Record: 8-10. Change on last season: -2
Phew. That was less a close shave, more an all-over Brazillian body-wax. At first, it looked like we'd win this in a canter, putting runs on the board in each of the first four innings, to take a 5-0 lead. But that was all the offense that we managed, and the Dodgers began to claw their way back into it. One run in the fourth. A couple in the fifth. Another in the sixth. And that once comfortable lead, was now down to the slimmest of margins.
Fortunately, we turned it over to the hammer and anvil of our bullpen, Lyon and Valverde. They didn't just pitch two perfect innings, they fanned five of the six hitters they faced, when a single blow could have completed the Dodgers comeback, and shown us what it was like to blow a hefty margin. Valverde, in particular, was brilliant, striking out Furcal, Lofton and Drew - combined salaries this year, about $24m - to get the save.
That gave Batista his second win, even though he pitched the bare minimum to qualify, five innings. In this case, however, we can't really blame him: he took a rocket off his shin from Nomar Garciaparra in the first. Said Batista, "It sounded worse than it felt. It hit me right by the bone, but it didn't hurt. It is swollen right now, but I should be OK" That's hardcore. The ricochet off his leg pinged straight to Clark at first for an inning-ending out. He'll be up for the Golden, ah, Shinguard come season's end.
That wasn't the end of his heroics. Minutes later, after having whiffed the first six times he came to the plate, Batista singled into right for his first hit of the year. He came round to score, what turned out to be a very crucial run, on a single by Tracy; his first since September 13th, 2003, during the last stint he had with the Diamondbacks.
The "war" continued, with Gonzalez getting beaned by Hamulack in the eighth. Though I think this was probably unintentional, especially in a one-run game. Gonzo said, "He looked like he lost his control for a second on Tracy. I was just going to take a look at the first pitch, and I got a real good look at that one." As with Batista, Gonzalez stayed in too: "I made sure to get right back up, I always tell my family and friends if I come out of the game, it's because I'm hurt. I just didn't want anybody to worry about me."
If the Dodgers were going to head-hunt anyone, it would probably have been Chad Tracy, who reached base safely five times, going 4-for-4 with a walk, and became the first D'back to hit three doubles in a game since...oh, Chad Tracy did it on June 28, 2005. He was the only player to get multiple hits, but every starter bar Green got one. Shawn's run of good performances came to a screeching hal; he went 0-for-4, with 3 K's, and seven men left on base.
Our infield defense was in fine form, with Tracy and Hudson both showing good skills. However, the same could perhaps not be said for the outfield, where I predict Eric Byrnes' play, which borders on the reckless, will send someone to the DL before the season is out. It may be himself, it may not. I just hope it's survivable. Or maybe we should make sure Shawn Green's insurance premiums are fully up-to-date and there are no unfortunate exclusion clauses...
Thanks to VIII, johngordonma, Devin, azdb7 and Keith, who popped in to the GameDay thread. Their presence was very welcome, and it's nice to get back onto a victorious track. I'll post the win expectation chart for the game separately - be interesting to see how it looks. However, with Sunday's game being an afternoon one, think I'd better get this up now, while I still have a chance!