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AZ 4, Pirates 3 - Suns Win! [And so do the D'backs]

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Record: 25-19. Change on last season: -1

Coincidence that we win the game tonight, by exactly the same score that the Suns win the series over the Clippers? Or something more...? We may as well take comfort in the Suns performance, because there was precious little to applaud offensively - in particular, before Gonzalez bunt-singled in the tying run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Up until then, we'd done almost as good a job of making Perez look like Cy Young, as the Pirates did making Hernandez look like Cy Young. Six innings for Perez, on four hits and three walks; seven innings for Hernandez on six hits and three walks. The only run scored was Bay's first-pitch homer, leading off the second against Hernandez, but El Duque did also get nine strikeouts.

Much like Sunday, we had our chances - right from the first inning tonight, where we loaded the bases with one out, but Green popped out, and Easley flew out. We also had runners in scoring position in the second, fifth and sixth innings - with one out in the last two cases, but posted nothing but zeroes on the board. It was looking disturbingly like a repeat of last night.

Even when we scored, it was truly a manafactured run, without the ball even leaving the infield - truly small ball. Pinch-hitter Andy Green walked, was sacrificed to second by Counsell, and reached third when Byrnes grounded out. Gonzo's deliciously subtle play brought him home, and the game was tied. It was his 101st consecutive at-bat without a homerun, but we'll cut him some slack for showing his head was intelligently in the game.

After the tricky task of getting the first run, we were able to add three in the eighth inning, albeit with, largely, more small ball. A walk, a bloop single and a sac. bunt got men on second and third with no outs. Hudson sent a pitch into the outfield, Burnitz couldn't hold it, and the go-ahead run scored - Hudson still got credited with a sac.fly and thus the RBI. Reliever Marte then threw wildly on a chopper from Counsell, who ended up on third, as two more runs scored.

Three runs ahead + Valverde on the mound = game over? Not quite. Not when the Pirates went single, single, walk, and putting the tying run on base. After getting a foul-out, Castillo slapped a two-run single to center, making it a one-run game with men on first and second, and only one out. However, Valverde bore down, fanning Hernandez and then getting McLouth to fly to Gonzalez, for the save.

On the whole, while this was a win, it was not a great performance, with the exception of Hernandez (and perhaps Medders, whose perfect eight inning was good enough to get him the win). Two hits and an RBI each for Counsell and Gonzalez; as well as 101 at-bats, Gonzo is now 33 hits, 9 doubles, and 10 RBIs away from his last home-run, so it's not like he hasn't been hitting. Just not hitting.

Understandably, perhaps, things were overshadowed by events next door at US Airways Center. For the first time ever, there were more people at a Suns game than a D'backs one: 18,422 versus 18,103, the second-smallest crowd in franchise history. According to the AP report, the crowd at Chase Field "cheered when the Suns-Clippers playoff game was shown on the video board during the seventh-inning stretch and booed when the Diamondbacks came to bat and the basketball game was turned off." Thanks to VIII, azdb7, Spencer, William K (nice to hear Robbie Hammock homered twice for the Sidewinders), frienetic and azshadowwalker, whose attention was - more or less, shall we say! - on the D'backs game.

Finally, down in Tucson, Russ Ortiz is still rehabbing...in particular, those excuse muscles, torn by overuse following his Diamondbacks starts. After his appearance on Sunday, where the minor-league hitters of Round Rock took him for six hits and three walks in four innings, he said:

"On some level, I have to give them some credit, because they did end up getting the bat on the ball. Five of the six hits, they did get the bat on the ball [What did they use for the other one? Harsh language?], but it was one of those things where they just kind of fell in. But I was happy with the way they were swinging the bats. They were out on their front foot or making them swing bigger than they probably wanted to."

His mouth, at least, is clearly showing the fine form it exhibited during the early part of the season...

[Morning-after update]

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Today: Rated "Arrrrr" for Piratical wildness