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AZ 2, Mariners 3 - Sheepish vs. Seattle

Record: 37-42. Change on last season: -2

"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in."
    -- Michael Corleone, The Godfather III

So it was last night. In the first game of the series, we outplayed the Mariners for seven innings (excluding the first and last); in the second game, we fought them almost to a tie over seven, then blew up in the final two; and going into the ninth yesterday, we were leading, with a real chance to win. Sure, we'd still have lost the series, but our performances overall have been as credible as we've managed in a while, and a win would, it seemed, have been fair compensation for this.

However, it was not to be: closer Jorge Julio allowed a lead-off home-run: kiss the lead goodbye. Then Julio followed that up by allowing a triple to Mariners' catcher Johjima - which gives you some idea how badly Green misplayed the ball in right field. That baserunner came home on another hit, and after fighting the Mariners and coming out on top for eight innings, we let this one go. I think losses like this sting, that's for sure - but we can argue, to a certain degree, that we were a little bit unlucky. I'd rather have a defeat like this, than a comprehensively-outplayed thrashing, which we've been seeing too much of lately.

On the other hand, the offense left a great deal to be desired. Two runs won't win many games; especially when you have to rely on a) the opposition defense, the runs being unearned, and b) your starting pitcher, Edgar Gonzalez scoring both of them, for your tallies. Gonzalez had a hit to lead off the third; Counsell singled, but was erased on a double-play by Byrnes that sent Gonzalez to third. However, Meche then balked, bringing Gonzalez home. EdGon also reached in the fifth on an error, then scored from second on a single by Byrnes. As noted last night, starting pitchers named Gonzalez had more hits and scored more runs this series, than left-fielders named Gonzalez...

Edgar also delivered a fine outing on the mound, as well as at the plate. Seven innings, only three hits and two walks, with four strikeouts and only one earned run. He deserved much better, and would have got the win, if only he'd had a little run support, or better help from his closer. It does bode well for the future, however, and the return of Jose Cruz - which might be early next week, if all goes well - will hopefully get the rotation going again.

June has not been a kind month to our pitchers: we have an overall ERA of 6.00 for the month, 15th in the NL [the Cardinals, amazingly, are worse at 6.08]. Our hitters haven't been doing much better: the .248 average is 13th best, and our OPS of .706 beats only the Braves' .684. This explain why, wretched as our June has been (7-20), we're still a game and a half better than Atlanta during the month: they are 5-21. The best team in the league? Surprisingly, the Florida Marlins at 17-7, despite a payroll which could be funded from inside A-Rod's sofa. They're powered by a 2.79 ERA from their pitching staff in June - that's less than half Arizona's.

Not much to talk about on the hitting front. Byrnes and Green each had a pair of hits, but the former also GIDP'd, and Green was thrown out stealing second. We had plenty of opportunities to score - we had runners in scoring position the first three innings, most notably the first, where Byrnes had a one-out triple. However, after initially conceding the run, the Mariners moved their infield up with two strikes, and Tracy grounded out to Sexson, hard enough that Byrnes couldn't score. We were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, but Tracy did at least avoid fanning, for the first time in a good while.

Thanks to William K, suitsmetoATnT, VIII, Devin, 4CornersFan and trevjohnson - though suits described the thread as "boring as hell". Hey, even we can't compete with the delight which is The Incredibles. :-) [Anyone seen Cars yet? I kinda want to; have loved all the Pixar movies so far, but this one just doesn't grab me like Finding Nemo or Monsters, Inc.. It probably doesn't help that I find NASCAR about as exciting as, oh, watching cars turn left for four hours.]

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Today: Gazing into the Julio Abyss

Heroes and Zeroes
Series 26: vs Mariners, at home

En.Gonzalez: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 1 ER
S.Green: 6-for-11, 3 2B, HR, 3 RBI
Byrnes: 4-for-9, 3B, 2 2B, 3 RBI
Lyon: 2 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 4 ER, Loss
Vizcaino: 0.1 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 3 ER
Julio: 1 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 2 ER, Loss

Welcome to a special, all-bullpen zeroes edition of the show. Much as I'd like to recognise L.Gonzalez (1-for-12) or Hudson (1-for-10), really, what did you expect? Our relief corps allowed an amazing thirteen earned runs, in only six innings of work? That level of futility blows almost any level of poor offense out of the water. Julio: the closer who couldn't close. Vizcaino: who believes inherited runners should be allowed to run free. Lyon: who managed to take a tied game and turn it into a non-save situation in one inning. We salute you all. Albeit, probably with our middle fingers.

But it wasn't all gloom and doom. We had two and six-sevenths good performances from our starting pitchers - cross Webb's first inning off the list, and they allowed six runs in twenty innings of work. Enrique's performance last night was a definite sign of hope for starts to come - and not just the rest of 2005. Shawn Green, while his fielding left a lot to be desired, was hitting the ball well, with four extra-base hits, and Byrnes, despite being benched for one game, had three - and deserves credit for hustling out the triple last night.

And so it's onwards to Oakland. I don't see the slump ending there, but as mentioned in the comments, losing to Oakland is no major issue, since they're not our rivals - and the rest of the NL West will likely lose similarly. However, the long streak of playing outside our division is almost at an end; once we hit July and begin facing the Dodgers, Rockies, Padres and whatever that other team is called, then the games become of significantly more importance. It would, however, be nice not to have to turn it around immediately; I'd settle for a good showing against the A's, and three games where we keep it close, more or less regardless of the actual results.