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AZ 10, Phillies 5 - It's Grand to Slam

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Record: 60-72. Change on last year: +19

After a pretty horrendous August, where the D'backs had seen the opposition score ten runs eight different times, it was nice to finally experience life on the other side of double-digits for a change. Though it was close at the start, with the Phillies taking the lead, then tying the game at 2-2. But we blew things open on Shawn Green's home run with the bases loaded in the third, and never really looked back.

Melvin was positively on fire afterwards, actually joking - humour having been in painfully short supply during this homestand - claiming the reason for Green's success was that he's got another mouth to feed: "He was on a salary drive." Certainly, if this is how Green responds to his new baby daughter, let's hope his wife has several litters over the rest of the season. :-)

Despite expectations, a bit of a run-fest. We were helped enormously by Padilla's wildness; all three runs that scored ahead of Green were walked there, and we got rid of the opposition starter after just three innings. Vargas did his part: this was not the lights-out pitching we've seen, but he pitched into the seventh inning before tiring. His final line (seven hits, four walks and two K's, with four earned runs) was still enough to get him above .500 for the year.

After the Phillies pulled within two, we pulled away again with four more in the bottom of the seventh, three of them on a homer by Glaus, and the other on a sacrifice fly by Jackson [Conor came up with the bases loaded, and gave it a good shot, but couldn't quite deliver our second grand-slam of the evening] Meanwhile, Groom, Medders and Worrell kept Philadelphia (more or less) in check, and sent the decent-sized crowd of 31,112 home happy. I didn't realise the lure of Sunday's giveaway, a Shamrock Farms Growth Chart, was so strong.

And once more, many props to my peeps who smashed the previous records for comments on a game, cruising into three figures, with an all-time high of 128. I'd better beef up the servers in case we reach the playoffs. :-) A particular shout to philliesnation - now enshrined in our links for the site of the same name - who was a credit to the City of Brotherly Love, but also to everyone else who came to the party: andrewinnewyork, azdb7, Devin, Otacon, William K, and tourist.

[In the diaries on the right, the last-named is looking for travel tips for BOB. It's an interesting idea, and hopefully we'll get some, though I know we have a wide spread, geographically - at least three continents - not to mention Tucson! :-) I haven't got time to put anything together today myself, but I'm off for the next three, so hopefully I can contribute during my 'weekend'.]

How big was this? Our first series win in August, that's all. The last time we won was against the Cubs in Chicago, back at the end of July - by coincidence, the finale of that set was also the last time we scored ten runs or more, and also the last D'backs grand slam (by Chris Snyder). Since then, we'd lost seven series in a row; a lot of them pretty badly.

Heroes and Zeroes, Series 42: vs. Phillies, at home
Webb: 7 IP, 5 H, 4 BB, 6 K, 0 ER
Cintron: 1-for-2, 2 RBI, home-run
Green: 3-for-5, 4 RBI, grand-slam, daughter
------------------------------------
Bulger: 0.2 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 1 K, 3 ER
Clayton: 1-for-11
Counsell: 1-for-11, 9 LOB, GIDP

All three heroes were one-hit wonders, in that they have only one game to thank for their appearance. Webb's performance was the best by a starter in quite some time, while Cintron's pinch-hit homer may have just salvaged our season, and Green's grand-slam made Sunday's game much more comfortable.

Bulger's big-league debut was eminently forgettable, and will only be cleansed by some more successful appearances. Zeroes could be given to most of our hitters. We batted only .211 (19-for-90) for the series, but especially poor was the top of our order: Counsell, Clayton + Gonzalez were 3-for-30. In the futility stakes, Counsell just beats out Clayton (only 2 LOB and no double-play); Craig went 1-for-23 on this homestand.

Still, to beat the NL wild-card leader was definitely a much-needed boost. I'm not prepared to make an expansive gesture and proclaim, "It lives!" - not with Ortiz pitching tonight - but the last couple of games have been our most solid performances of the month. Whether they bode well for the future, on the other hand...because this year has seen more false dawns than Season 5 of Buffy*. Since the start of June, we've won consecutive games nine times - we're 0-9 in trying to extend the streak to three.

It's something that continues to defy belief, but can't be stressed enough, just how bad the NL West is. The last time we won three in a row was way back on May 18-20, which ended with us at the season high of nine games above .500. Since that point, we've gone 34-55 (that'd be on pace for 100+ losses over an entire year) but have only dropped a handful of games back in the division.

However, time is now running out; there's only 30 games left, so even that gap is expanding exponentially in toughness, with every game now being that much more important. As is, Baseball Prospectus gives us less than a 3% chance of making the playoffs: if we don't win this series in San Diego, we'll be 6.5 or 8.5 games back, with 27 to play. The former will be very difficult to overcome - the latter almost impossible.

We did have a schedule advantage, in playing most of our games at BOB - not that it's been much help this year - but that has evaporated in the 2-5 homestand, and it's now an even split. However, take out San Diego, and 21 of our other 24 remaining games are against teams with worse records than us (the only exception is the Brewers who are...well, still the Brewers).

Let's do a quick what-if, for various scenarios [though to keep things simple, I'm ignoring the Dodgers, who are still as much in it as us]. The Padres have six games left against us, and 27 versus other teams. Assuming they play as they have so far, they'll go 13-14 in those other games. The table below shows various results for the series between us; how the Padres would finish; and what we'd need to do to tie the Padres, both over the final 30 games, and in our non-San Diego games.

Series  Padres     We need   vs.others
  6-0    77-85      17-13      11-13
  5-1    78-84      18-12      13-11
  4-2    79-83      19-11      15-9
  3-3    80-82      20-10      17-7
  2-4    81-81      21-9       19-5
  1-5    82-80      22-8       21-3
  0-6    83-79      23-7       23-1

Sweep the Padres twice, play .500 baseball the rest of the way, and it's probably hello, NL West title. We can lose one and only need to play a little better than even elsewhere. But you see how every defeat starts to stack up against us. Split the two series and we're suddenly looking at 17-7. Time is running out for Arizona; we're scurrying down the corridors at MLB High, without a hall pass, still hoping to find a ticket to the dance...

[* Sorry, that one probably deserves an explanation. The season saw Buffy suddenly acquire a kid sister named Dawn, who was actually the key to opening a portal to another dimension, which would cause death, destruction and, probably, gas prices to reach $2/gallon (hey, this was back in 2001!). The main villainess that series was Glory, a rather peeved deity stuck here who wanted the portal open; she was a shape-shifter. Hence, false Dawns. Ever wish you hadn't bothered? ;-)]