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AZ 1, Astros 3 - Lightning Can't Strike Twice

Record: 52-56. Change on last season: +18

Despite all the good omens, it would appear the Rocket didn't get the memo, for the monsoon wasn't the only storm to sweep through the Valley of the Sun last night. And it started off so well, too, with Chad Tracy smacking a homer in the first. "Clemens is vastly over-rated," I thought, as we pulled into the parking lot of The Sets, and left, knowing victory was all but assured...

However, smacking a homer in the first may not have been our wisest move. Said Clemens, "I'd like to say it got my attention a little bit." Maybe we should have lulled him into a false sense of security, let him mow us down the first time through, and only then launched an assault.

Instead, just as last time we faced him (when we scored three runs in the first), Clemens immediately buckled down, and shut us out for the next 6.2 innings. After Tracy, we got two men past first, and none past second while the Rocket was on the mound, demonstrating what a rare pitcher he is.

Meanwhile, Vargas was pitching pretty decently for our side too, preserving that 1-0 lead through four innings, then allowing single runs in the fifth, sixth and eighth - seven hits, three walks and nine strikouts over 7.1 innings, which merits a hearty "well done".

However, the difference between "well done" and "rare" was scarcely any more obvious last night at your local steakhouse. As previously established, perhaps Arizona's greatest current need is a genuine ace pitcher, who can regularly do to opposing teams what Clemens does. On their day, Vazquez can fit the bill, but neither he nor Webb are reliable enough to qualify. Maybe in future, just not yet.

Of course, the question is, will Vazquez still be here in 2006? If he asks for a trade, we have until March 19th to deliver, or he becomes a free agent - I've not been able to track down the precise details of Javy's contract, to see if he has any veto rights, but I suspect probably not. If he does go in a swap, we should certainly be looking at getting another starter in return; however, what would we get?

That's crucial, since the free-agent market for the off-season looks thin, especially for starters: while we won't have the 111-loss tag this year, supply will exceed demand, as the only three current Type A pitchers available are A.J.Burnett, Jarrod Washburn, and Matt Morris. If I'm one of their agents, I'm laughing hysterically - in between choruses of We're in the Money - because the alternatives are Jeff Weaver and Tony Armas Jr, none of whom are exactly the ace we want.

Back at BOB, we had a chance to tie this game up in the ninth, after Clemens departed, when Glaus singled with one out, and Green hammered a pitch into the right-field corner. However, Astro Eric Bruntlett - may his name be cursed for all eternity - made a sliding grab on the warning track, then doubled up Glaus, who had turned second and was heading for third. Game over, in a fairly sucky fashion.

Nice to see a good turn-out at BOB for the game; seven thousand walkups led to an attendance of 31,696, the best midweek attendance figure since Opening Day. I'm not sure how many were due to Clemens, and how many to us still being in the chase for the NL West, I don't know. Tonight and tomorrow may prove better barometers.

The Padres won, so just as on every other occasion, our stay at the top of the NL West proves brief - have we managed to last there longer than one game all season? Thanks to Devin and andrewinnewyork for keeping things going very nicely here, while I floated my way around town (isn't the monsoon fun? I kid you not, we saw puddles with breakers in them), and Otacon and rastronomicals who also popped in - I particularly liked rastro's suggestion that Marvel should do a comic based on Clemens and call it Intensity-Man...

Brandon Medders was dispatched back to Tucson, to make way for Buddy Groom. Bad idea: Medders has been getting people out, with a regularity the likes of Koplove or Bruney can only dream of. "We just had to open a spot [and] he was the guy with the options," said Melvin.

Er, Mike Koplove was optioned to Tucson on June 9th: doesn't that mean we can send him down as often as we like this year? The very helpful transactions primer indicates this to be the case. So why keep Koplove? Answers on a postcard to BOB - might as well do it while submitting your application for the position of General Manager too... ;-)