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AZ 5, Rockies 6 - Farewell to .500

Record: 66-82. Change on last season: +20

Put another losing year in the books. Last night's defeat meant that any pre-season hopes for a .500 season are now, officially, dead. Okay, even before the loss, we were relying on suddenly reeling off 15 straight wins, but that faint hope has now been extinguished.

Interestingly - or not (at this time of year, as mentioned yesterday, it's the small goals that count!) - the loss also exactly levels our all-time franchise record at 641-641. The proud boast of being the only expansion team to have more wins than losses in their history, which has been the case ever since an 11-3 drubbing of the Giants on September 24, 1999, is now in serious danger.

[icecoldmo having apparently, er, melted, it falls on me to say, "let's take a trip down memory lane!". In that game, the Big Unit pitched a complete game, despite allowing a three-run homer in the first. Meanwhile, we pounded out 17 hits, with every starter bar Colbrunn and Finley getting two hits or more - and that included Johnson. Stinnett and Womack had solo home-runs. And oddly, Shawn Estes took the loss for the Giants.]

Ah, happy days of 100-win long ago, they seem now. Or even 80-win seasons. Two long years of futility, though this does pale beside the Brewers or Pirates, neither of whom have posted a winning season since 1992, before the Diamondbacks were a gleam in Jerry Colangelo's eye. [The Brewers are making a run at .500 this year; the Pirates...not quite so much]

As azdb7 noted, it's kinda apparent in the Gameday comments, which haven't passed 30 since the Pirates series. And, being honest, I can't say I blame anyone: we're about 24 miles into a marathon, and everything is just focused on getting to the finish without collapsing in a whimpering heap. We have to finish, or join the ranks of the fallen (West Coast Bias), and the support yesterday from azdb7, Otacon, Devin and William K remains welcome as ever.

Though while I can't speak for anyone else, my thoughts are turning to off-season activities, where I can put the couple of hours a day spent on the blog to better, more productive use. Such as Ebay-ing the huge pile of unwanted DVDs, that sits beside me here like a widescreen Tower of Babel (if the Tower of Babel had a director's commentary and behind the scenes footage).

That said, you know it's the end of the season when the biggest story is not whether the Diamondbacks win or lose, it's where Luis Gonzalez bats: at #2, for the first time since September 29, 2000. The three-hole has been his home, and one can't avoid making the connection with all the recent rumblings regarding Gonzalez and his future in Arizona.

Unless you're Bob Melvin, that is - here's a candidate for least convincing excuse of the year, Melvin's explanation of why Luis Gonzalez was not hitting in the three-spot. "It's not just about Gonzo. We've been staggering offensively. We'll just mix it up a little bit. He's not the only one that's been moved around, obviously. Gonzo is our three-guy, but when you're struggling offensively sometimes you need a little different look and we have a different look today."

The Melvin doth protest too much, methinks, for he then continued: "He's fine with it. It's not like I moved him down, I moved him up. Tomorrow he may be leading off. He's our three-guy and he's been our three-guy forever. The way we've swung the bats recently especially at home, we're just trying to give it a different look. Try something else and see if it works out for us. It doesn't mean Gonzo's been exiled from the three spot. He has not."

Did it have the desired effect? Maybe yes, maybe no. We scored five runs, which equals our tally for the entire Brewers series, but Gonzalez went 1-for-5, though did at least get his first extra-base hit of the month and improved his September average to .122. But the #2 hole might be a better fit for Gonzalez, because he gets on-base better than anyone else we've tried there this year (Gonzo OBP .359; Tracy .342; Clayton .313, Cintron .298).

This was a back-and-forth event, with never more than two runs in it. We took the lead on Clark's two-run shot in the first, but the Rockies stuck around, eventually going ahead in the fifth when Cormier allowed a pair of inherited runners to score. But back-to-back homers from Clark (again) and Glaus tied it up, until Ardoin swatted a Medders' breaking ball into the bleachers for a 6-5 Rockies lead.

Nippert's second outing wasn't up to much: he had to be pulled before getting through five innings. This time, however, it wasn't a split fingernail to blame, just an inability to locate. He walked six in just 4.2 innings, throwing 108 pitches to get even that far. "If I can't throw my curveball for a strike, can't throw my changeup for a strike, they're just going to get into a count where they feel comfortable waiting for a fastball. That's what they did... It's pretty much just bad pitching."

Cormier, Medders and Worrell covered the remaining four-plus innings. Mind you, the Rockies bullpen got even more taxed than ours, starter Zach Day managing just two pitches before a line-drive from Counsell fractured the thumb on Day's pitching hand - before ricocheting into the glove. That'll end his season. No question who the star of the game was for us, however: Tony Clark, who got on base four times with three hits and a walk - nobody else reached more than once - smacked two homers, and drove in four of our five runs.

And South Bend are intent on making their playoff series interesting, losing 11-6 in Wisconsin last night, to level things at two apiece. Perhaps they're intent on emulating the 2001 Diamondbacks, by winning at home and losing on the road - but if so, the omens are not good, as the deciding game five is in Wisconsin again this afternoon. The best of luck to them regardless.