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AZ 3, Padres 2 - Sweet Sweep

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Record: 11-11. Change on last season: -3

In the games since Ortiz's demotion, Vargas and Hernandez have allowed one run over 13 innings, on six hits and two walks, with 13 K's. This, from two pitchers whose ERAs going in were 8.25 and 6.33. respectively. Looks like we should fire starters more often. Though, actually, this whole cycle through the rotation has been grand - the hunting to extinction of the Manatee excepted, naturally. Eight innings of one-run ball from Webb, and a win from Batista, gives the following overall line for the four non-Ortiz members:
26 IP, 17 H, 4 BB, 18 K, 5 ER, 1.73 ERA, 4-0 record

Sure, three of those, were in Petco Park against San Diego, a team now collectively hitting a woeful .235, with an OPS that's 55 points worse than the 15th-placed team in the National League (.665, vs. the Cubs .720). But they are the reigning NL West champions - even if it's really looking like one and out for the Padres - and beating up on divisional rivals is always doubly important, since a win for you means a loss for them.

Unlike last night, where you could argue the hitting and pitching were both equally good, this was definitely a case where the offense got bailed out by the hurlers. Hernandez had good velocity early on, and it seems that when this happens, it leads onto his other pitches baffling the opposing hitters. Nine K's in the game gave him 35 for the season - good enough to top the National League! Might not last, sure. But who'd have thought it'd happen at all? Vizcaino, Lyon and Valverde held the lead, though Valverde gave up the 400th HR of Piazza's career to make it a one-run game.

As a result, every tally was crucial. Snyder gave us the lead in the fourth, singling in Gonzalez. Then, after the Padres had tied it on a Bellhorn home-run in the fifth, Conor Jackson put us ahead again next inning with a solo shot. Chris Snyder added what turned out to be a vital insurance run with a double in the eighth, his second hit of the night doubling home Green. That was it for the productive offense. Shawn Green had three hits, but all with the bases empty - inevitably, when he came up with a runner in scoring position, he grounded out. He's now batting .333 with the bases empty; .188 with runners on.

Your daily dose of yummy Fangraphs goodness
Today: Pour encourager les autres, part deux

Interesting to see how little impact Piazza's home run in the ninth had to the Padres chances of winning - much less than, say, his earlier double-play. I guess when you've got two outs in the ninth and are two behind, you may need base-runners more than you necessarily need that first run. I know it certainly made me stare very hard at the screen though, convinced that if I blinked, I'd jinx the D'backs.

That victory gives us the first sweep of the season, and re-establishes our starters as a credible force. Their overall ERA is down to 4.50, good enough for seventh in the league, and perhaps more importantly, trailing only the Dodgers in the West. Including bullpens, the figure drops to 4.23. The Giants relief corps is still somewhere above 7.00, so the mantra for the weekend should be, get past the SF starters and attack the bullpen. But let's cross that (Golden Gate) bridge when we get to it.

We were the only team in the NL West to win, so go into San Francisco just half a game off the lead. [Thanks to johngordonma, Devin, frienetic and icecoldmo for chipping in with comments,] We take two of three there, which is not impossible, if our pitching performs the same way (we have an ERA edge in all three matchups), and we could go back to Phoenix leading the division. Certainly, things look better than they did when the team arrived in San Diego with an 8-11 record, staring at a murderous road-trip.

Heroes and Zeroes
Series 7: vs. Padres, on road

Vargas: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 0 ER, 4 K
Webb: 8 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, 1 ER, 4 K
Jackson: 4-for-9, 5 RBIs
------------------------------
Tracy: 0-for-11, 5 K

Honorary mention to Shawn Green: normally, seven hits in a series would be a shoo-in for a Hero, but managing to get seven hits and not drive in a single run? On pace for fifteen RBIs this year, it's good to see Green hitting, with his average now up to .268 - now, can he just do it when the bases aren't empty? And three extra-base hits and three walks? Not good enough. I say this, because otherwise, there wasn't much to criticize, apart from Tracy going 0-for the series.

Our 2005 right-fielders could both have learned a trick or two from Jackson, who smashed the middle game open with a three-run double as part of a career-best performance, then scored the go-ahead run in the finale. But, as noted above, this was a series won by strong pitching: 21 innings, two earned runs from the starters; six innings, one earned run from the bullpen. Overall ERA: 1.00; four walks, 23 strikeouts.

I already posted this in the Clark trade diary, but I think it bears repeating here. In the Banana, Tony Clark says: "I firmly believe that if the Lord wants me somewhere else, I'll be somewhere else. But my concern has been and will continue to be what's in the best interests of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Wherever that leads us is wherever that leads us. But I want the Diamondbacks to be in the best position possible to be successful for a long period of time."

Wow. A player apparently more concerned for the club than himself? An interesting contrast to Russ "I don't like it, whatever it is" Ortiz's whining from yesterday. I can't help thinking that Clark's comments were carefully chosen, and intended to be a poke in the ribs for Ortiz, reminding him that the needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few. And to live long and prosper, while he's at it. ;-)

Over on the Padres SportsBlog, Gaslamp Ball, they have a report from a fan who got to play "Guess the Attendance" at Petco. Now, while they could probably have simply counted legs and divided by two (Monday's game was a Petco record low, so the D'backs aren't the only ones having attendance issues - or maybe we just cause them!), the line that got me was this:

When I first came up the Pad Squad asked "You know how it works right?" and I said "Oh yeah, it is always the higher number".

I am shocked - shocked! - to discover that corruption and deceit has apparently soiled even the simplest, most innocent of pursuits at our national pastime. Watergate; Irangate; Monicagate; now, Petcogate. I trust that Bud Selig will institute a full enquiry into this sordid practice, determined to root out those responsible for "putting the fix in." I can only hope that this practice is limited to the Padres organization, and that Guess the Attendance and other games at Chase are still the paragons of virtue I believe them to be. I'll be most upset if it's otherwise, because I have lost so much money betting on those damn relish races... :-)