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AZ 8, Reds 9 - So long, and thanks for all the wins...

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Record: 18-14. Change on last season: 0

Almost. That's the key word of the game. We came back from a 4-0 deficit to take the lead 5-4, and even when the Reds scored four more times, we kept trying to fight on. We were still down two runs in the ninth, but got the tying run to third with one out. However, Johnny Estrada lined into a double-play, leaving the team agonizingly short, and ending the winning streak at seven games.

That was merely the last of a number of "if onlys" during the game. For example, if only Damion Easley hadn't been thrown out at home, trying to score from second on a fielding error. But the biggest "if only" has to be, if only Orlando Hernandez hadn't had another rotten outing. Nine hits, including three fatties, four walks and eight earned runs in 5.2 innings, setting or tying season highs in all these categories.

One wonders how long it'll be before something needs to be done with regard to "El Puque". This jacked his ERA up to 7.36 - to put that into perspective, it's a higher figure than Ortiz ever had, this season or last. I can just imagine Russ, down in Tucson, muttering darkly about the unfairness of it all - before tucking into a large tub of chocolate-chip on the sofa.

Surprising though it is, I would be somewhat forced to agree. Ortiz was canned on the back of two bad outings and a bout of leg cramp, but never allowed more than four earned runs. Hernandez has surrendered 5+ in more than half his starts. And like Ortiz, the issue seems to run back to the end of last season: in 47 innings he pitched from August on, Hernandez's ERA was 5.94. It's going to be interesting to see how Byrnes handles this, since he was the one who brought Hernandez to Arizona. To coin a phrase, it's a lot easier to shoot someone else's dog, than your own.

That poor show kinda got overshadowed by our pair of heroic comebacks, one that took the lead, and one that fell agonizingly short. Green smacked his fourth home-run of the year, capping a five-run third inning, that also included a two-run double for Jackson, and came after the Reds had scored four in the top half. But they came back, scoring four more in the sixth, mostly on Dunn's bases-clearing double, which greeted Greg Aquino when he relieved Hernandez.

The 2005 Diamondbacks might have called it quits at that point, but this year's model is made of sterner stuff. They merely shrugged, and hit back with a two-run triple by Hudson. The Reds scored one more on a homer off Vizcaino, and that proved crucial. Gonzalez and Jackson singled in the ninth; Easley sacrificed them on; Green was intentionally walked. DaVanon drove one in with a high chopper up the middle, but Estrada's laser-shot was snared by Hatteberg, who doubled off Davanon for a heart-breaking end.

Hudson, Gonzalez and Jackson had two hits apiece, but "this one smarts," admitted Melvin. We fell out of a tie for first in the division, as the Rockie won their third in a row. And don't look back, but the Padres won their eighth straight. I feel we somehow let the division down, not completing a sweep over the Reds. The "NL Worst" is clearly not playing like it at the moment, owning the supposedly uber-strong Central with a 22-14 record this year to date.

Thanks to npineda (hope the date went well!), Devin, VIII, and Keith for their comments this afternoon. A 6-1 homestand? Not too shabby at all. It pulls our home record up to 10-7, which is now actually the best in the division - only the Rockies are above .500 in their home park. It's amazing how easy you grow accustomed to triumph; it seems that the longer the winning streak, the bigger the comedown when it eventually ends. So that's what defeat feels like... Given this, best it ended before we went into Pittsburgh, as going cold turkey after a double-digit win streak doesn't bear contemplating.

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Today: More ups and downs that a Jenna Jameson retrospective...

Heroes and Zeroes
Series 11: at home, vs. Reds

Webb: 8 IP, 7 H, 0 BB, 1 ER
Estrada: 5-for-10, 2 RBI
Vargas: 6 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 1 ER
-----------------------------
Tracy: 2-for-12
Hernandez: 5.2 IP, 9 H, 4 BB, 8 ER

Not a bad series, though nobody had more than two RBIs. Estrada proved red-hot at the plate, however: four of his hits were doubles, and he came within about two feet of doubling that RBI total in his last at-bat today. However, barely a start goes past without Brandon Webb leading the heroes, and this series was no different, with another masterly performance. An All-Star berth seems assured, and if he keeps up this kind of performance, he won't be the best-kept secret in baseball for long.

Hernandez' poor performance today was undoubtedly the low-light of the series; even mediocrity would probably have sufficed to win Arizona the game. About the only defense is that three of those runs came after he was pulled from the mound, Aquino allowing the inherited runners to score. Despite being so hot in the first half of the homestand, Tracy cooled off totally; all he had to offer was a pair of singles.

A quick look at the attendance. After 17 home games, we're averaging 25,548 per game, which is basically unchanged from the overall figure last year (25,423). The Cubs were a little disappointing, managing less than 50,000 over the two nights. Last year, more than twice that showed up for their series; even discounting Opening Day, 57,000 were there for the other pair of games against everyone's favourite losers.

And so we hit the road again, facing a six game series against Pittsburgh and St. Louis. I'm thinking four wins is not impossible (a sweep of the Pirates is quite conceivable), but I'd settle, as on any road series, for a 50-50 split.