Record: 46-46. Change on last season: +2
"The greatest part about it is it went into someone's beer. My initial reaction was to send one of the kids in the clubhouse out to buy them a new beer, then I found out it was a Dodgers fan. I told her I'm not going to buy her a beer if she's a Dodgers fan."
--Eric Byrnes on his home run
Given our lackluster performance in the last series against the Dodgers, where they swept us, it was important to come out of the gate strong - and that's exactly what we did. Enrique Gonzalez gave us more than a quality start, lasting six-plus innings, to give our beleaguered bullpen a bit of a break, and also went 3-for-3. Stephen Drew got his first hit and made a couple of web gems, while Eric Byrnes smacked a three-run homer as part of a five-run sixth inning, breaking the game open, and - best of all - ruining the evening of a Dodgers' fan. :-) Yes, a good night.
Also safe to say that the Dodgers won't get any calls going their way for the rest of the series. Their first-base coach, Mariano Duncan, was ejected by the third-base umpire, Angel Hernandez, for complaining over a dismissed appeal on a Tracy check swing in the first. After being tossed, Hernandez charged over and had to be held back by another umpire; Duncan threw his hat at Hernandez - who caught it and handed it over the fence to a kid. Beautiful; quite beautiful. "That equipment that he throws to the fan, he's got to try to go out and find a way to bring that cap back or pay for it," Duncan whined. "I don't think any equipment that says 'L.A. Dodgers' belongs to him." Oh, I think you can afford it, Mr. CryBaby.
Interesting and imaginative lineup creation by Melvin, and credit is due for that. With Jackson out, it was anticipated we might see Clark playing first. However, it's clear that there is something wrong with his shoulder, and he was kept off the scorecard too - Steve Gilbert believes Clark is on his way to the disabled list. So, we kept DaVanon in right, and put Shawn Green at first, where he played for the Dodgers in 2004 - he performed well enough there, but Conor Jackson's MRI was negative, so he should be back at first-base tonight.
EnGon had a good game, though it really didn't look like it from the first three innings, where he wobbled out of trouble on an almost permanent basis, giving up two runs on four hits, a walk, a hit batter and a wild pitch. But he got three consecutive 1-2-3 innings after that, before tiring somewhat in the seventh, where the Dodgers scored their third run. However, as well as the win, he also got three hits, the first time that's been done by an AZ pitcher since Curt Schilling, way back on September 5, 2001 - when I was not even engaged to Mrs. SnakePit.
Stephen Drew got his first hit in the fourth, a single to left - though I was hoping it would go to right, where his brother, J.D. was playing. He also stole third later that inning, but it was the sixth which proved crucial: Green reached on an infield single, Hudson tripled him home and though Drew struck out, EnGon also reached, thanks to the Dodgers reliever deciding not to cover first-base ["What? You expect me to field as well as pitch?"] After DaVanon singled, Byrnes smacked the ball into the bleachers - and a Dog-fan's drink - to make it an 8-2 game.
All told, our position players - excluding EnGon - actually had fewer hits than LA, and we only managed one walk. However, adding on Enrique's three certainly helped, as he had two RBIs, and we were generally more efficient at converting those ducks into runs. Estrada and Green, our batting leaders (EnGon's .462 aside!), each had two hits apiece, increasing their averages to .324 and .306 respectively. That's J-Strada's third consecutive multi-hit game, and during his 11-game hitting streak, he is now 19-for-45.
After Gonzalez hit trouble in the seventh, Medders and Lyon came in, and shut the Dodgers out for the remaining 2.1 innings. For a while, it looked like we were, once more, going to be the only NL West team to pick up a win, but the Padres came back to snatch victory, so we remain three games back. However, we did leap-frog the Doggers and [pause for momentary smugness] Gnats into second place. For what it's worth, we're 2.5 behind current wild-card leaders, Cincinnati, and Baseball Prospectus now give us a 20% chance of reaching the playoffs, up a good chunk on what it was toward the end of June.
Thanks to William K, Mister T in AZ, trevjohnson, VIII, Devin, azshadowwalker and unnamedDBacksfan for keeping the comments going, during my general absence. I was following on GameDay, but we ended up having to field support calls at work for three hours - y'know, actually talk to customers - which sucked utterly. When I got past that, my GameDay Audio feed degenerated into unlistenable after a couple of innings, since it kept cutting out. It seemed that the baseball gods just didn't want me to follow the game - but I don't mind too much, since it seems the D'backs did well enough without me...
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Today: Gonzalez the batting champ - er, Enrique...
Not often that our most win-enhancing hitter (+15.1%) is the same as our most win-enhancing pitcher (+16.5%). So, no question who the Player of the Game was for Arizona. Interesting suggestion from Cleveland, "Arizona has shown an interest in Jake Westbrook" - the Indians pitcher would cost us $5.6m for next year, which is relatively cheap compared to a free agent. He has serious groundball tendencies, which would seem to be something we'd welcome here in Arizona: over at Let's Go Tribe, he's described as "Particularly attractive for teams with strong infield defense." That'd be us. :-) I think he would be a solid, middle-of-the-rotation kinda guy; the question would be, what do you think the Indians would want in trade for him?