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AZ 5, Padres 9 - Elvis has left the building

Record: 61-74. Change on last year: +19

I haven't looked yet, but I'm sure there are upbeat comments from Bob Melvin this morning about how the season isn't over yet, and AZ can still make the playoffs. Well, he's wrong. Okay, technically the fat lady hasn't sung, but we're almost through the opening eight bars, and she's inhaling deeply.

And, yep, here we go: "Especially after winning Game 1, we didn't feel like we were going to lose two out of three. But back to the drawing board. Nothing's been settled. Obviously we're a little more underwater than we were, but we still have three games left with them, we've got the Giants next and we've got to just keep playing."

However, I think reality has to bite here. It's September 1st. We're 6 1/2 back with just 27 to play. We're no longer even in second place, as the Dodgers have overtaken us. We're only half a game ahead of the fourth-place Giants. The rosters expand today, and what we have to do for the rest of the season is make use of the time, and give a good, hard look to those who can help us in 2006, rather than putting out lineups as if we were still in playoff contention.

People like Andy Green, for example. Here are three middle-infield options for next year:

             BA HR RBI  E/Gms
Player A:  .343 19  80 11/135
Player B:  .270  2  41 10/117
Player C:  .259  6  30  6/51

Which one would you play? Of course, Player A (Green) has been facing Triple-A pitching, but would still seem at least a credible - if not better, and certainly cheaper - alternative to Players B (Royce Clayton) and C (Alex Cintron) for next year. But can Green hit major-league pitching? That's what this September is for. We know what Clayton and Cintron can do - now, call Green up, and play him every day, so he gets 120 ABs in the bigs. Nothing to lose, everything to gain.

Back at Petco, Vazquez was in trouble from the first inning, when he allowed three runs, and that was as close as we ever got to the Padres thereafter. Javy largely settled down thereafter, giving up only one more run until the sixth, when the Padres scored five times to put this beyond our reach. Vazquez's final line: 5.1 IP, 10 H, 2 BB, 5 K, 8 R, 7 ER.

Performances like this make it seem vastly unlikely Javy will demand a trade at the end of the year. Even in a thin 2006 free-agent pool, the market for a pitcher currently in line for 16 losses and a 4.80 ERA, would not seem to be in the $11m range that he can get here. [Though the Yankees are, effectively, subsidising us to the tune of $3m/year]

Offense was okay, but no-one really stood out. Gonzalez hit his 21st homer, and added another hit, but we left eight on base. Cormier, Medders and Bulger tidied up after Vazquez departed, with varying effectiveness: Bulger did, however, get to shave more than 24 off his ERA. Not 24 points - twenty-four. A scoreless innings brought it down from 40.50 to 16.20.

Heroes and Zeroes, Series 43: vs. Padres, on road
Glaus: 3-for-10, 4 RBI, 2 HR
Green: 4-for-11
Halsey: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 2 K, 4 ER
Counsell: 2-for-11
Vazquez: 5.1 IP, 10 H, 2 BB, 5 K, 7 ER

And so, a series that started so well, collapses into another defeat, and the situation now looks pretty terminal for the Diamondbacks, as far as post-season baseball goes. We scored fifteen runs, which is okay, but conceded nineteen, with our rotation being medicore at best: when Ortiz gives you the best start of the series, you know you're in trouble. Counsell's recent woes continue: since the start of the last home-stand, he's 3-for-34. Glaus and Green were the best of a mediocre offense.

So, September callups. I've already mentioned Andy Green; the most likely others would be those that form part of the 40-man roster: Josh Kroeger, Koyie Hill and pitchers Aquino, Bruney, Edgar Gonzalez and Gosling, though Kroeger has had a poor year and might prefer to write this one off. Also on the infield, Scott Hairston, Keoni De Renne and Brian Barden (all hitting .299 or better) might get the call, and if not Hill, another catcher in the form of Juan Brito is also very likely.

On the pitching front, Oscar Villarreal, who has been rattling around, seems an almost certainty and, frankly, our bullpen could use all the live arms it can get. Besides those above, Greg Aquino, Javier Lopez, Kerry Ligtenberg and Randy Choate are possible, though Mike Koplove (9 IP, 13 ER) still seems to be having problems.

Finally, on a sombre note, please check out the advert to the left. No, not the AVP one (I'll talk about that elsewhere, later today). The Red Cross one. Some of the reports coming out of New Orleans are basically unbelievable. At times like this, baseball playoffs shrink into insignificance, especially as this isn't some far-off country I've barely heard of. I visited New Orleans on my first solo trip to the US, back in 1997 - the same trip on which I first met Chris, my wife - and so the footage on the TV has been particularly hard to watch. Our thoughts are with all those affected.