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AZ 5, Rockies 6 - Close, but...

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Record 3-4. Change from last season: -1

Thanks to Devin and William K for keeping the Gameday fires burning during my absence. Our third one-run contest of the year, and it's yet another loss: our four defeats have been by a total of five runs. This year, we've outscored the opposition by eleven runs, but are 3-4. In 2005, after seven games, we had been outscored by four runs - fifteen runs worse - yet were 4-3. Go figure...

In such close encounters, the impact of every little thing tends to be magnified, albeit in hindsight; you can't help looking at the game, and thinking, "What if...?" For example, in the first inning, we loaded the bases with one out, and Conor Jackson smashed the ball towards short left. Matt Holiday trapped the ball, but Tracy and Gonzalez (on first and second respectively) froze, as the third-base umpire signalled no catch - as a result, both men were subsequently doubled-off what should have been an RBI single for Jackson. That's your margin of defeat, right there.

Tracy, perhaps, has an excuse: "I never really went over who is making the calls, but now I guess I know. I was waiting on the guy right beside me to make the call, and he never did." But Gonzo, on first, could see both umpires. To quote Stu's report on Diamondbacks Bullpen, "Terrible baserunning. DaVanon [on third] had no problem. The third base ump signaled safe from the get go. The ump did a great job. He signaled early and kept the safe sign up for the entire play and even after the play. There was little doubt in the stands as to what happened."

So it seems fairly inexcusable to hear Gonzo shrug it off with, "It's one of those plays you very rarely see." Especially coming from someone in his seventeenth season, among the active leaders in games played (as of this morning):

  1. Barry Bonds - 2735
  2. Craig Biggio - 2571
  3. Steve Finley - 2406
  4. Julio Franco - 2379
  5. Gary Sheffield - 2197
  6. Ruben Sierra - 2172
  7. Luis Gonzalez - 2170
  8. Ken Griffey - 2132
  9. Frank Thomas - 1966
  10. Bernie Williams - 1952

But moving on, for there are plenty of other "moments" that might have been. Such as our increasing awareness that El Duque is becoming El Duque of Earl - as in Earl-y Departures. Five innings in his opener, 4 2/3 innings here: looks like we need a six-man rotation, so we can double-up on his starts. It took 108 pitches to get that far, and Melvin, typically, left him there too long - the two runs a gassed Hernandez allowed in the fifth, before getting yanked, would have been the difference between defeat and victory.

The results last night - six hits, two walks and five earned runs - are a sharp contrast to the Rockies' lack of success last time out. Showing an admirable degree of flexibility in their game plan, they were much less fooled by Hernandez variety of curves and slower pitches, and also didn't swing wildly at his high fastball. It probably also helped that they got to him early, sending us to a 3-0 deficit before we even came to bat, setting the tone.

After Hernandez was pulled, and Cruz cleaned up the fifth, then got us through the six, Mulholland came in with another lack-lustre performance. He got the lefties out, but the hits allowed to the right-handed batters allowed a run to score - again, that proved crucial in the end. Melvin has to decide, is Mulholland a LOOGY, or a genuine relief pitcher? So far, the results (opponents hitting .462 off him) certainly don't seem to indicate he's very good at the latter.

Some credit is due for making a game of it, after being five runs down. A Craig Counsell triple cleared the bases, and he scored on a groundout by DaVanon, who had two hits, as did Hudson, down in the #8 spot. And in the ninth, Shawn Green hit his first home-run of the year, although he is still mired in a 3-for-20 slump. We had the tying run at second with one out, but Clark fanned, and Counsell grounded out to end it. Should Easley have hit for Counsell? Perhaps.

Bad news, I'm afraid: D.Baxter is still the mascot. Despite the fans having clearly spoken (73%, at time of writing, want to see Russ Ortiz in the role - see above for my "artist's impression" of this), senior VP of marketing and communications Derrick Hall said, "He's an institution here. Baxter's not going anywhere," and the furry freak parachuted into the stadium before the game. I'm sure I wasn't the only one praying for a "wardrobe malfunction" - after all, the planned F-16 flyover was cancelled because of a crash earlier in the day. But sadly, Baxter landed safely.

Far from a sell-out for Opening Day: the official (paid) attendance was 37,355 and total tickets distributed 46,726. When you have to give away 9,000 tickets to your team's home opener, you sense it's going to be a long season, crowd-wise. Okay, last year's game was a) actually on Opening Day, not a week into the season, and b) against the Cubs, so would have been a sellout anyway. However, it'll be interesting to see what kind of audience we get for tonight, without the lure of giveaways and D-Bingo.

This is an issue addressed by Paola Boivin in the Banana today. "Don't mistake optimism for loyalty," she warns, in a generally more-critical piece than is usually found therein. Though I'd have been even more impressed if she hadn't called Orlando Hudson a short-stop... The Banana has also been running its own team blog, written by Nick Piecoro and Bob McManaman. Being "proper" journalism, it is a little dry, but is not without some promise.

Oh, and I also added a new Diamondback stats link to the sidebar. It's mostly for my own use, since I got fed up schlepping round three or four different sites (there isn't one that has all the info I use in a nice format), but if anyone else finds it useful, they're welcome. ;-)