Record 3-3. Change from last season: 0
This wasn't quite as easy a victory as it might seem just looking at the score. For six innings, we were all but shut down, with Damion Easley's first inning home-run the only significant offense which we could manage. That aside, we managed one hit - a double by Gonzalez - a walk to Easley, and Counsell getting hit by a pitch. [His 3rd of the year, trailing only Jose Guillen in the majors]
The good news is, Claudio Vargas was doing even better: going twice through the Brewers lineup, he allowed only one baserunner, a single to Corey Koskie. Things looked flaky in the bottom of the sixth, when two men got on, but Vargas finished his day's work by getting the ever-dangerous Jenkins to ground-out to Easley. Vargas became the first starter to keep a clean sheet, going six shutout innings, and allowing two hits and a walk, while striking out six.
We finally got some more breathing room in the seventh - and very welcome it was too, since the Brewers had won all of their previous five games, by coming from behind. Two mis-plays were key here: one defensive and one managerial. Firstly, Weeks bobbled a potential double-play ball, and both Byrnes and Estrada were safe. Immediately after this, DaVanon was walked by a visibly-tiring Capuano, loading the bases.
The second error followed: Brewers manager Ned Yost leaving him in to face Clark. Eight pitches later, Clark drew a walk which doubled our lead, and Counsell then smacked the first pitch he saw back up the middle, to double the lead once again, to 4-0. Then, Yost finally pulled his starter - no doubt, before wandering over to a convenient empty stable nearby, to see if any doors needed bolting there...
Aquino made things interesting, putting two on with one out, but escaped, and we tacked three on in the ninth, with Tony Clark belting a two-run homer off knuckleballer Fernandez. Finally, Valverde was run out there for a spot of exercise: it's only his second appearance of the year, and with an off-day today, I'm not inclined to criticize Melvin too much for running our closer out there in a seven-run game.
Heroes and Zeroes
Series 2: vs. Brewers, on road
Vargas: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
Easley: 3-for-7, HR, 3 RBI
Gonzalez: 3-for-12, 2 HR, 2 RBI
S.Green: 0-for-7, 2 K
Tracy: 0-for-8, 3 K
Vizcaino: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, loss
Our pitching staff generally continues to surprise. When Brandon Webb gives the worst performance in the series, you know something odd is going on - though he would admit, Saturday's game was not him at his best. The mere absense of Ortiz from the Zeroes is cause for celebration, but it's Vargas who earns Best in Show, with a performance which sees him atop the NL ERA leaders - albeit in a Washington cap... [C'mon, ESPN! Get on the stick there!] Remarkably, our pitching is currently 1st in the NL, with a 2.68 ERA - our starters are better yet, at 2.43. We're also tied for the lead in K's (51).
Offensively, the spoils were widely-spread: we're dead-last in the league for hitting, with a .224 average (though, largely thanks to Conor Jackson, our OBP is more than 100 points higher, the biggest improvement of any team). But Easley made the most of his outings, providing all of our lead for much of yesterday, and Gonzo showed he's still got the power, with a couple of homers which both had "no mistake" written all over them.
However, both Green and Tracy went hitless in the series, though each was benched for a game. I'm not sure how much Green is going to be platooned, but I'll wager a hefty sum that any off-days he sees will come against lefties. Tracy, I'm less concerned about. Vizcaino went from hero to zero in consecutive series, clearly not having got the memo about "quietly effective" being the best approach to relief pitching.
Can't be too unhappy with a 3-3 road trip: my vague rule of thumb is, win 2/3 of your home games, and 1/2 the away ones, and you'll be playoff-bound. That'd give you 94 wins, which actually, I think is several more than the winner of the NL West will have, come October. It's now back to the first "real" games at Chase Field, with ten games against the Rockies, Astros and Giants. I'll take 6-4 for the home-stand: two wins against the Rockies, one against the reigning NL Champions, then 3-1 in the series versus the Giants - especially if Bonds continues to do his pale imitation of Bonds v.2005.