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AZ 4, Dodgers 3 - Over and out

Record: 74-84. Change on last season: +25

"Attention, Diamondbacks fans. The 2006 baseball season will close in four games. Please end your optimism, and start making your way towards the exits. We re-open for business on April 3rd, 2006, and look forward to serving you then. Thank you."

I was in Target late last night, shopping for my father's birthday, and their "we're closing" announcement drifted over the loudspeakers, almost as the Diamondbacks were finally (mercifully?) eliminated from the post-season, by the Padres victory over the Giants. Now, we can look forward to giving the youngsters a good run out, and getting a chance to fully evaluate their potential for the rest of the season. Er, all four games of it.

2005 was expected by few to be a year when we'd actually be in contention. In retrospect, the weakness of the NL West might have hurt us a bit, as rather than being able to concentrate on next season and beyond, the illusion generated by everyone else playing almost down to our level meant we ended up staying in competition until 158 games in. It might have been better for our 2006 chances, if we'd been dead by the All-Star Break, and able to evaluate properly the likes of Terrero, Jackson, Green and Cintron, to see if they are genuine everyday players or not. As is, we still have little or no idea.

Estes's chances of being here next year took another knock, when he had to be removed in the fifth, clearly in pain, and not just because of hitting a Dodger with the bases loaded, and then allowing a two-run single. "My left foot is not right," he said - no doubt to puzzled looks from the assembled journos - before clarifying himself. "It hasn't been 100 percent since I came off the DL. That being said, it hasn't hurt to actually throw a baseball, either, until tonight. Tonight was the first time it started bothering me throwing. And because of this, I've been compensating, and it's been affecting my back a lot. Right now it's the worst it's been. It's like it was the pain I had before I went on the DL."

Hmmm. Tonight "was the first time" it bothered him...but "I have been compensating and it has been affecting my back". Not "I was compensating and it affected"? Either a questionable grasp of English grammar - or this problem has been around longer than Estes is willing to admit openly. Either way, I think that's it. For $2.5m, it was a worthwhile punt, but compared to, say, Claudio Vargas (one-tenth the cost and a fractionally better ERA as a starter), we have options. Shame the same isn't true for Ortiz.

Anyway, back in Dodger Stadium, we did our best to keep things going, with another come-from-behind victory, on Gonzo's two-run homer in the eighth, which countered Estes's collapse, which in turn had countered two early RBIs for Tracy (including his 26th homer) - both our men had two hits each, but we only had seven in total. And the errorless streak didn't quite reach record lengths, ending on a gaff by (inevitably) Glaus with two out in the fifth.

Cormier, Medders, Worrell and Valverde worked in relief, and did a sterling job, allowing just a single and a walk over the last 4.2 innings. I am a little worried about the workloads for the last two recently, especially as they're slated to be our set-up man and closer for next year. Worrell has been used the past four games, throwing five innings, while Valverde has appeared in seven of eight, working an inning or more every time. Do we not remember Brandon Lyon? 18 appearances in 36 games to May 12, and on pace for 58 saves? How'd that work out?

And it was all in vain too. It's nice to see the D'backs put together a decent run - this is only the second time all year they've won eight out of any ten games - but only two wins came against teams still in contention, and thus intent putting out their best players. See also the final week of last year, where a 47-109 team suddenly won back-to-back series for the first time since June, again versus teams with nothing to play for.

At least, if they keep this up, it'll give us a warm glow to take into the off-season. As William K and Devin point out (thanks to them for their comments), "worst to second" isn't bad - though it does lack the poetic quality of "worst to first". :-) We're tied with the Giants, so the series against them over the weekend will likely decide the fate of the runners-up prize. And at least 'Roidman will not be going to the post-season. That's almost as comforting as the Diamondbacks making it!