have seen the point, but as was, it might have made more sense to use someone as a pinch-hitter.

Like Chad Tracy, in particular. You do have to wonder what's going on, when your best hitter is on the bench...and Quinton ".213" McCracken is sent up in the eighth innings of a tied game. Or Jose ".220" Cruz is given your last at-bat, with the tying run at third. Tracy's .310 batting average this season is almost a hundred points better than either.

If Vazquez was near-unhittable, our hitters had every bit as much difficulty with Carpenter. The G-Force? 1-for-10 with four K's. No hits with runners in scoring position - though we only had three at-bats. And here's the stat that explains why we lost: the Cardinals left no-one on base. Nobody. Zip. Nada. Edmonds scored in the first; he reached in the seventh, but was erased on a double play. Their only other base-runner came round to score in the ninth.

Thanks to Otacon and Devin for stopping by: said the former before the game, "This one has D'Back loss written all over it." And he was right - though a) it was hardly a risk, and b) it proved a damn sight closer than I think anyone expected. As Devin - prevented from watching the game by ESPN - said, "Too bad the offense can't seem to get involved."

For this was almost like a Big Unit start from last year: great pitching, but no run support. I grow ever more convinced that the difference between good teams and bad ones, is that the former need only solid hitting or pitching to win, while the latter need both. Since the start of June, I'd include the Diamondbacks in the second category, as we have only a .324 win percentage. That's basically no better than we managed over the disaster which was last year (51-111 = .315).

Still, they say the best way to improve in any sport is to play those who are better than you, and perhaps, some of the St. Louis skills might rub off on the D'backs. For the Cardinals have shown they're a multi-faceted team who can beat you with hitting, pitching or even manafacture runs when necessary. I was very impressed with them last night, and would not be surprised to see them win it all this year.

Brandon Webb finished a credible third in the vote for the last spot in the NL All-Star team; however, I was happy to see the game will be Jeter-less, for only the second time since 1997. No Jeter and no Bonds; I might actually watch the game this year, seeing how my two most-loathed players will be absent from the festivities.

And the Diamondbacks named their minor league players of the month for June: both come from South Bend: outfielder Carlos Gonzalez hit .400, while RHP Matt Elliott was 9/9 in saves, with a 2.08 ERA. Here's an early prediction for July's winner: Stephen Drew, hitting .382 with 6 HR, 17 RBI and an .855 slugging percentage. in just 14 games for the Lancaster JetHawks. Appropriately, over at Baby Backs: TNG, William K takes a timely look at all the shortstops in our farm system.