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AZ 7, Astros 6 - Grand Theft Clemens

Record: 53-51. Change on last season: +3

"Last night, he threw me a plethora of sliders - that's a Berkeley word right there"
    Carlos Quentin on facing Brad Lidge

Yes, kids, the word of the day is "plethora". It's from Medieval Latin, originating from the Greek plEthOra, from plEthein to be full. It also means a bodily condition characterized by an excess of blood and marked by turgescence and a florid complexion, but is generally used to mean a profusion or abundance. Don't say we're never educational here at the SnakePit. This entry is brought to you by the number 7 and the letter Q.

There's something particularly satisfying about swiping a win away from the Rocket. I've had a grudge against him since he unjustifiably beat the Big Unit out for the 2004 Cy Young, simply because of a better W/L record. So, seeing his bullpen cough up a hairball and yank the victory carpet out from under him today, was very pleasant, giving us the series and narrowing the gap in the NL West.

Not that it looked particularly likely early on. My sole glimpse of the first eight and a half innings, was seeing Miguel Batista balk home a run, with the pitcher at the plate, which is a pretty inexcusable error. Things got worse from there, and when we entered the eighth inning, 5-1 down, things looked pretty bleak for Arizona.

However, an RBI single by Davanon, and a three-run homer by Eric Byrnes tied the game up. Conor Jackson - not to be outdone by Carlos Quentin's pinch-hit heroics in the first game of the series - then smacked a two-run shot in the ninth to give us our first lead. [While we still only accepted one base on balls, I figure that scoring seven runs on seven hits and a walk shows impressive efficiency, at least]

Jorge Julio "Jeld" the Astros, though it was far from comfortable, with one run allowed, the tying run on second base, and Byrnes then having to seriously run down the third out in deep right-center. It was such a tough play he even forgot to dive or crash headfirst into the wall. ;-) He did however, high-five the other players and was clearly very, very happy: Julio, on the other hand, looked like he had just been traded to the Hizbollah Yankee-Haters.

With just seven hits to go around, not much to speak about there (nobody had more than one). Though Quentin did get his first major-league drilling, after racking up a ton of them in the minors. Mind you, Batista drilled three Houston players, doubling his total for the season. Naturally, the Astros hit included HBP machine, Craig Biggio, so perhaps today was in the nature of the plunking torch being passed from one generation to another.

Not a great outing for Miggy: eight hits, one walk, plus the three hit batters and the balk mentioned earlier, leading to four earned runs over six innings. Choate followed, and allowed an earned run for the third start in a row. He was a bit unlucky, as it was initially an infield hit, that came around to score on a walk, a failed fielder's choice and a suicide squeeze, but he's been plenty flakey lately. Here's his line since July 9:
Choate: 3 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 5 K, 5 ER, 15.00 ERA

Opponents are now hitting .341 off Choate. And he's got competition too, on the LOOGY front. Doug Slaten has pitched five innings in Tucson, with two hits, no runs and eight K's, after his promotion from Tennessee, where he had an ERA of 1.88 over 40 games... Following Randy, Medders and Pena - the latter getting his third win - combined to face six batters and retired five, without any further runs being scored, before it was Julio time.

Thanks to singaporedbacksfan (for posting the lineup and staying up late - seeing the game start on Monday!), suitsmetoATnT and his amazing headlines, unnamedDBacksfan, flyingdutchman, andrewinnewyork and nihil67 for their comments. That turned out to be a much more satisfactory outcome for the Diamondbacks than I expected - and how it seemed it was going to be, through the first three-quarters of the game.

Heroes and Villains
Series 33: vs. Houston, on road

Pena: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 K, 2 wins!
Byrnes: 3-for-8, 3 RBI, game-saving catch
Jackson: 4-for-11, 4 RBI
Julio: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER
Drew: 2-for-12, 5 K
Choate: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 ER

All hail Tony Pena, who has claimed three victories in his last three outings, for five innings of work. And two would have counted for saves in addition, if only he'd thought to split the innings, and pitch as Tony Pena and Adriano Rosario. :-) However, the victory in today's game belongs as much to Eric Byrnes who turned a three-run deficit into a tied game with one swing, and then caught the game-tying run for the last out. Jackson also deserves credit for losing his pinch-hit cherry to a two-run homer.

A tap on the wrist for Julio, who did not exactly look overwhelming during his appearance today, and was a Byrnes grab away from blowing his third straight save. Drew was the poster child this series, for a K/BB ratio which sat at a meaty 29:3, though he's young yet, and will hopefully learn. Choate has already been discussed: he's teetering on the edge of reclaiming the "Choate the Choke" label, as what use is a LOOGY who can't retire lefties?

And with the Padres losing, and the Giants dropping their seventh in a row, the D'backs are now just 1.5 games back, both of the Padres and in the wild-card race. The good news in the latter is, only five NL teams have a record better than .500 - currently, the standings are:

  1. Cincinnati: 55-50
  2. Arizona: 53-51 (1.5 back)
  3. San Francisco: 51-54 (4)
  4. Colorado: 50-54 (4.5)
  5. Milwaukee + LA: 50-55 (5)

But it's on to Chicago, where we should be hoping at least to split the series, if not take three of four from the Cubs, who have been pretty dismal this season. Meanewhile, San Diego will be taking on Houston and Cincinnati host the Dodgers, though those series don't start until Tuesday. So, all being well, we'll be just one game back then - though standing between us and that is the small matter of Mark Prior... But more on that tomorrow!

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Today: Houston, We Have a Problem