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AZ 12, Rockies 5 - San Miguel

Record: 2-1. Change on last season: 0

As last year, we win the opening series, coming back after losing the first game, to take the next two, finishing with a convincing victory. It's always a good sign when your pitcher has to bat before he has to throw, and that's what we did at Coors Field last night, Miguel Batista getting to make the last out of the first inning, with three runs already in. Though he struck out with the bases loaded - the first of four K's for him - it did mean he only had 60'6" to go to reach the pitching rubber.

And when he got there, he certainly didn't show any signs of 'not being ready', as he feared after an abbreviated spring, largely spent sunning himself on the bench at the Costa Del WBC Holiday Resort. Hell, given his last start was back in September 2004, he would have been forgiven for turning in an appropriately rusty performance. Certainly, you'd have gotting heartwarming odds against him pitching seven innings, and matching his career high for strikeouts with 11.

But that's exactly what he did, leaving the Colorado hitters baffled for the second time in consecutive nights, with Matt Holliday's two-run homer the only runs conceded by Batista. He could perhaps have thrown another frame - he didn't reach 100 pitches - but was pulled in the eighth, and replaced by the disaster that is Jason Grimsley. He didn't impress in the first contest, and was ten times worse here: three runs on four hits in just an inning, briefly raised the prospect of us somehow blowing a ten-run lead. But Cruz slammed the door in his first appearance, striking the Rockies out on 13 pitches.

Meanwhile, Francis was all over the place, handing out seven free passes (including plunking Gonzo on the spine), without getting out of the fifth innings. The rest of the Rockies pitchers were equally generous, and we ended up with 11 walks, in addition to the HBP. Jackson and Tracy each reached base safely five times, with Tracy getting three hits, including our first homer of the year. Jackson had two hits and three walks (if Youkilis is the Greek God of Walks, does that make Conor the Irish one?), and Snyder had a homer, a double and a sacrifice fly to tie his career high with 5 RBIs.

With that win, we take the series, and move above .500 for the first time since June 26th last year. Thanks to Devin, Ben (nihil67) and William K for their stalwart Gameday assistance this series, as well as the others who popped in: IndyDBack, Otacon, andrewinnewyork, icecoldmo, Just Me, stephen, dahlian and npineda.

Heroes and Villains
Series 1: road, vs. Colorado
Brandon Webb: 7 IP, 5 H, 0 BB, 1 ER
Luis Vizcaino: 2.1 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 K
Conor Jackson: 4-for-7, 4 BB, 3 RBI
Terry Mulholland: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 ER
Orlando Hudson: 3-for-15, 4 K, fielding botch
Jason Grimsley: 1.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER

I'm tempted to award a collective Hero to virtually all the pitchers, save Mulholland and Grimsley. Nine earned runs in three games at Coors is great, and particularly laudable is the K:BB ratio of 29:10 - and that includes two intentional ones to Helton! Webb's performance definitely deserved better than a no-decision, and it's good to see that, so far, his improved control from last season has not deserted him. Batista and Hernandez were almost as good, while Valverde, Vizcaino, Lyon and Cruz gave hope the bullpen might not be a disaster zone: the collective line for those four was 6.1 IP, 0 H, 1 BB, 7 K.

To describe Jackson's first series as "everything we hoped for", is putting it mildly. Quality at-bat after quality at-bat led to an .727 OBP percentage - while it'd be slightly optimistic, shall we say, to expect that every time, if he maintains anything like that level of performance, Tony Clark won't be seeing many starts. [Except, perhaps, as a late-inning defensive replacement, an area in which Jackson does still seem a work in progress] Also worthy of mention: Chris Snyder's 5 RBI.

As noted, there were a couple of exceptions to the pitching plaudits: the geezers of the team, Mulholland and Grimsley, both pitched the way you'd expect from their combined ages, of 80 or thereabouts. Mulholland's role is now less long relief than "ineffective LOOGY", and Grimsley's name has probably leapt to the top of the charts for demotion when Brandon Medders comes back off the DL

We head into Milwaukee where, make no mistake, things will likely get tougher, as the Brewers have started the season with a sweep of Pittsburgh, and are far from the pushovers who went 67-94 a couple of seasons back. But more on that tomorrow, I think - I don't think I currently have the stomach to discuss a Russ Ortiz start...

And oh, god: the beach volleyball adverts are back: that means a month of sarcasm from Mrs. SnakePit. "Click below for Event Info and Pics of Me. I'll see you there - Rachel Wacholder." No, Rachel: I suspect you won't. Do they really think the popularity of the sport is entirely an appreciation of their athletic skill, and disconnected from the fact that it's played in bikinis? I suspect beach tiddlywinks would probably achieve a sizeable audience. :-)