Record: 39-42. Change on last season: 0
I always liked July better than June: probably because, back in Scotland, the summer break from school always started the first weekend in July. Therefore June = school, July = trying to ignore my mother telling me it's a lovely day, and that I should be playing outside. Ah, happy memories. And the D'backs seems to like July much better too, posting their first back-to-back wins in almost a month as we enter it.
But if you were to take a poll, asking which pitcher was going to take a perfect game into the bottom of the seventh inning, it's probably fair to say that Miguel Batista's name would be near the end of the list. He came into today with the fourth-most hits allowed of any pitcher, and his 1.33 per inning was tops among qualifying players. Thus, to flirt with perfection was...unexpected, shall we say, especially after his June was awful, even by the Diamondbacks' low standards.
Regardless Batista came through, pitching a complete, three-hitter. He was masterful through the front six innings, tearing through the A's lineup twice, without apparent difficulty - he allowed only two balls out of the infield. And after Hudson made a heroic play for the second out in the bottom of the seventh, it really seems like something special was brewing. Alas, for some reason, that near-thing seemed to derail Batista's concentration: he walked the next batter on four straight balls, then served up a two-strike fatty to Frank Thomas. He dispatched it into the bleachers, ending the no-hitter and the shutout with one swing.
Still, a markedly better performance than we've seen of late from Batista. [Except, we didn't get to see it, since the game was not televised, or even available on mlb.tv. Some bizarre result of MLB's blackout rules, I believe - though quite how they affect us here in the Valley, for a game being played in the Bay Area, beats me...] The key seemed to be Batista taking pitching coach Bryan Price's advice on board, throwing more off-speed stuff, and making it significantly different from his fastball + slider. Mixing up his pitches makes them a lot harder to hit - as the A's found out.
However, for the first six innings, Loaiza was matching Batista - if not for hits or baserunners, at least as far as the most important number is concerned, runs allowed. He posted goose-eggs up there as well, getting the outs when necessary. In the seventh, however... At first - amusingly, in hindsight - it looked like we were playing for one run after Green doubled to lead things off. Hudson grounded out to advance Green, and DaVanon beat out an infield single to drive in our first score. Counsell flew out, and it looked like we'd settle for that single tally. But then...
- Byrnes singled to center, DaVanon to third.
- Tracy singled to left, DaVanon scored, Byrnes to second.
- Jackson singled to center, Byrnes scored, Tracy scored. Jackson to second.
- L.Gonzalez doubled to left, Jackson scored.
- Estrada singled to center, L.Gonzalez scored.
- S.Green walked on a full count, Estrada to second.
- Hudson popped out to second baseman Ellis.
Six runs on seven hits and a walk (including five straight two-out hits), as we send eleven to the plate, and blow this one open. Only on five occasions in June did we score more than six runs in an entire game, never mind scoring six in an inning. The last time we did that was back on May 20th, in the - hey! - seventh inning, against Atlanta. [Looks like the seventh is the anti-first, as far as we're concerned...]
Four hits for Gonzalez, matching his career high - these included three doubles, tying the franchise record, and he also had a walk. Add three hits for DaVanon, and two each for Estrada and Byrnes, as we pounded out fourteen hits off the Oakland pitchers, on our way to the Diamondbacks' biggest margin of victory in 25 games. As a way to finish off the first half of the season, I think it's safe to say that this game totally rocked.
I was operating in splendid isolation for the first half of the Gameday Thread since - embarrassing admission time - I forgot to set the thread to 'Publish'. As a result, I could see it fine at home, and was cheerfully commenting away; it was only when I reached work, and couldn't see the thread from my computer there, that I realised what was up. Still, the party, once started, was attended by Keith, unnamedDBacksfan, flyingdutchman and azdb7, so thanks to them for their perseverance.
Russ Ortiz made his first start as an Oriole and...well, he was a better hitter than a pitcher, going 2-for-2 with a pair of RBIs. He was yanked in the fifth, having allowed nine hits, four walks and three runs in 4.1 innings. Wonder how long it'll be before the Orioles are fed up of him? We're well rid of Ortiz, that's for sure. It's clear that one thing has not changed - his post-game quote:
Another afternoon game tomorrow: just to be sure, I'm going to get this one up before going to bed tonight! Well, Sunday morning is also lie-in central as far as I'm concerned, and so any thread done tomorrow is likely to be of the "crap, five minutes till first pitch variety." Should be a good matchup though.
[Early evening update]
Your daily dose of yummy Fangraphs goodness
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Today: The shape of near-perfection