Record: 0-1. Change on last season: 0
...but the song remains the same. It feels like last season all over again. Basic gaffes, our bullpen blowing the lead late in the game and we demonstrate an almost preternatural ability to avoid getting hits with runners in scoring position - one-for-11. Yes, tonight we're gonna party like it's...2005?
While yesterday's loss was irritating in a number of ways, let's keep things in perspective. It was still a damn sight better than last year, when we were clubbed 16-5 by the Cubs, at home. In particular, contrast the performance of our starting pitcher. Unlike Javy Vazquez, Brandon Webb gave a master-class in how to pitch at Coors, racking up groundball after groundball: seven innings, five hits, with two walks, and only one run. The final tally was seventeen outs on the ground, two in the air and two strikeouts.
He even had the chance of a win, as we scored an unearned run in the eighth inning, which gave Arizona a 2-1 lead. However, as seemed to happen so often in 2005, we gave it straight back, with Muholland allowing two hits, including an RBI double to Helton. That tied it up, but Lyon got the next two outs to strand Helton. Vizcaino looked good pitching the ninth and tenth without allowing any hits or walks, and fanning two.
Then Grimsley joined Mulholland - not a good day for the veterans in our bullpen - in also allowing a run on two hits, while only retiring one hitter. But the real villain of the piece was Orlando Hudson. The supposed best second baseman in the National League botched a routine groundball, putting runners on the corners with one out, rather than posting an inning-ending double-play. Indeed, it was so bad, the official scorer didn't charge Hudson with an error, presumably because he never even touched the ball. Not the best way to make a good impression, in your first game for a new club.
He wasn't helped by Conor Jackson double-clutching the ball hit to him by the next hitter. A quick throw might have nailed the runner at the plate, but he couldn't get the ball out of his glove quickly enough, and the Rockies scored the winning run. Add Counsell's failure to touch the base on a double-play, causing the runner heading for second to be called safe (the correct call, and I don't blame the umpire - I'm fed up seeing middle infielders get the out, merely for being in the same zip-code as the bag), and this wasn't exactly the display of sound, fundamental baseball that I wanted to see.
But two runs over nine innings in Denver is, overall, not a bad job - if we average that for the rest of the year, I would be bleedin' ecstatic. You won't lose many games at Coors allowing only one extra base-hit, and conceding two runs. The bad news is, you certainly won't win many scoring two, either, and though we outhit the Rockies, 11-9, we failed to capitalize on a bunch of decent scoring opportunities, especially late in the game:
- Fifth inning. Man on 3rd, one out. Fail to score
- Eighth inning. Men on 2nd and 3rd, no outs. One run.
- Ninth inning. Men on 1st and 2nd, no outs. Fail to score.
All told, we got our leadoff man on board six of the eleven innings. Counsell, despite some ugly hacks during his two K's, did get three hits, and scored both our runs. Byrnes also had three hits, in the #8 spot - which probably equals the production from there in the whole of April 2005... And Conor Jackson, despite his extra-innings defensive issue, had two hits and drove in the first run of the game with a fine at-bat.
On the other hand, Tracy, Gonzalez and Green were a combined 1-for-13, and K's outnumbered walks by a hefty nine to two. It looked like our much vaunted spring offensive push, was redirected by the airline to Hawaii. It is probably sunning itself on a beach, enjoying a pina colada and wondering where the rest of the team has got to. Hopefully it will use the off day to make some phone calls, and get its ass on a plane for Denver.
In the end though, it's only one game: annoying though the loss was, 99.4% of the season remains, and it was hardly as if we were completely outplayed by the Rockies. Tomorrow's game might be a better litmus test of what we can expect from the season, in the 130-odd games without Webb on the mound. The sabermetric in me whispers that the RISP issue will likely even itself out, but there was still, unquestionably, room for improvement in the Diamondbacks' performance over that delivered yesterday.