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AZ 2, Giants 8 - Worst. Homestand. Ever.

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Record: 35-31. Change on last season: 0

Well, almost. I suppose, technically worse was the 0-11 we went between July 15-25, 2004, being swept by the Dodgers, Giants, Astros and Rockies. But we came into that series twenty-seven games below .500, buried at the bottom of the division, so hopes and expectations were considerably lower. We were also only outscored in that run, 27-70, rather than the 24-78 suffered - in one game less - this time round.

Neither the offense nor the pitching were acceptable during the time we spent at Chase Field. We scored two runs or less six times in the ten games; more than four, only once. Conversely, we let the opposition score seven plus, seven times: is not a recipe for success in general, and especially when your offense is sputtering in the way documented. The dreadful results mean that our record at home this year is back to even, at 18-18. Curiously, the Dodgers are currently the only NL West team with a winning record in their own stadium - all five teams in the division are better than .500 on the road.

Yesterday, it was a bit of both. Batista did deliver a technical "quality start" - three earned runs in six innings - but I am generally inclined to discount any such game where the starter allows double-digits in hits, as he did here. He also allowed two walks, but did fan six Giants; an error by Counsell led to an unearned run, giving the Giants a 4-0 lead when Batista left. Greg Aquino, however, took care of that, surpassing Batista's earned run tally inside 26 pitches: a three-run shot to Feliz (who had six RBIs, equalling our team tally for the past two games) and a solo one to Alfonzo, causing the damage.

Choate and Lyon mopped up. Lyon had two more K's, extending his recent run of fanning the opposition: since May 31st, he's struck out 13 hitters in seven innings, with no walks. We could certainly do with another reliable arm in the bullpen, as Aquino and Valverde continue to struggle. Choate pitched a full inning this time, and so far - admittedly in a tiny sample size - looks like he might stick around for a bit. Estrada had two hits, including a double, while Shawn Green drove in both of our runs. But we made Morris look like the pitcher he was signed to be, not the one who had wobbled his way to a 3-7 record before meeting us.

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Today: Thank god that's over

Thanks to VIII, a surprisingly vocal Anonymous Hero, Ben, William K, dahian, azshadowwalker and icecoldmo for their interest in the game. The last-named had an interesting take on the ongoing Luis Gonzalez vs. Ken Kendrick cage-match:

Let us guess who won't be on the team next year. This instigation is a nice set up by management to chum the waters to enhance this showdown. There will be a new left fielder by September, or sooner. Gonzo, you are a great community guy and a good team player. You are saying the right things for public opinion to be supportive for your side, but the management Gestapo tactics are in motion. This is now a case of full-blown dissension being heaped on you and your teammates.

Seen in that light, Kendrick's remarks shift from near-idiotic to borderline genius. It's certainly the case that Kendrick was only speaking the truth - there have been whispers about Gonzalez, every fan has heard them at one point or another. But for the owner of your team to come out and acknowledge them publicly, even if he then adds, "I don't have any suspicions about Luis Gonzalez, any more than I would about any other player," is something else entirely. Might this indeed be a way of preparing the ground for Gonzo's option to be declined? He still wants to stay, but as he says, "Whether the organization wants me or not, that's something else."

It's also reported that the chances are slim of Kendrick's enhanced player conduct agreement getting onto the books. According to Craig Counsell, a member of the executive committee on the players' union:

"A code of conduct will not happen. Our rules in this game are through the collective bargaining agreement. If it's through the collective bargaining agreement, if it's something that's bargained, fine. But for me, doing things individually, team by team, is a dangerous precedent, and I don't think it's something we should get into.

Heroes and Zeroes
Series 22: vs Giants, at home

Gonzalez: 7 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 4 K, 0 ER
Estrada: 3-for-10, 3 RBI
-----------------------------
Aquino: 2 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 4 K, 4 ER
Byrnes: 1-for-9
Valverde: 1 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 1 K, 4 ER

It's certainly tempting to include Tracy, for his Lead Glove winning performance on Wednesday, but he did have three of our eight RBIs, so escapes with a dishonourable mention. Our starters were much less the problem this series than our defense and bullpen:
Rotation: 18 IP, 17 H, 6 BB, 14 K, 9 R, 5 ER, 2.50 ERA
Relief: 9 IP, 13 H, 2 BB, 12 K, 11 R, 11 ER, 11.00 ERA

The main problem was that our bullpen allowed three homers, accounting for seven runs. Aquino took a marginally reclaimable game, and holed it below the waterline; Valverde may have pitched in a blowout, but the lack of pressure didn't help. I'm still convinced there is something up - be it physically or mentally - with Valverde; this slump has gone beyond the usual ups and downs experienced by any pitcher over the course of a season.

On the bright side, EnGon's sterling performance in the series opener was a much needed boost - even though its effects didn't seem to last very long. And Estrada continues to hit, and get timely hits; his 37 RBIs are tied with Jackson and Tracy for the team lead. He was one of the heroes on the stand overall, going 9-for-27; Hudson (9-for-30) also deserves mention. At the other end, would be Eric Byrnes, who managed a mere 2-for-25, Clark (1-for-12) and Gonzalez (7-for-32, with no RBIs - he has one this month).

We hit the road, for some interesting inter-league action, facing Texas and Tampa Bay, with a stop in Pittsburgh next Monday to make up a game rained out from May 11. Not sure who will be the DH for Arizona. Conor Jackson or Jeff DaVanon seem the most obvious possibilities; it was suggested that it should be Gonzalez, but that doesn't seem particularly likely to me. Said BoMel, "It's a good time for a road trip." Perhaps more accurate was Craig Counsell: "It's a good time to start playing better." Here's to that.