Record: 11-13. Change on last season: -3.
Despite the ninth-inning loss - and our offense being largely closed down for the second straight day - I can't say I'm particularly upset. The strong performance from Jose Cruz, stepping into Russ Ortiz's shoes will, I think, be of greater significance to this team in the long run, than the actual defeat.
For Cruz was pretty damn good. After botching a comeback from Vizquel to start the game, then hitting the next batter, he set down fifteen of the following seventeen Giants hitters, allowing only a double and a single. He used a mix of high-octane gas (touching 98 mph) and good breaking balls to keep them guessing. Cruz fanned three and, defusing concern before the game, walked none in five innings of work.
He was on a pitch-count of 80, and threw only 67, with only 18 balls, so could have been left to pitch one more frame. However, I can't argue with the decision to pull him: he was in line for a win, and five innings of one-run ball was a fine start, everything we could have hoped for or expected. If Cruz can maintain that level of performance, Ortiz will find himself hanging out with his new friends in the bullpen for some time.
Again, however, the offense struggled, again scoring only two runs, and as yesterday, both came in one inning. Shawn Green finally broke his lengthy RBI duck, and Byrnes - another man whose production has been notable by its absence - then drove in Jackson to give us a 2-1 lead. But in the five innings thereafter, three singles (mostly from Tracy, who broke out of his slump with a trio of hits in the game) were all the baserunners the Diamondbacks managed to get aboard, and two of those were erased by a double play and a caught stealing. Nobody got past first base.
We did come close on a couple of occasions in the ninth - and even when Bonds is not in the lineup, he still hurts us. I say that, because his replacement in left field, Randy Winn, made a couple of killer defensive plays which Bonds would never have converted, to turn a hit by Green and a homer by Byrnes into a pair of outs. Even I have to admit, the latter steal was impressive - Winn used to play b-ball with Steve Nash for Santa Clara, and it showed on the grab, high above the wall. As if going 12-for-26 against us this year wasn't enough... :-(
Meanwhile, our bullpen had allowed the Giants to claw their way back. Though Aquino pitched a perfect sixth, Lyon gave up a bunt single to Finley, leading off the seventh, and he came around to score on two groundouts and a single, tying the game. Vizcaino put a zero up in the eighth, but then fell behind Alou 2-0, and the Giants hitter hit his first walk-off home run since May 2004.
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Today: Tying Up Alou's End
But, all told, this was not a disaster, and we can take a lot away from the game, not least the first blooding of Cruz as a credible member of the rotation. Good to see Tracy getting back into the swing; hopefully the RBIs for Green and Byrnes will remind them that this is what they are supposed to do; and when the game hinges on a near-miraculous piece of defense, it's difficult to begrudge victory. Well, as long as San Francisco are equally magnanimous tomorrow, so we can come home havign gone 5-4 on the road trip, which would be a solid return.
Thanks to Devin, azdb7 and dahlian for popping in; the latter will be at the game tomorrow, so gets to see Webb's sinker in person. Lucky man. Am just trying to work out who'll be pitching the next game we get to - that's Wednesday, vs. the Cubs. I think it's probably going to be Batista, which will at least be a significant upgrade over the last time, when we "enjoyed" an outing from the Manatee.
Mind you, the way Batista's starts have been trending, he might not be all that much better than Ortiz. And he's facing Greg Maddux, who is perfect in five starts, with a 1.35 ERA. Suspect the D'backs record when I see them might drop to 0-2. That's getting ahead of ourselves though - we still have another game against the Giants, and a series versus the Dodgers to get past first! So, one day at a time, as the great philosopher Kris Kristofferson wrote...