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AZ 8, Padres 5 - Stepping back from the brink

Record: 71-84. Change on last season: +24

Phew. That was close. Five outs from elimination, to be precise. But a five-run eighth inning, in which Arizona batted around - so nice to be on the delivering end of one of those, just this once - turned what looked like the end of our playoff hopes into the first win at Chase Field. And so, we live to fight another day, still in the playoff hunt after 155 games, despite having conceded more runs than any other team in the National League.

It really didn't look like we would survive in the middle of the fourth innings. Another stellar outing from Russ Ortiz (four innings, seven hits - including one to the opposing pitcher, batting .059 - three walks and five earned runs) had us 5-2 down, with our limping and vulnerable bullpen limping towards the scene, looking wildly around in search of assistance.

But credit where it's due. Our bullpen proved much more effective than the Padres': Messrs. Bulger, Groom, Worrell and Valverde allowed just three hits and a walk over the remaining five innings. Tim and Jose blitzed through the last two, facing seven San Diego hitters on only 19 pitches, including two strikeouts.

Meanwhile, up until the eighth inning, our offense was mostly Luis Gonzalez, who had two solo home runs. However, this was countered by his failure to track down what looked like a credibly-catchable three-run homer by Ramon Hernandez: he got too close to the wall in the left-field corner, and couldn't grab the ball as it landed atop the fence and rolled over.

Gonzalez also got the eighth inning running, with his third hit, an RBI single that cut the lead to one, before Tracy (who went 3-for-5, and is back up to .302) cleared the bases with a three-run double on an 0-2 pitch from Chris Hammond. Said Chad, "I was just trying to make contact and got a pitch that I was actually looking for. It was up in the zone and I could do something with it. I am sure he didn't want that 0-2 pitch to be where he threw it." Alex Cintron also had two hits and two runs.

Thanks to Devin, William K and azdb7 for their comments, as we stagger bravely on. Hmm... Just for fun, what would it take for us to reach the final series, next weekend in San Francisco, still with a shot? Basically, the Black Magic Number is 2: that number of San Diego wins + Arizona losses will eliminate the Diamondbacks. So first off, we need to win again today, or it's all over for us.

Assuming we do, we'll be 5.5 games back, so need to pick up 2.5 between now and Friday. The Padres have four games in San Francisco: if they win one and lose three, while we sweep the Dodgers in our three-game set, they'll be 78-81, we'll be 75-84. Or if they get swept, and we drop one, same effective result: we'll arrive in San Franciso, needing a sweep and the Padres to be swept by LA to tie for the title.

I think we should, however, cross all those bridges when we come to them - not least because Baseball Prospectus currently puts our playoff odds at slightly below one in ten thousand! So let's start by a win today, to clinch the first series in Chase Field and - in all but the most unlikely of scenarios - send the home fans off for the season with a good taste in their mouths.