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AZ 7, Padres 5 - So Far, So Good

Record: 61-72. Change on last year: +19

I will take any game where Russ Ortiz starts, and we get the win, in a heartbeat. Even if took four unearned runs and an inside-the-park homer by, probably, the slowest player on the team. Victories don't really come much wilder than that, but no complaints from me, as we reach the dizzy heights of a three game winning streak, for the first time since May 20. Of course, that's still more recent than the last time Russ Ortiz won a game [May 18].

Where to start? Watching Ortiz pitch is like walking through a minefield: no matter how quiet things may seem, you can never shake the nagging feeling that disaster is imminent. Credit Bob Melvin for getting it right yesterday, and yanking Russ before the explosion proved too disastrous. Still not a quality start, but 5.2 innings, 7 hits, a walk and three earned runs was bearable.

Brandon Medders came in, threw one pitch, and got one heart-stopping out, all the way to the warning track. Cormier and Worrell got us safely through the seventh and eighth, before Valvere, ah, "made it interesting" in the ninth. Not sure having our closer throw 27 pitches in a non-save situation was wise, especially if tonight's game is something like 2-1 (as I suspect it might be, with Peavy facing Vazquez).

Still, if you're going to allow two runs in a ninth-inning of work, better to do it with a four-run lead than a one-run lead. So let's hope Valverde's got that out of his system. He walked the first two batters, who both came home on a one-out double, but the tying run remained harmlessly at the plate.

Meanwhile, our offense delivered four home runs. Well, three and a half, really. But according to the box-score, Stinnett got the fifth inside-the-park home run in Arizona history. He hit it deep to left; Klesko made a grab at the fence, but missed. The ball fell back onto the field, and third base umpire Bill Welke signalled it fair. However, Klesko didn't see that, meandered over, picked the ball up and tossed it into the stands as Stinnett rounded third. Oops. Official scorer Bill Zavestoski, was left with the call, and declared it an inside-the-park homer.

You'd get long odds on Stinnett being the first D'back in over three years to do that: Counsell, perhaps, or maybe Terrero, but not a man with four career triples, and none since 1998. Mind you, the last guy to hit one for us was our catcher too, Damian Miller, and at the time, he only had two career triples. Here's the full list:

D'backs Inside-the-park Home Runs

  • Tony Womack, @ Houston, July 21, 1999 [grand slam]
  • Junior Spivey, @ Boston, June 9, 2002
  • Luis Gonzalez, vs. San Diego, July 28, 2002
  • Damian Miller, @ Chicago Cubs, August 18, 2002
  • Kelly Stinnett, @ San Diego, August 29, 2005

It almost looked as if we'd added an even rarer feat at one point. I was watching events unfold on Sportsline.com's GameCast, and saw the following:
Sweeney grounded into triple play shortstop to catcher to third, Nady out at home, Olivo out at third.
However, this turned out to be simply their data-entry clerk getting a little carried-away, since there was already one out at the time.

However, Glaus, Green and Tracy all added legitimate shots - the last-named now has twenty, making us the first NL team with four players in that club, the three above and Tony Clark. [Gonzo is just behind at 19] Clayton and Tracy had a pair of hits, but with both teams managing eight hits, this could really have gone either way. Xavier Nady's two fourth-innings errors for San Diego probably helped Arizona as much as any of our own actual skills.

After a quiet early couple of innings, the comments came alive yesterday: icecoldmo, Otacon, William K, andrewinnewyork, Devin and tourist all chipped in. Their enthusiasm is all, as usual, much appreciated. And a particular greeting to azshadowwalker, who actually appreciated yesterday's Buffy reference. I fear this may have unleashed the monster lurking within me. ;-) "Now, we can do this the hard way, or...well, actually there's just the hard way."

Meanwhile, hope for the rotation nears, with Estes making his first start down in Tucson, as William K pointed out. And a very solid one it was, allowing one run on two hits over five innings of work. He struck out three and issued no walks. Not so good though, for another reclamation project, Mike Koplove; he allowed three earned runs without retiring a hitter, and took the loss.

When Estes comes back, it's going to leave Arizona with a very interesting choice: who gets dropped? Here's the stats for our current starters in August

             IP  H  R ER HR BB  K   ERA
Webb       36.2 28 11 10  2 11 28  2.45
Vargas     38.1 34 20 20  6 14 29  4.70
Vazquez    27.2 34 22 19  5 10 23  6.18
Halsey     26.2 37 24 22  6 10 11  7.43
Ortiz      18.1 29 22 22  4 12  4 10.80
* Gosling's one start excluded

Save Webb, not exactly much covering in glory going around, is there? [Though three members of our current bullpen - Cormier, Lyon and Bulger - have worse ERAs than Ortiz this month] Vargas would be the "historical" candidate, given he arrived as a fill-in, but on recent performance, I think Halsey might get the chop. Of course, we all know who should be removed from the rotation, but I doubt we'll be that sensible.