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AZ 3, A's 1 - A's-y Does It...

Record: 40-42. Change on last season: 0

I think IndyDBack hit the nail on the head after we completed the sweep against Oakland: "Where the hell has this team been hiding?" It's almost as if the team took the entire month of June off, being replaced by a roster consisting of clothes mannequins [who still managed to beat Pittsburgh, of course]. Then, somewhere on the flight from Phoenix to Oakland, the showroom dummies were tossed from the plane, and the real Diamondbacks (y'know - the ones who went 34-22) came back.

And, boy, it's good to see them again: Brandon Webb pitched a four-hitter, striking out seven and walking one. The only mistake he made was to Frank Thomas, who was the sum total of production for the A's, for the second straight game - again on an 0-2 pitch. Otherwise, this was the old, pre-June Webb: seven K's and only four outs made by the outfielders, all by Gonzalez. Shawn Green saw one ball all game, a single; Eric Byrnes had not even that to deal with, and could have left his glove at home.

As yesterday, we needed our starter to be on top form, since the A's were proving pretty good at putting zeroes up there as well. After Thomas gave them the lead, we came back in the fourth when Zito handed out back-to-back walks to Byrnes and Tracy, and the former came home on a single by Gonzalez. That was all we got through the front eight innings, in part thanks to a tendency to hit into double plays, rather than benefiting from them, as is usual when Webb is pitching.

In particular, today's villain was Johnny Estrada, who came up in the fourth and seventh innings, and promptly ground into a double-play on the very first pitch. The only time he saw more than two pitches all day was in the ninth, when he was intentionally walked - and you could see the strain of having to take four consecutive pitches. It was a something of a miracle he didn't step over and take a swing as ball one sailed wide...

As with the first run, Zito's wildness proved his eventual undoing. After Estrada had loaded the bases, he then walked Shawn Green to drive in the go-ahead run. Orlando Hudson added an insurance score with a sacrifice fly, and Webb finished off the game with a 1-2-3 ninth, throwing 107 pitches. A few hours later, he was named to the All-Star team, so I think between that and his first win in a month, Webb was having a good day.

You can probably tell, from the fact we mustered only six hits off Zito, that our offense was generally quiet. Gonzalez had a pair of singles, though one of those was really a pop-fly, dropped as the result of some bad communication among the A's defense. Estrada was the only other Diamondback to reach safely twice, on a hit and the aforementioned intentional walk. But it was enough, and in the long run, that's all that matters.

Thanks to flyingdutchman, Devin, unnamedDBacksfan, suitsmetoATnT, npineda and IndyDBack for popping in. I think we can safely call the losing streak over. Not to say we won't lose 18 of the next 21, naturally, but that would be a different losing streak. Instead, we have cleared the decks and sweep the leaders of the AL West, on the road. Hopefully, this momentum can now be sustained, as we start playing 'Double Jeopardy' - against the other members of the NL West - where the standings can really change...

Heroes and Villains
Series 27: vs. A's, on road

Batista: 9 IP 3 H, 1 BB, 6 K, 2 ER,
Webb: 9 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 7 K, 1 ER
Gonzalez: 7-for-12, 4 2B, .643 OBP
---------------------------------
Counsell: 1-for-13

Kinda startling to realise that we only used ten position players and five pitchers in this series - 40% of our roster never got to throw a pitch or face one. Some sympathy, and a particularly honourable mention, for J-Strada, whose 6-for-12 and three RBIs wasn't enough to make him a hero for the series - those two first-pitch GIDPs today, tipped the balance just in favour of Gonzo. At the risk of stating the obvious, if Luis hit like this every series, him $10m option for 2007 would seem like a bargain.

The only zero for the series goes to Craig Counsell, whose uselessness in the leadoff spot was demonstrated perfectly this series. However, no question about the heroes, Batista and Webb posting back-to-back complete games: it was something of a tricky decision as to who should get top spot. Batista did allow less hits, but allowed more runs and struck out fewer. However, retiring the first 20 A's hitters was just the statement Arizona needed to make, and set the tone for the remainder of the series.

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Today: AZ does it...