Record: 56-64. change on last year: +20
The tone for this one was set early; the first innings, to be exact. With runners on second and third, and two out, Jim Edmonds laid down a bunt. It was a good one, and he might have reached anyway, but Stinnett (who hadn't even thrown on a strike 'em out/double steal the hitter before) sent the ball sailing into the stands.
Pretty much at that moment, as we gift-wrapped and handed two runs to the best team in the NL, I knew in my heart this wasn't our day. We pulled within one on Gonzo's two-out homer, but that was as close as we got, and the Cardinals pulled away to win with ease. Glaus had two hits, but we managed only five in total, and had no walks and 9 K's. Halsey was pretty bleah: nine hits and two walks over 5.1 innings, allowing four earned runs and seeing his ERA go over four.
Aquino and Groom were tolerable in relief, but Brandon Lyon's second outing didn't go any better, allowing three runs. He has now allowed more earned runs in 1.2 innings of work since returning, than he did in all 18 appearances he made before going on the DL. Said Lyon, "It doesn't feel good, it feels great...Now it's just a matter of getting back into the swing of things." I could have sworn that was what those rehab outing in Tucson were for. Maybe it's just me.
However, this will likely be remember more for an exchange of hit batters than anything, culminating in the very obvious plunking of Glaus in the ninth. Tony La Russa has a rep for such things, solidified by his open discussion on which Diamondback should be the target of retaliation in a chapter of 3 Nights in August - he eventually decided on Luis Gonzalez in that case.
Here, it seemed to start during Edmonds' next time at the plate, when Halsey came up and in. Said La Russa, "The ball was at his head...Guys are pitching inside, them and us. But that's the one, after a play like that [the bunt], that you wonder if there was a message being sent. And it's not a very good message." From there on:
- Top 5th: Stinnett hit by pitch
- Bottom 6th: Grudzielanek hit by pitch
- Bottom 7th: Diaz hit by pitch, Pujols buzzed
Finally, in the ninth, Eldred came close to hitting Gonzalez, and - almost exactly as in the case described in the book - nicely faked a lack of control while facing Glaus, before finally nailing him.
Gonzo - no doubt happy to have dodged a bullet - said, "We knew in the outfield after a couple of guys got hit that somebody was going to have to take it for the team. He's always had that reputation. It's part of baseball. We threw a ball under their best player's chin and three of their guys got hit [actually just two, Luis], whether it was on purpose or not. In our dugout, we knew somebody was going to get it whether it was today or any one of these next two games."
Well, at least it's out of the way now, and perhaps the rest of the series we can return to playing baseball - or start, in Arizona's case. With every other contender in the NL West winning yesterday, this was definitely a setback night, but I can't say losing to the Cardinals was entirely surprising.
Perhaps the most interesting thing was seeing Tony Clark almost get speared in the throat, when his bat broke, and a nasty bit of shrapnel bounced off the ground to hit him in the face. Hmmm - between that and Conor Jackson's "accident" in the batting cage, there seems to have been a lot of misfortune around first-base lately. Except for one former incumbent that is...
This suspicious freedom from harm for Chad Tracy, means I think they need to check his locker: I fully expect to find it stuffed full of voodoo paraphenalia, like Dennis Haysbert's in Major League. Did Tracy ever play winter ball in the Caribbean? Might he have picked up some tricks there, to ensure the first-base spot is his...permanently? Thanks to andrewinnewyork, Otacon - sorry to hear about the car thing! - icecoldmo and Daniel for comments on various things, in various places.
Through our friends at Cardnilly, comes a link to this list matching baseball teams to Simpsons characters: "Arizona Diamondbacks - Inanimate Carbon Rod - Inexplicably shot to prominence after an unbelievable rescue (sealing the Space Shuttle during re-entry, 2001 season). Hit the covers of every major magazine as heroes, and then faded back into obscurity almost as quickly as they arrived." If you're a Simpsons fan, much amusement there.
More statistically rigorous, Beyond the Box Score has produced stats on Net Runs Above Average for the Diamondbacks. The interesting thing is, Counsell is +19, while Clayton is -28, even though their hitting is almost identical (Counsell: .273; Clayton: .275) - Counsell is 73 points up on OPS though. Marc points out we're actually better (+75) than the White Sox (+2) as far as offense goes: it's just our pitching which has let us down. However, I'm not sure our RISP failures are taken into account here.