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AZ 6, Padres 7 - The Gonzo Farewell Weekend, Part IV

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Record: 76-86. Change on last season: -1
Rookies in starting lineup: 2

Thank you, Luis Gonzalez, Craig Counsell, Miguel Batista, and any other Arizona Diamondbacks who played their last game for the club today. I must confess, I got severe goosebumps in that ninth inning, when first Counsell, then Batista, and finally Gonzo, were pulled from the lineup, to a tremendous standing ovation from the crowd. They are the last fragments of the glory which was 2001 and the victory in Game Seven of the World Series, which will forever remain a pivotal moment in my life.

It's just a shame that the Padres didn't quite read the script. Scoring six runs off Brandon Webb in the fourth inning? Not what I anticipated, and I suspect that has probably killed his Cy Young award chances, stone-dead. Sure, he's still got the most wins of anyone in the NL, and is third-best for ERA. But going without a victory in your last three starts, and having your worst outing of the season on the final day, is hardly the way to make an impression on the goldfish-memoried voters.

The only consolation there is that we made a damn good effort at making Trevor Hoffman look bad. Tracy and Jackson delivered back-to-back homers off him in the ninth to make it a one-run game, and we then got the tying run on base with one out. Snyder grounded into a fielder's choice, and was replaced by Young as a pinch-runner. Pinch-hitter Callaspo hit a grounder to the second baseman, who slid to stop it, and his throw pulled the first baseman off the bag. He threw on to second; initially, the umpire ruled Young safe there too, but the call was reversed on whining from Bochy, even though the replay clearly showed Greene was not touching the bag on the force play.

It was a farcically-bad call, which left the sellout crowd highly upset, and booing their lungs out. That's entirely understandable: it would have made for a great climax to have Stephen Drew come to the plate, facing Trevor Hoffman, with the tying run on second and two outs in the ninth inning. Instead, the Padres backed into the NL West title, thanks to a blown umpiring call, and Arizona just failed to mount a sterling comeback from a seven-run deficit.

This will definitely be an outing that Webb will want to forget, and I wonder if the fuss around the departees somehow took him out of his zone. He looked more or less fine for the first three innings, giving up one run on an RBI double to Piazza, but the fourth was an unmitigated disaster, even though Webb did strike out the side. Five of the Padres runs scored with two outs, including a two-run single to the opposing pitcher, and a bases-loaded walk to Giles. Webb gave up six hits and two walks in that frame alone, which would normally be a full day's quota for him, and slumped from first to third in the National League ERA. Even I would be somewhat hard-pushed to vote for him now.

Credit the offense for not buckling and phoning it in after that point: no-one would really have blamed them for doing so. However, Counsell led off the fourth with a home-run which led to a well-deserved curtain call: nice timing, given it was only Craig's 4th of the year. A sac.fly from Snyder made it 7-2 in the fifth, and Tracy had his first homer of the day in the seventh, a two-run shot to deep right-center. That set the stage for the ninth-inning near heroics, which also meant that Tracy, as well as getting three hits, won the RBI title for the Diamondbacks this season, his 80 just pipping Conor Jackson's 79.

Needless to say, the crowd cheered every move by Gonzalez and Counsell to the rafters, and the crowd of 48,946 was very, very easily a high for the year. In fact, from what I can see, that's the biggest regular-season attendance in franchise history. The last time more were crammed in to the park, was the Game One of the NLDS against the Cardinals in 2002, when 49,154 was the official attendance. That does indeed take the overall total for the year past that of 2005; I think the final tally will be about 1.5% up, in fact.

Lot of neat touches, like the huge "20" on the outfield grass, and the equally-large "4" on the ground behind second base - the numbers of Gonzalez and Counsell, as if you'd forgotten! It was, all told, a very classy day, with a lot of emotional resonance for players, fans and the organization. I want to send my appreciation to all those involved. And thanks to those who chipped in on the last GameDay Thread of 2006. Present were suitsmetoATnT, jeremy and npineda, while Devin broke the news of Carpenter's day off, but it seemed like most people, myself included, were happy just to kick back and take this one in as it happened.

I also want to extend my thanks to everyone who has posted, commented or simply read these ramblings over the past year. It remains a source of continual amazement that people are apparently interested in what I write, and it's that which keeps me coming back, even when the going was hard, the inspiration tough, and the coffee very definitely unleaded. :-) I've learned as much here as I've expounded, and I hope you've enjoyed the site as much as I have. Here's to 2007, and the Season of the Young Bloods!

But we're far from over: Heroes and Zeroes of the final series will follow tomorrow, together with the exciting climax to the AZ SnakePit Fantasy Baseball Championship. I'll still be posting (sporadically) during the playoffs, the Arizona Fall League starts soon, and we can also start plotting how to make our team better during the off-season. So I'll be keeping busy, and you should check back often. After all, there's only about 137 days until pitchers and catchers report again...