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AZ 1, Mets 7 - El Manati Strikes Back

Record: 34-26. Change on last season: +3

I'm very, very sorry...

I'd like to start by apologizing to Margaret from New Zealand and her husband. They had just flown in to start their first visit in America, arrived in Phoenix yesterday in the middle of the dust-storm, and decided to attend their first baseball game at Chase Field last night, where they were sitting next to Mrs. Snakepit + I (Chris enjoyed explaining the game to them), having bought their tickets from scalpers before the game - at slightly under face value, which say a lot about current local enthusiasm for the team.

And I can only say to them, that I'm deeply embarrassed by the wretched display put up by the Diamondbacks. Not that it seemed to matter too much to Margaret, who cheered every play with the enthusiasm only seen in true neutrals. But it would have been nice if the game had been a little bit of a contest, not the one-side ass-whupping delivered by Orlando Hernandez and the Mets. Our international visitors had heard of the Mets previously, but not the Diamondbacks. I'm sure they left the game knowing exactly why that was the case.

I could tell this was not going to be our night, with 3/8 of my hopes for the evening basically down the tubes by the end of the first inning - Vargas made an error, Tracy had K'd and Conor Jackson wasn't even in the lineup. But, for the sake of the permanent record, the final tally was a 12% satisfaction rate for the evening, with the detailed scorecard as follows:

A win. WILD, SWINGING K You won't win many games getting three hits - especially when the hardest-hit ball of the night is by your pitcher. We were, to a certain extent, unlucky - the Mets seemed to have an unerring eye for hitting soft ground-balls, bloopers and bleeders which crawled through our infield and turned into hits. We've seen this team come back from insurmountable deficits more than once this season, but you never got the feeling it was possible last night.

Quality start from Vargas. MISS. True, Vargas did pitch six innings, and allowed only one earned run. Unfortunately he also pitched the third inning, in which he let the Mets score four. Actually, after that he was very good, setting down 13 Mets in a row - but the way our hitters were playing, a five-run lead might as well have been fifty. He allowed five runs on eight hits over seven innings.

Hernandez gone by the end of the sixth. WILD, SWINGING K How about instead, his first complete game in almost six years [Sept 16, 2000]. We saw just 35 pitches through three innings, and then 10, 12 and 9 pitches for each of the next three. Over the first twelve hitters we sent to the plate, the Diamondbacks only saw one two-strike count. In contrast, El Duque had an eleven-pitch at-bat in the seventh, fouling off six pitches on strike two, before eventually going down.

Valverde in the closer's role. MISS. Obviously, that didn't happen. After Vargas left, we got to see the newly-recalled Greg Aquino (replacing Nippert on the roster) - but whatever ailed Arizona last night, seems to have a ferociously short incubation period, as Aquino already had all the symptoms. He let the first five hitters reach, on three hits and two walks; he threw only five strikes in his first fifteen pitches. Some credit for bearing down with the bases loaded, two runs in, and no outs, but the damage had been done. Vizcaino pitched a scoreless ninth.

A walk for Counsell. HIT The sole bright spot of the evening, was Craig breaking his walkless streak on five pitches in the third. He also doubled in the ninth, and came home on Tracy's sacrifice fly with two outs, to break up Hernandez's shutout. Gonzalez too, worked a walk off El Manati in the seventh, on the 12th pitch of his at-bat. Where was that degree of patience earlier in the game?

Multi-hit game for Jackson. MISS He wasn't in the lineup and didn't get to pinch-hit. We sent out an all-southpaw lineup (including the switch hitters), which does make sense when you hear left-handers have batted .372 against Hernandez this year, and righties only .213. However, after our sorry little performance, going 3-for-28, the former figure had 53 points shaved off it.

Errorless baseball. MISS I'm a bit confused. The ESPN box-score line gives Arizona no errors, but I watched a wild attempted pickoff throw from Vargas to second sail into the outfield, and the detail does credit him with an error. One would also credit Gonzalez with a mental error, getting caught stealing second in the seventh; his first attempt of the year, and with a five-run deficit, baserunners were more important than outs. We couldn't even get a break here: when the Mets' Milledge bobbled a catch in the outfield, the ball popped up into the air and he snared it on the second attempt.

Tracy back, and no K's. MISS He was back, but K'd his first time up, and the top third of our order went 1-for-10. Mind you, the middle and bottom thirds both went 1-for-9, so it seems unfair to single out any particular section for condemnation, on a night when, basically, everyone sucked. Tracy also let a ball clang off his glove at third, and ricochet into left-field, which a less sympathetic scorer might have called an error. Milledge turned that into a double, thanks to some lollygagging by Gonzalez.

Game Notes

  • Chris Reah sung the National Anthem - just a young kid, maybe nine or ten. Hmm, is it the same kid, with the same name, who sang the anthem at a Minuteman rally last year?

  • We briefly wondered if the concession stands would be selling Pepsi in "leaded" and "unleaded" versions tonight.

  • The Mets fans in front of us were still wearing Piazza shirts, which is kinda sad. There is a period after a player has left, when such items should be put away: I believe the fashion police dictate that once a full year has passed, their use again becomes acceptable under the "retro-cool" clause of baseball fandom.

  • It was fun to see Hernandez throwing the ball up there in the mid-60's. You wonder why people don't run at will on Hernandez; then he whizzes one in at 91 mph, and you realise you never know what's coming.

  • A bunch of spectacularly-shattered bats during the game. Clark had one explode in his hands, then almost immediately afterwards, the Mets' Wright was left with a shard that he casually impaled in the turf as he walked back to the dugout. Where's Buffy when you need her?

  • My notes basically ended at the seventh-inning stretch, as Mrs. SnakePit was using my pen to fill out her All-Star ballot. Took three attempts - the first one had the holes joining up after some over-enthusiasting punching, and the second time around, she thought you chose one on each line, not each category. However, the D'backs will pleased to hear they are sending eight representatives to the game on her ballot. ;-)

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Thanks to William K, azdb7, VIII, johngordonma, micmac99, IndyDback and nipineda for posting in my absence. Here's to better things tonight...