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Where did the offense go?

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After getting ten hits or more in seventeen of the previous eighteen games - and nine in the other one - we might as well not have bothered showing up against the Cubs yesterday. Shawn Green had a two-run double in the first, but after that, we were kept hitless for seven innings, until Jerry Gil tripled in the ninth, and that was the sum total of our batting. About the only positive that could be found on the offensive side is, we still took seven walks.

The pitching wasn't much better. The best that can be said about El Duque is, that he actually pitched four innings, unlike last time, and reported no problems with his health. However, eight hits, two walks and six earned runs are not the kind of results we wanted to see. Mulholland wasn't much better: typically, the Banana looks on the bright side, saying he was "stretched to three innings, an intangible the reliever can give the club." Yes, but is allowing five hits, a walk and three runs the kind of gift we want from our bullpen?

Grimsley and Lyon finished up from there, Lyon the less impressive of the two, allowing two hits and a walk in the ninth. About the only excitement was Luis Gonzalez giving his mouth some exercise, getting tossed in third for arguing balls and strikes. Bob Melvin was peeved it was done while Gonzo was walking away (I guess that must be in those 'unwritten rules' somewhere), so came out to argue the point - and promptly got tossed as well.

Today should see Craig Counsell back in the lineup for the first time, albeit only as a DH. He'll play there for the next couple of days, but is anticipated to return to shortstop on Thursday, in the split-squad game against the Mariners. Halsey is starting today, with Bajenaru, Valverde and Choate also expected to pitch. Nippert, Daigle and Vizcaino will see action in a 'B'-squad game. The prospects of Medders opening the season on the roster are fading: Melvin now says it's 65% likely he'll be on the DL come Opening Day, though likely backdated.

The Banana also picked up on the Scott Hairston to LF rumblings, with a lengthy article, that as far as I can see, managed to contain almost no additional meaningful information over the paragraph we had here yesterday. Except, of course, the "news" that the Hairston brothers sent each other sparring text messages before yesterday's game. That journalism major is just invaluable, eh? ;-) Rather more interesting is the story in the Arizona Daily Star that talks about the Hairston family heritage, with five major-leaguers over three generations.

As an amusing aside, a headline on the front of the Valley and State section of the Banana today stated categorically, "Say adios to rain in Valley at least until monsoon hits." I guess the torrential downpour, which is taking place outside my window as I write, didn't get the memo... :-) At least the D'backs got most of their game in first, losing 5-4 to Seattle, despite posting home runs by Gonzo, Gil and Quentin. However, Halsey gave up three homers himself. Looks like it was called in the bottom of the eighth. More on all that tomorrow, though.

Japan slid past Cuba, 10-6 in the final of the World Baseball Classic, though it looked for a while that the Cubans were going to stage a stirring comeback, scoring four times to narrow the deficit to 6-5. However, the Japanese scored four runs in the ninth to break it back open again and clinch the inaugural title. I don't think anyone would claim this has been a perfect event, but I think it's been a lot better than most (save the unabashed cheerleaders for the event, and I count myself in there) would have expected.

The expected rash of injuries didn't occur: Damon and Ayala are the only ones with apparent issues: Damon should be fine, and Ayala faced only seven batters, much less than he would probably have in spring. Otherwise, in some cases it was almost too easy. Take Miguel Batista, who has pitched 3 1/3 innings since departing after March 2nd's game. For him, this was largely a paid holiday with your countrymen [Chris asked me who was picking up the salaries and other costs during the tournament; it's an interesting question, and I don't know the answer]

Three years to the next one, in 2009. I think we'll see more enthusiasm from the major-leaguers next time out; we'll perhaps see some tinkering with the dates too. The problem is that with all the leagues around the world playing their seasons at different times, it'll be hard to find the "right" three weeks for the event. It'd be nice to think MLB would be happy to close down the majors - it'd only be once every four years (once it hits its regular rhythm), but I somehow can't see the Yankees going for that.