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AZ 7, Cardinals 6 - The Game No-One Wanted

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Record: 20-17. Change on last season: -1

Add reigning Cy Young holder Chris Carpenter to the laundry list of pitchers against whom the Diamondbacks have stepped up their game this year. Though, being honest, this was less about us beating up on Carpenter, than the Cardinals defense gifting us extra outs and bonus base-runners. All three of the runs Carpenter allowed were unearned, as he reduced his season ERA to 1.98, and we only managed five hits and a walk in his six innings of work.

Meanwhile, Miguel Batista was experiencing similar issues when he came to the mound. Like Carpenter, he allowed three runs; like Carpenter, none were earned, thanks to Counsell booting a groundball in the sixth that should have been the third out of the inning. Instead, the Cardinals came back to tie it up, forcing Melvin to go to Vizcaino for that pesky final out. Batista finished with 5.2 innings, allowing only three hits; he had good velocity on his fastball (touching 95 mph), but had his share of control issues, walking five.

Three of these came back-to-back-to-back in the fourth. This was a shock, because Batista was cruising nicely, and in fact had been perfect, retiring the first ten St. Louis hitters. But he suddenly lost all concept of control, and we only escaped damage thanks to Rolen hitting into a double-play with the bases loaded and one out. We turned three twin killings, giving us 51 for the year.

This left Brennaman crowing about how we're the "best defensive team" in the league; that's so if you look purely at errors. But there were definitely some plays today which should have been made, yet didn't blemish our fielding percentage, such as a groundout to Easley, a foul pop-up between him and Jackson. If you look at a broader stat, like Defensive Efficiency Rating (the percentage of balls in play we convert to outs), we're much less impressive, down in 26th place, at 69.15%. Similarly, the Twins have the best fielding percentage in the majors, a sparkling .991, but are dead-last in DER, converting only 65.71% of chances.

Both starters were gone by the seventh inning, and we turned things over to the #1 and #2 bullpens in the National League. Not that you'd know this was the case, going by that seventh inning: Lyon and three Cardinals relievers combined to allow ten hits and seven runs, six earned. First the Diamondbacks scored four times, and then St. Louis came right back with three in the bottom - it might have been more, but Molina grounded into another double-play.

Lyon was much more stable in the eighth, sending the Cardinals down in order. Valverde came in for the ninth, and there was a heart-stopping moment when Pujols caught up with a Papa Grande heater (a large baked potato?), sending it soaring towards the bleachers. However, he got a millimeter under the ball, and Green caught it, leaning up against the outfield wall. While the Cardinals did get a two-out single, that hardly seemed like a threat in comparison.

So we took the least-likely game of the series - largely, I suspect, because Pujols was 0-for-3, though did get his 48th RBI with a sacrifice fly. For us, Gonzalez went 4-for-5, Counsell and Estrada both had two knocks, the latter also having 3 RBIs, but Jackson went 0-for-4, to end his 13-game hitting streaks, and have his membership of the .300 Club revoked. However, Byrnes takes over his locker, going 1-for-2 after replacing DaVanon, as part of a double switch.

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Today: Doin' the Double-Play Dip

Thanks to IndyDBack, VIII, Devin, npineda, Spencer and azshadowwalker for their input today - the last-named provided the title for this entry. As the chart above shows, it was certainly an exciting game, with lots of changes in fortune as proceedings ebbed and flowed. Though with the sides combining for five errors and seven unearned runs, it won't be entering the textbooks as an example of model play...

Heroes and Zeroes
Series 13: vs. Cardinals, on road

Estrada: 3-for-8, 4 RBI
Batista: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 5 BB, 0 ER
Gonzalez: 5-for-11
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Cruz: 5 IP, 7 H, 3 BB, 5 ER
Easley: 0-for-7
Vargas: 3 IP, 8 H, 3 BB, 8 ER

Not the best road-trip, but 2-3 is okay, I suppose - a win in the postponed game against the Pirates would have meant an even split, which I'd settle for on almost any tour. Estrada continues to swing a bat to good effect, and has driven in runs in 13 of our last 17 games. His season tally of 22 is now only beaten by Tracy. Batista was the victim of some poor defence, and could have posted a shutout.

Gonzalez had hits, and passed the Babe on the all-time doubles list, with his 507th this afternoon. On the other hand, there were once again no RBIs for Luis, and he was homerless for the eighth straight series. Almost time to retire the Green RBI Watch (it's nearly completed his task, he's just one behind Quentin now). What should replace it? The Gonzalez HR Watch? (71 at-bats) The Clark Hit Watch? (0-for-23 in three weeks) Or the El Duque Quality Start Watch? (23 days)

Two of our rotation make the "zeroes" list: Vargas was awful on Saturday, and Cruz hardly any better on Friday. Splitting them is Easley. He didn't exactly make the most of the two starts he received in this series, and his defense varied from the pretty good to the very lackadaisical. Hudson was hardly any better, going 1-for-7; perhaps another possibility is the O-Dawg RBI Watch. It's only 16 at-bats currently, well short of the 45 it took him to drive his first run in this season.

And now it's back to Phoenix for a ten-day home stand. First off, we face the Padres, whom we swept in San Diego last time. However, they've gone 14-3 since then - indeed, they've lost just once in fifteen games. Which should mean it's about time for them to cool down then, really. :-) Then it's the always-dangerous Braves, before the Pirates come to visit - at least we know our games against them here won't be rained out.