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AZ 9, Angels 7 - The unfamiliar taste of victory

Record: 37-39. Change on last season: -1

It's sweet, yet savoury at the same time: crunchy, but chewy. Chocolatey, but with a hint that vanilla? Ah, yes: I'd almost forgotten what it was like. [Let's face it, a win over the Pirates, coming only after they'd loaded the bases with no outs and failed to score, is hardly a win at all] Today's two-run margin of victory was our most emphatic win in exactly three weeks. But easy? Hardly.

No, this one was teetering on the edge, from the moment the Angels scored a run in the first inning, without a hit of any sort, right the way through to the ninth, when the Angels scored a run, without a hit of any sort. And you can add the second inning, where the same thing happened too. When we're handing out freebies at a high rate, in the shape of six walks and five wild pitches, no lead is ever going to feel secure. And that's true even as we had our biggest offensive eruption in the same three weeks.

It helped that the Angels were in almost as much a giving mood as the Diamondbacks, handing us seven bases on balls (three to Snyder), though they laid off the wild pitches. Conor Jackson and Orlando Hudson were the offensive stars: CoJack had four hits, while Hudson had four RBIs, including a three-run homer in the fifth which restored our lead after the Angels had tied it at four. Craig Counsell also had two hits and a pair of RBIs.

And we needed it. Miguel Batista took one for the team, sticking it out for seven innings, much needed given the drain on the bullpen caused by Saturday's 14-inning marathon. He was rewarded with his seventh win, even though he allowed six earned runs in the process, on seven hits and three walks - it was those, all of which came around to score, that really hurt him. Batista passed one hundred pitches for the first time this month, reaching 110, but is now tied for the NL lead in hits allowed.

Immediately he left, however, things became even more of an adventure. Vizcaino once again had problems, putting two men on, including the tying run, with only one out, and was rapidly yanked for Lyon. He coaxed Morales to line into a double-play to Jackson at first. The ninth was also, ah, "interesting", with Julio in - I must confess, I was very surprised to see this, given he'd thrown thirty-one pitches the night before. I perhaps shouldn't have been too worried: on April 23rd, playing for the Mets, he came back in, the day after hurling 37.

But at first it looked like these fears were going to be justified. Julio got the first out before walking Figgins - who promptly stole second, then came home on two wild pitches. Our closer then also walked Napoli (he of the long bomb), but got the next two Angels to fly out to left. Albeit in Anderson's case, only after fouling off six straight two-strike pitches. Julio said, "He went foul, foul, foul. That's OK. I throw fastball, fastball, fastball."

Oddly, according to Batista, he thinks the Angels' four-run seventh on Saturday may prove the turning point of the season:

"I believe that something weird happened yesterday and I believe that our team had a wakeup call. I think it was in the seventh inning when we heard our fans screaming for us to come back. We all looked at each other going OK, something's going on. I guess yesterday they showed us how much they care and I believe that we had [forgotten] that a little bit."

You can tell Miggy's a literary type, though Luis Gonzalez didn't notice: "If you guys find out what the heck he's talking about let me know because I'd really like to write that in a chapter somewhere." Mind you, he was probably too busy shaving off his goatee - I believe it is the first time Gonzo's been clean-shaven since he came to Arizona.

Thanks to unnamedDBacksfan, Keith, Englishdback, VIII and azdb7 for stopping by in the series finale. I guess we'll have to wait and see whether this does mark any kind of a turnaround. But at least, with a day off tomorrow, it does give the possibility of an uptick at least, rather than the slide continuing. The series against Seattle will prove interesting.

Heroes and Zeroes
Series 25: vs. Angels, at home

Jackson: 6-for-11, 3 BB, 0 K
Vargas: 6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K
Hudson: 4-for-13, 6 RBI. 2 HR
Tracy: 2-for-12, 4 K
Byrnes: 0-for-7, 4 K
Vizcaino: 0.2 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 1 ER

Part of me wants to bend the rules and make Melvin the biggest zero, for his actions in Saturday's game, that cost us victory. However, he's lucky we don't include coaching staff here, otherwise, he'd certainly be mentioned. Instead, Eric Byrnes has fallen off the wagon, and it'd be no surprise were DaVanon to replace him for a bit. Poor at-bats and defense in the middle game were all Eric had to offer us this series. Vizcaino's failure to stop inherited runners from scoring was the main problem, even though only one run went on his ERA - and he was just as bad today, with the bases empty. And Tracy's old, hacktastic ways have returned, with a K per game now his average.

Jackson's return to form is a huge relief: his slump has, by and large, coincided with the team's. While I can cope with those who won't be around next year (and you know who I mean there) playing poorly, I'm more worried when it's the franchise future. Hudson had a sudden rush of power, with homeruns in back-to-back games, for the first time in more than three years [June 10/11, 2003. Obscure fact: his middle name is "Thill". Not sure what that means], while Vargas deserved better than to be pushed too far by his manager.

I just realised that I never got round to doing a Heroes and Villains for the Tampa Bay series. Part of me thinks "Who cares?", but part of me - presumably the part that has arranged our DVDs in alphabetical order - feels this indicates unacceptable slackness, and must be addressed. However, even said part is willing to concede that 3am is probably not the best time to do it, so the required catching-up will perhaps take place as far of the off-day tomorrow. I'll likely be casting around randomly for stuff to talk about anyway: all suggestions welcome!

[Morning update]

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