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AZ 5, Rockies 4 - Presenting the World Baseball NOT-so Classic...

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

Firstly, sorry if you tried to access the blog last night, during the enthralling climax of Buster Keaton's Greatest Works, as restaged at Chase Field by the Diamondbacks and the Rockies. A disk replacement had been scheduled for 11:30pm, Arizona time, but unfortunately, it's not just the media who have an East coast bias, so it started three hours ahead of schedule. :-( As we say in Go Daddy Customer Support: "We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. Please let us know, if we can help you in any other way."

To describe last night's contest as flawed, would be like calling Slither "slightly icky." [Quick aside on that: for a B-movie, it does take way too long to get going, but does deliver the gross-eries once the slithering actually starts] In the end, it came down to desire: which team desired to lose less, and I guess we ended up on top there, albeit only just. But an ugly, ugly win, right from Batista following in Hernandez's footsteps, and giving the Rockies two runs head-start.

Remarkably, Batista came within one out of a "quality start", but don't let that fool you: if it hadn't been for the Rockies amateur antics on the basepaths, and Garrett Atkins being kind enough to ground into two inning-ending double plays, we'd have been dead and buried. Nine hits, three walks and two wild pitches in 5.2 innings gives you a better idea of Batista's effectiveness than the two earned runs. Let's look at his night:

  • 1st: Two runs score on one single, thanks to Batista's own error and a wild pitch. Bases loaded, no outs. Atkins helps with a GIDP.
  • 2nd: Runner thrown out, attempting to advance.
  • 3rd: Another wild pitch lets a K'd hitter reach.
  • 4th: Allows bases-loaded hit to pitcher. Runner thrown out at 3rd.
  • 5th: First and third, no outs. Helton fans, Atkins GIDPs again.
  • 6th: Two hits, including an HR, and a walk. Yanked with two outs.

As you can see, the Rockies were keen to help. As was Luis Gonzalez, who not only drove in the game-winning run, he also had two outfield assists - his first such game since June 22, 2004. The victims in both cases, a shame-faced Danny Ardoin, said, "Obviously Gonzalez's arm has recovered from last year." Well, duh. You think he might have learned that from his first experience, in the second innings, when he was thrown out by Gonzo trying to stretch a single into a double.

But, nooooooo. His recklessness on the basepaths also bailed Batista out of another big jam in the fourth: he allowed a bases-loaded single to the opposing pitcher (Aargh! And that, after we walked catcher Ardoin, currently hitting .100), but thanks to Holliday slowing to a crawl as he neared home, Gonzo nailed Ardoin at third, before the runner scored. Yes, it's definitely the Rockies who'll be looking at this and going, "If only..."

Instead, with Arizona 4-3 down in the seventh, Byrnes and Tracy singled in the seventh, to put men on the corners; Jackson then knocked a dribbler to the pitcher, but the catcher couldn't handle the gentle lob back to him, and the score was tied. Gonzalez then doubled over the misjudging head of Brad Hawpe to score Byrnes - though, perhaps inevitably, Jackson was thrown out at home plate on the play, trying to score from first.

And if Batista was shaky, our bullpen was a tower of strength; how often could you have written that with a straight face in 2005? The D-Force (Aquino, Vizcaino and Valverde - all from the Dominican Republic) combined for 3.1 perfect innings, fanning five. Valverde got through the ninth on nine pitches, striking two out, and leaving Helton on-deck. Again. :-) Just what was needed in a one-run game, and it was definitely a tonic to see us win our first such of the year: that's the fourth already, in only eight games.

On the hitting side, Tracy broke out with a three-hit night, batting in the #2 spot. Jackson followed him in the #3 hole, and hit his first home-run of the year too. I tend to agree with Purple Haze's comment last night: I like that pairing as a 2-3 punch, because they will get on base. However, that was a temporary move because of Francis being a leftie, and the Rockies having three more in their bullpen. Counsell and Estrada were similarly benched.

A little surprised not to see DaVanon in the lineup, instead of Shawn Green. As noted by Devin, our CommentBot would have been on overdrive, save for the system crash: Green went 0-for-3 - with a caught stealing, too - to drop his season average to .130. While that keeps up, we'll have to keep relying on Chris Snyder: despite only 10 at-bats over the first eight games, he still leads the Diamondbacks with 7 RBIs, after a two-run homer last night, and is yet to hit a single.

Thanks also to Ben, Andrew and William K for their comments during last night. And now we know how many people turned up for the second home game: not very many. In fact, a new record low crowd for the D'backs, 18,664 - beating by 112 the previous mark, held by...a mid-April weekday contest against the Rockies last year. All of a sudden, the prospect of one point something million fans for the season looks entirely plausible, especially if the team tanks in the first half.

Time to warm up the injury threat meter. Terry Mulholland was put on the DL with an elbow problem: as Ben succinctly put it, "The issue is that his elbow is 43 years old." This leaves us the only major-league team without a left-handed pitcher on the roster, and it might be for some time. Mulholland reckons surgery may be needed: "My thinking based on the way it feels is there's something floating around in there...I can't say for sure until we get some pictures and the doc looks at it...Probably the worst case scenario is there's something in there that has to come out. In that situation it's about six to eight weeks."

Anyone too upset? Thought not. Mulholland's early-season performances have been a flashback to earlier times - much like Mulholland himself, I guess - leading to a queasy feeling in the pit of the stomach any time he takes the mound. That's been in sharp contrast to the rest of the team: even with Mulholland and Grimsley, our relievers ERA is a sparkling 2.59. Take those two out, and the line for the other five is stunning:
ACLVV: 18.2 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 19 K, 1 ER, 0.48 ERA
Long may that continue...