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AZ 4, Angels 6 - Bob snatches defeat from the jaws of victory

Record: 36-39. Change on last season: -2

"Interesting...Looks like they're sending up Vargas? Frankly, I'd have traded a run for an inning. I wonder if not pinch-hitting for Vargas will come back and haunt us? It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest..."
    -- Me, 8:30-8:37pm last night

Never let it be claimed that I engage in second-guessing. When Bob Melvin sent Vargas up to hit for himself, with men at second and third, and only one out, I was immediately first-guessing this decision. Vargas was, at that point, already up to about 90 pitches, and with a season high of only 107, getting through the seventh was a questionable proposition. With a full bench, and a bloop single away from a six-run lead, I would have thanked Vargas warmly for his six shutout innings, and sent him to the shower. Not Bob: "He had a four-hit shutout going," Melvin said.

But not for long. Instead, I feel like Nostradamus: Vargas grounded out, Counsell fanned, and the score stayed 4-0 to us. Vargas got the lead-off man, but then a single, a wild-pitch, an error (by Jackson), and a hit batter, loaded them up with one out, before he was replaced by Vizcaino. The "relief" - oh, the irony - allowed all three inherited runners to score, as well as one of his own, and the precious, rare sparkling jewel which was a Diamondbacks' lead, had been stolen away, never to be seen again.

It's not often that there's such a stark, clear example of managerial bungling costing a team a game. If Vargas had been pulled, then we might have been more than four runs ahead - and Vizcaino would also have come in with the bases empty, rather than loaded. Either way, the whole course of the game would certainly have been altered, though, of course, we might still have found a way to lose anyway. But when our players have been struggling so much, the last thing we need is managerial incompetence, making it harder.

However, it would be unfair solely to blame Melvin. Vizcaino must take his share of criticism too, and all our hitters, who managed just one hit, two walks and nine K's during 7.2 innings of relief from the Angels' bullpen. Gonzalez, Jackson, Tracy and Byrnes - the starting hitters in the 3-6 slots - were a combined 1-for-17, highlighted by Byrnes 0-for-6 night, with 4 strikeouts, and his dive also led to a triple for Salmon in the 11th. Gonzalez did, at least, get on base through three free passes: the rest of the line-up managed just one walk, in 46 plate-appearances.

The offensive highlights were homers by the two lightest-hitting men on the roster, Counsell and Hudson. Though having said that, Hudson is now just one behind Luis Gonzalez in home-runs this year - Gonzo is equal one-hundred-and-seventieth in the majors for four-baggers, behind such powerful hitters as Tadahito Iguchi, Julio Lugo and, of course, Damion Easley.

Some credit to Vargas, for giving us six quality innings: shame about the seventh. He ended up allowing two earned runs in 6.1 innings, on five hits and two walks, while fanning a credible seven, and deserved a much better fate, than to be cast onto the rocks of a no-decision. After Vizcaino, Choate, Lyon and Julio took care of the next 4.1 innings, and Medders pitched a scoreless thirteenth...and a not-so-scoreless fourteenth, for the loss.

Bob Melvin got himself ejected in the ninth, immediately after Shawn Green got tossed, for arguing balls and strikes. I'd like to think it was an embarrassed falling on his sword, for the earlier screwup. That brings our record to 0-2 in games after Melvin gets ejected: it doesn't quite seem to be having the desired "setting a fire under his team" effect now, does it? Maybe he should try setting a real fire, under certain members of the team, and see what that does?

Thanks to all those who commented - in particular, suitsmetoATnT, whose politely-restrained sarcasm (appreciated!) helped power a discussion which ranged from the Playboy appearance of 80's pop icons, to a Burger King marquee. Thanks also to Devin, William K, Keith, VIII, unnamedDBacksfan and Spencer for stopping by. The campaign to get a decent manager for the team starts today.

[Morning update]

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