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AZ 3, Phillies 7 - Had our Phill...

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Record: 34-25. Change on last season: +3

It's raining. In Arizona. In June. An appropriately soggy way to mark the first sweep of the season suffered by the Diamondbacks; indeed, it's the first three-game losing streak of any kind, since we lost five in a row, August 30-September 4, last year. Is it GrimsleyGate? Or just an inevitable regression after one of the best road trips in franchise history? Whatever the reason, we've gone from sweeping the Braves, away, by a combined score of 28-15, to getting swept by the Phillies, here in Phoenix, with the total score this series, 21-7 in Philadelphia's favour.

Dustin Nippert came up from Tucson for the start, but ran into control issues straight away; he walked the second hitter he faced, who then scored on a double. After escaping there, and getting through the second, a two-out walk and a homer gave the Phillies a 3-0 lead. Worse was to come in the fourth, when another base on balls was followed by a single and another home-run, effectively ending the game as a competitive contest. Nippert's final line: five innings, seven hits, three K's, six earned runs and four walks - the last was the real problem, as three of those four free passes came round to score.

Nippert had taken Jason Grimsley's spot on the roster - his unconditional release, at the player's request, was announced by Josh Byrnes in a morning press conference. This hardly counts as a great surprise (though I was surprised to learn we still have to pay his salary - "Released players get paid," said his agent). The striking irony appears, if we look at Grimsley's splits before and after the IRS raid on April 19:
Before Raid: 7.2 IP, 11 H, 2 BB, 2 K, 9 ER, 10.57 ERA
After Raid: 20 IP, 19 H, 6 BB, 8 K, 6 ER, 2.70 ERA

Do you think we should dress up as federal agents and pay a visit to Russ Ortiz? :-)

After Nippert was pulled, we turned to Enrique Gonzalez, called up to replace the DL-bound Cruz - thanks to William K, for explaining that the injury is what allowed Arizona to circumvent the usual "ten-day rule" before a player optioned to the minors can be recalled. Given everything, EnGon [I suspect we may need to use this label, to avoid confusion with Edgar - hereafter referred to as "EdGon"] pitched pretty well, his only glitch being a home-run to the backup catcher Fasano (he murdered us today, getting almost half of Philadelphia's hits). Julio mopped up the ninth.

Offensively, we matched the Phillies' nine knocks, but theirs went for nineteen bases, ours only ten - the sole extra-base hit was a pinch-hit double by Andy Green. Shawn Green and Gonzalez had a pair each, but we managed no walks at all, and we showed no patience at all against Madson. It took him only 35 pitches to get through the fourth inning, including 24 for the entire Arizona lineup, first time around. Given his ERA was north of six coming in, this doesn't seem like the best gameplan.

About the only comforting note to come out of the day so far, is that the Mets have pounced on the Dodgers for four runs in the top of the first, so our lead of 1.5 games might survive the night intact. Otherwise...let's hope for a big improvement, all round, for the upcoming series against the Mets - not least because we're going to tomorrow night's game! But we'll definitely need to be playing better. Thanks to IndyDBack, micmac99, VIII, azshadowwalker, William K, Otacon and Devin for their comments.

Heroes and Zeroes
Series 20: vs Phillies, at home

Estrada: 5-for-8
Gonzalez: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 ER
-----------------------------
Lyon: 2 IP, 5 H, 4 ER
Nippert: 5 IP, 7 H, 4 BB, 6 ER
Counsell: 0-for-9

Not many heroes, especially among our hitters, but Estrada did put together his second four-hit game of the season. Gonzalez was the only pitcher worthy of real note; he received an emergency call-up today, and didn't embarrass himself in an unfamiliar role out of the bullpen. His 3.00 was the best among the six pitchers who threw more than one inning this series. Honourary mentions among the hitters would be Hudson (4-for-10) and Shawn Green (3-for-10, 2 RBI), who tied for the lead with Estrada, hitting for five bases apiece. And, as usual, Webb isn't far away from the roll.

Of course, no question who the real Zero is, but with Grimsley already fallen on his sword, it would seem like piling on. As a team, we hit .228 and had, basically, no power: four extra-base hits, for a slugging percentage of .277: no home runs and only seven RBIs, total. Counsell is 1-for-21 in June, and all the warning signs point to a slump: his K:BB ratio this year is worse than 3:1 (30:9) - last year, he had more walks than strikeouts. He's already lost 28 points off his average this month. Nippert's start was eminently forgettable, but the circumstances can't have been easy: Lyon's performance certainly didn't help, and was a bad comedown, after a fine roadtrip where he struck out 9 in five innings.

A dreadfully disappointing series, but a good, in-perspective comment came from azshadowwalker in the gameday thread yesterday - it's worth repeating in full, and came after I wondered aloud about whether this was a turning point, for the worse, on our season:

I think you're jumping the gun a bit, Jim. I don't think the D'backs are going to the WS this year. Hell, I don't think they'll make the play-offs. However, they're playing a good team. There's been more than a bit of distraction the last few days. Nippert doesn't seem to be setting the world on fire, either. Things will be tough against the Mets, as well, but I expect things to get back on track and the team to stay in the NL West race for most of the season--although the Dodgers will take the division. One bad series against a very good team is no reason to panic.

Calming, soothing words - and, yes, we're still nine games above .500, on pace for 93 wins, and leading the NL West. So, I certainly hope you're right. However, part of me does worry: we have no idea exactly what might be the state of the D'backs clubhouse at the moment. This is extremely uncharted water, and it's almost impossible to say what impact this might have on the team. After being swept by the Phillies, the momentum from the road-trip is stone dead, and there's a real chance things could snowball in the other direction. To stretch a nautical metaphor - probably further than it should - blood is in the water, and the sharks are circling. It's time to reach for the harpoon-gun.

Nice article about Brandon Webb on Sports Illustrated. I hadn't realised before that we have Royce Clayton to thank for his sinker...well, kinda. It was Royce's older brother, Royal, who first spotted the potential, when Webb was in Class A, and said "Hey, you got some pretty good movement there. Let's see if we can't work on this." The rest, as they say, is history. Now, Adam Laroche tries "to swing three inches under it. I try to miss the ball. It's just his control now. He has the same movement. He's got the same velocity. But when he has that control, and you have to go up there swinging..."

Oh, and our daughter's edition of Room Raiders - also featuring Mrs. SnakePit - has been postponed for a couple of weeks. They're doing Texas this week, then I think it's Oklahoma, before they finally hit Arizona. I'll keep you informed, not that you probably really care... :-)

[Morning update]

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Today: Swept under the carpet