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AZ 4, Giants 11 - Dr. Tracy and Mr. Chad

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Record: 35-30. Change on last season: +1

Well, I got the right movie. I was originally thinking that Claudio Vargas would be playing the title role, given his tendency to be very good, or very bad. But in a late casting change, he was replaced as the villain by Chad Tracy, fresh from his fine performance in The Third(-Base) Man. Chad smacked a pair of extra-base hits, but also K'd, GIDP'd and, I believe, set a new franchise record with three errors in a game at third-base. Having started the season very well, he's now suddenly back on pace for 22 on the year, not all that far short of the franchise-record 26 he made in 2004, or the 24 made by Glaus last season.

The crucial gaffe was Moises Alou's grounder in the fourth, after Arizona had opened up a four-run lead. The Giants were threatening with men at first and second and one out, but Moises Alou hit what should have been an inning-ending double-play. "I should have come and got it in retrospect, but I can't do it over," said Tracy. He didn't, the ball ate him up, bouncing off him into left field. By the time the inning was eventually over, the Giants had tied the game, and were on their way to scoring ten runs without further reply from Arizona.

It's strange how you can tell, sometimes, what a game's outcome will be while it's going on. When the Giants came back from a three-run deficit and took the lead, 5-4, it seemed that this was, effectively, over. I sat through another half inning before watching Cut-Throat Island instead, but the enthusiasm just wasn't there. There was something lacklustre about our performance, and I didn't have any confidence that we could fight our way back in this one. Still, we are one game removed from a seven-game losing streak. and all recoveries have set-backs.

Vargas extended his run of up-and-down starts; though he allowed five runs in five innings, only two of those were earned. He walked two and struck out four in five innings, allowing six hits. He gave up a home-run to the Giants leadoff hitter, Steve Finley, in the first, but the next earned run didn't come until the fifth. He failed to get the first two hitters in the sixth; Medders bailed him out of that jam, then allowed two runs in the seventh before, in turn, getting bailed out by Choate, who K'd the only hitter he faced.

Aquino pitched a scoreless eighth, but Valverde's woes continued - he surrendered four runs in one inning, including a three-run homer to Barry Bonds. Something is, very clear, up: it's as if someone flicked a switch on May 18th, removing all pitching talent from Papa Grande. Here are his lines before and after that date:
Pre: 16.1 IP, 8 H, 8 BB, 20 K, 4 ER, WHIP 0.98, ERA 2.20
Post: 9.1 IP, 23 H, 6 BB, 14 K, 17 ER, WHIP 3.11, ERA 16.39

Walks and K's are at least in the same ballpark, but since that date, the opposition are basically batting .500 against him [52 batters faced, six walks, 23 hits]. I am, reluctantly, forced to wonder...well, if he heard something from Grimsley on May 18th that has thrown his game off since. :-( No evidence for this at all, of course, but it's such a curious collapse, all options must be considered, in the light of subsequent events. Worse, yet - Valverde now sounds like Russ Ortiz:

I threw my sinker to Finley, and he hit a good pitch, and my slider was working good, but Vizquel got a hold of one and Durham hit one. And Barry? I threw a sinker to Bonds, and he went down and got it. It was a good pitch. I threw a lot of good pitches tonight, I promise. I threw good sinkers, good sliders. But what am I going to do?"

On the hitting side, it started well enough, with Green's two-run homer in the second giving us back the lead, and we added two more in the third on RBIs by Tracy and Jackson. The offense then basically closed up shop and went to sleep. Counsell got three hits; Tracy (as noted) had a pair. Gonzalez reached three times, on a hit and a pair of walks, while ah, pinch-walkers Andy Green and DaVanon went 0-for-0 with two bases on balls.

Thanks to William K, VIII (good luck on the English final!), IndyDBack, npineda, azshadowwalker, Devin and an Anonymous Hero who wrote, "I'm amazed that this team was ever in first place by 3 games two months into the season. Wow, what a farce." Well, we're still tied for first-place as I write, since the Dodgers lost as well. Two games now cover the entire NL West, from top to bottom: there isn't another team in the National League within two games of their division leaders. The Rockies have won already today: if the Giants and Padres do too, we would have a three-way tie for first, with just one game separating all five teams. [Though as I write, the Dodgers are 2-0 up in San Diego]

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Today: Falling Apart

It's been announced that Kevin Jarvis will make a spot start for us on Saturday against Texas, rather than calling up anyone from the minors. This, presumably, assumes we don't need to use him over the next couple of days, but I expect we'll be trying to avoid that; we do have eight relievers in there at the moment. "We feel like we're in good enough shape where we can bring somebody out of the bullpen, try to get five innings or so out of him and then bring in the rest of the guys," said Melvin. Cruz should be ready to return by June 22nd.

I already mentioned Ken Kendrick's quote in the Republic in the diary section, but the whole article is worth reading. The following seemed particularly interesting:

"We are going to have a code of conduct here that we are literally working on as of (Tuesday) morning, where we're going to have a set of standards that go beyond those of MLB. We're going to not have players wearing our uniform if they break that code," Kendrick said. "What that does is it creates an obvious potential backlash with the union. The union will not like the fact that we're going to basically release players before they would ordinarily be released under the current guidelines. We're going to do that."

And what if doing so makes the team lose? "That's OK, we'll accept that," Kendrick said. "I will sleep better knowing that we've tried to do something... I think that what happens over time is that we get ballplayers who want to play here because we do have a more positive culture."

Remember, today is a late-afternoon game for AZ, with a 3:40pm first pitch. Preview for that to follow shortly.