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AZ 7, Mets 2 - ...and *exhale*...

Record: 30-21. Change on last season: +1

Yesterday's game was the equivalent of breathing deeply into a paper-bag for five minutes. A complete game from Miguel Batista - not to mention a six-run lead going into the ninth inning - was just the antidote needed to recent traumas. We led from the top of the first inning (albeit with the aid of a questionable umpire's call), and a four-run fifth inning provide some much needed daylight between us and the Mets.

It certainly didn't look like Batista would be pitching the ninth in the second inning. He gave up hits to two Mets, but got a lucky out when Lastings Milledge, in his first MLB at-bat, sent a laser shot, fortunately straight at Counsell. A sacrifice bunt then went horribly wrong, thanks to Tracy not covering third, and throwing wildly to first, bringing a run home and putting men on the corners with one out. But our old friend, the inning-ending double-play, came to visit the Mets, and danger was averted.

Oh, they had their chances. Lots of them: they were 0-for-15 with runners in scoring position. Batista had a nasty habit of allowing leadoff doubles, which meant a big inning was never far away. However, to his credit, he bore down when needed, and the Mets wouldn't score again until the bottom of the ninth. It was Batista's first complete game since June 2004: he threw 124 pitches, netting him some Pitcher Abuse Points, allowing nine hits and a walk, while striking out three. After the game, Batista was asked why there are so few complete games: "Because guys get $13 million to throw one inning," he replied, bluntly.

On the hitting side, two hits for Tracy (and no K's - at this rate, it'll be the shortest watch ever!) and two for Estrada. But the big blow came from Conor Jackson: Byrnes homered to lead off the inning, Tracy singled and Gonzalez walked, before Conor sent the ball into the stands, not far from Byrnes's shot. I mentioned this in the comments, but it's worth bringing up here, and I think I'll add a permanent link in the side-bar. Here are the NL Rookie of the Year candidates, sorted by OPS:
Jackson and his rivals
Jackson is now second for OPS, and tied with Fielder for the lead in RBIs. A couple more HR (as noted previously, voters weight that more heavily), and we're talking every part the legitimate contender.

Eric Byrnes is another player having a fabulous season: his third homer of the series last night has moved him up to 8th in the National League for OPS, ahead of the likes of Adam Dunn and Lance Berkman. Among CF, only Carlos Beltran tops Byrnes - and it's not even close, with the third-place man, Andruw Jones, 124 points behind Eric. Not that you'd know it from the All-Star game balloting, where Byrnes doesn't even make the top fifteen - Jones leads all players there. Indeed, look in vain for any Diamondback to be mentioned. Like Rodney Dangerfield, we jus' don' get no respect.

Thanks to VIII, William K, Devin, johngordonma and Spencer for chipping in. I'm in two minds about leaving Batista in for the ninth: it does make a nice statement for your starter, but is hardly a mark of confidence in your bullpen. "Sorry, guys, a six-run lead? We're sticking with a pitcher who has thrown 110 pitches already." Bit of a double-edged sword, that. Might have been a nice spot to get Jarvis in, before his arm rusts entirely, but more on that topic after this squiggly message:

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Today: Batista Completes Us

Kevin Jarvis. Called up on May 20th; pitches thrown since: zero. It is, probably, inevitable that in the ten games since he arrived, our rotation has gone six or more innings every time; we've had three complete games and nine quality starts. No complaints here, of course, but it isn't the sort of environment in which a player specifically called up as a long reliever will see an enormous amount of work. And the clock might be ticking on Jarvis's time with us...

For in Fresno tonight, Ortiz and Mulholland will both make their latest rehab starts: the latter could well be deemed ready after that. Who would he replace in the bullpen? Does the minor-league contract Jarvis signed, mean we can simply send him back down? Or does he have to go through waivers, as any other veteran? The former would make him the obvious candidate, since Mulholland can also give us multiple innings in a crunch, but calling Jarvis up, simply to waive him without taking the mound, seems...well, wrong.

Polls have closed on the Closer Poll - as it were. Here is the final result:

  1. Jorge Julio: 39%
  2. Luiz Vizcaino: 18%
  3. Brandon Medders: 15%
  4. Brandon Lyon: 13%
    Jose Valverde: 13%

The tribe has spoken. Julio for closer. So we now return to our earlier, scheduled poll on the happier topic of which non-Webb D'back should go to the All-Star game.

And lo, closer-wise, it did appear Melvin is leaning the same way: "Melvin said right-hander Jorge Julio was his closer if needed on Tuesday night, but wouldn't commit beyond that. But that Melvin wasn't backing Valverde, who has allowed runs in five straight appearances with two blown saves, seems to say it all." Certainly, Melvin's support for Papa Grande was luke-warm at best: "We talked about where we think we're going, but I'm not prepared to talk about that yet."

Steve Gilbert and Bryan Price don't think Valverde's reliance on his fastball is the main issue:

On Monday, Valverde clearly missed his spots with a couple of pitches, and that appears to be more the issue than does mastering another pitch to go with his mid-90s fastball. That being said, Price would like to see either the split-finger or slider become an even more reliable second pitch for Valverde. "He's had a lot of games where he's been successful and thrown nothing but fastballs," Price said. "Nevertheless, No. 1 for his own psyche and for the days he doesn't have his best fastball command, he does need to be able to have his secondary pitches working for him."

I would imagine a decision has been made, given the likely scenario of a hardcore pitcher's duel today, with one or other team's closer very probably seeing action. Unless, of course, Webb throws his third straight complete game - and, y'know, I would certainly not rule that out. However, more on today's game, a little later.