Record: 51-50. Change on last season: +3
While the opposition's offense scored a consistent 5-6 runs/game this series, the Diamondbacks' output declined for the third game in a row. We tore off at a gallop, with solo homers for the ridiculously-hot Luis Gonzalez, and Conor Jackson spotting us to a 2-0 lead with no outs in the second. Lidle then hit Shawn Green with a pitch, and it looked like that might be the start of a war, since Vargas had hit two Phillies in the bottom of the first - including D'backs killer, Utley.
However, Green was caught stealing, and we had only two baserunners after that point: Gonzo added a double (his 529th, tying him for 28th on the career all-time list), and Snyder a single, but the Drew-less offense (Easley got the start instead, though Drew was seen pinch-hitting) all but sputtered to a halt. And just like Wednesday, we showed no patience against Lidle's slow-pitch offerings either: we got no walks at all, and he required only 95 pitches to get through eight innings, before Gordon came in and completed the series with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Vargas did his best, but was once again the victim of his defense. Chad Tracy's error in the fourth - his second in consecutive games - give Philadelphia an extra out, and they used it to full effect, Lieberthal's home-run wiping out the lead. They went ahead the next time around; Utley extended his hitting streak to 27 games, a major-league high for the year, with a single and came around to score. They added two more in the seventh, one off Vargas, the other off Choate. Medders and Aquino tidied up thereafter.
Enthusiasm was pretty limited around the SnakePit, it seemed, but thanks to William K for posting the lineup, and andrewinnewyork, icecoldmo for their comments, as well as a special greeting for the debut of singaporedbacksfan. Shame it wasn't on a more impressive performance from the D'backs, and as a result of this poor display, we lose our first series since the All-Star break.
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Today: Cheese, but no steak
Results elsewhere during the series, mean that we are in second-place, 2.5 games behind the Padres and also the wild-card leading Reds. Baseball Prospectus puts our post-season chances at 27.8%, though if we were to be chasing anyone, I'd rather it was San Diego. In the last 41 games of the season, we play them thirteen times, as many times as we play the Rockies and Dodgers combined, all the rest of the way. That should go some way to ensuring that our fate, at least, is in our own hands.
Heroes and Zeroes
Series 32: vs Phillies, on road
L.Gonzalez: 5-for-11, 2 2B, 2 HR, 3 BB
Vargas: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 2 ER, 8 K
Pena: 2 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 K, Win
Webb: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 6 R, 4 ER
Tracy: 3-for-13, 2 errors
Julio: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 ER, BS
Luis Gonzalez is at the top of the board, though largely because there were no really outstanding performances. Not that 5-for-11 isn't good, but it's more a second- or third-place hero level of output. However, you can't argue that he is hot: batting over .400 (31-for-77) this month, leading the team in hits, doubles - an NL-best thirteen - and RBIs, as well as tied for HR. Is it, as icecoldmo hinted, the competition from Quentin? Elsewhere, Vargas was the victim of poor defense, but Tony Pena stepped up, effectively getting the win and the save in the series opener.
If Julio blows many more save opportunities, then Pena could find himself promoted to the closer's role pretty quickly. This may be the "nothing" it's claimed to be, but I seem to recall Valverde's fall from grace started with a spell of overuse, followed by a couple of blown saves... Tracy's batwork was mediocre, it was his glovework that really hurt, as his errors helped lead to four unearned runs. And Webb makes a rare appearance in the Zeroes this season, after one of his very infrequent poor performances.
Dead quiet on the trade whisper front, with almost nothing of any importance circulating involving the D'backs. This doesn't mean nothing is happening - the Hernandez-Julio trade appeared out of nowhere, as you may recall - but it does seem to suggest that we may end up not really doing much over the remaining days before the deadline. There may be some minor shuffling around (perhaps trading a reliever or two, for whom the market is bordering on insane), but I think the chances of major trades seem to be dwindling.
Interesting piece over at The Good Phight, where they look at the Curt Schilling to AZ trade, six years later. Basically, it seems to have ended up being Schilling for Padilla, more or less - but since neither of those two are with the respective clubs any more [Padilla is now in Texas; Schilling...whatever happened to him? :-)], it's one of those trades that becomes almost difficult to analyze from the current perspective. I mean, we're not talking Karim Garcia + cash for Luis Gonzalez, or half our roster for a slugger with the most powerful checked swing in baseball history...