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AZ 6, Padres 5 - First Park, then Clark

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Record: 21-17. Change on last season: -1

"Here comes Clark. I can hardly wait..."
   -- Me, 8:46pm.
"Wooooooooooooooooo!"
   -- Me, 8:47pm.

Unbridled sarcasm to joy, in the space of one swing of the bat. It's amazing how the game turns, and how the newly-shaven headed Clark (an 0-for-26 goat up to that point, lacking any hits since April 23), is now the toast of the team, with an eighth-inning homer to tie the game at five. And, I suspect, particularly the toast of Brandon Webb, as the blow got Webb off the hook for his first loss of the year.

Webb, for the second game in a row, was torched by the opposing hitters, who licked ten hits off him in six innings. [His 69 hits is third-most in the majors] And unlike last time, when he escaped with the aid of some good fortune and conveniently-timed double-plays, this time, the base-runners had a nasty habit of coming home. Webb allowed five earned runs, and his streak of quality starts, stretching back to August 16 last year, ended at fourteen.

His downfall came from some unusual sources. Firstly, backup Padres catcher Josh Bard - getting a rare start in place of Mike Piazza - had three hits, including a two-run homer off Webb. Worse yet, opposing pitcher, Chan Ho Park, went 3-for-3 with two RBIs against our ace. [Though he's been no rabbit at the plate throughout his career, and is a .177 hitter] The worst came with the bases loaded in the sixth, when Park's single turned a 4-3 lead, into the 5-4 deficit that set the stage for Tony Clark.

This all came after we'd gone out to a 4-0 lead in the third inning, thanks - as in Sunday's game - to three unearned runs, gifted by the opposition. Barfield got distracted by the splintered pieces of Clark's bat, and what should have been a inning-ending play ended up as two on, and one out. A two-run double by Estrada completed the exploitation of the Padres' defensive shortcoming. However, as we saw, 4-0 was far from the end of the story...

Once more, our bullpen was exceptional, throwing four shutout innings. Medders (whose ERA is now down to 2.77), Vizcaino and Valverde combined to allow only two hits and a walk, striking out five and letting Clark tie it. When Byrnes hit a leadoff double in the tenth, it seemed all over. However, Tracy lined out; Gonzalez grounded out; and Clark was walked by left-hander Embree, to get to Green. But Shawn's real clutch, two-out, extra-inning, game-winning single past a despairing second baseman gave us the game.

A pair of hits for Byrnes; a trio for Green; two, as well as three RBIs (tying him with Tracy for the team lead) to Estrada. However, Chad Tracy went 0-for-5, so finds the door to the .300 Club barred by a Black Knight, muttering something like "None shall pass!" - still he got a contract extension today, more on which below. Hudson also went hitless, and is in danger of being thrown out of the .200 Club, and Luis Gonzalez is now 77 at-bats without a homer. Those two will be the new targets of our scrutiny, replacing the Shawn Green RBI watch, which served its purpose admirably over the past month, and is now officially declared over.

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Today: Clark and Green in: The Late Show

I think we were pretty close to a season high for comments on this game - only the second extra-inning affair of the year. Thanks to VIII, Otacon, William K, Spencer, and npineda for enjoying it here (or not, in the last-named's case!). All I can say is, good job I had basically hit my quota for the day before first pitch, as the radio broadcast of this one severely affected my productivity. :-)

The win leapfrogs the Diamondbacks over the Rockies, and puts us just half a game behind the Padres - so, a win in the second contest would leave us clear at the top of the division. Of course, there's just the little matter of Jake Peavy to get past. But at the moment, after this (mainly) solid performance, we seem to have the momentum going forward. On the other hand, we will be sending up Orlando Hernandez, so I suspect "momentum" would need to be approximately the size of, oh, a small nebula to be much assistance there.

As noted, Tracy is now signed through 2009, with a club option for 2010. He gets $1m extra as a signing bonus this year, then $2.75m next season, an extra million in 2008 and another for 2009, with a $7m team option for 2010, or a $1m buyout. Seems pretty damn cheap to me, though I confess to being a little concerned by his high strikeout tally this year [two more vs. San Diego, making 36 this season - on pace for 153, easily a franchise record] On the other hand, his fielding is markedly better than we saw in 2004.