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AZ 3, Dodgers 11 - Owned on the Fourth of July

Record: 40-44. Change on last season: -1

For the second straight night, the Dodgers dismantled our pitching to the tune of double-digits; the back-to-back complete games of Webb and Batista over the weekend seem like a distant memory of another season, and possibly another team as well. How can a team that played so well then, get so horrible, so fast? Certainly, the past couple have games have shown there are still questions about the rotation: if Enrique Gonzalez is the answer, I'm not sure I want to know what the question is.

Our starters thus far have given us just seven innings of effort in two games, which is not adequate. With Cruz, you have some excuse, in that it was his first game off the DL: Enrique has no such loophole. Even when staked to a 2-0 lead, Gonzalez was unable to hold it, as the Dodgers then scored eleven unanswered runs off himself and Medders. The turning-point was a five-run Dodger third, including a bases-loaded walk to hot rookie Ethier. EnGon was permanently behind in the count, and ended up allowing seven earned runs on eight hits and two walks in four innings. Medders allowed four over the next two, before Choate and Julio mopped up with scoreless innings.

Melvin had shook the lineup dice, moving Green up to third, and dropping Tracy down to sixth, and batting Hudson behind Counsell - though he didn't make the move we all know should happen, and get Counsell out of the leadoff spot [0-for-5 last night for Craig]. Estrada and Jackson also got the night off. Net result: basically, nil - the offense still slumbered. We managed two hits with runners in scoring position: one of them by the pitcher, who singled in a run in the second. We left ten on base, twice as many as LA. Byrnes had a pair of hits, including our only extra-base knock, but this was an all-round embarrassment.

It's the kind of game that sucks the enthusiasm right out of you; while I missed the start, I did see much of the Dodgers third inning, and an apparently-endless stream of LA players reaching base without difficulty did nothing to convince me to stick around. Almost every advert break, when we flipped over to the game, the Dodgers were a) batting, b) had runners on base, and c) got another run. All of which convinced us that it'd be better to watch a selection of Fourth of July events instead, but we did catch the very end of the game...

And that might have been the most interesting aspect. Shawn Green was plunked in the hip with two outs in the ninth by Danys Baez - apparently in "retaliation" for J.D.Drew being hit by Medders in the fifth. Melvin basically wouldn't comments, but LuGon was more forthcoming, launching an "expletive-filled tirade" while Green was being asked about it: "Go ask Baez and Grady Little. They're the ones that waited until late in the game to throw at him. It was gutless. Go talk to them so they can tell you that the ball slipped out of his hand." Green was a little vaguer: "I know it was intentional... But we've got a lot more games, so we'll see what happens."

I'd say the Dodgers were being trigger-happy: fair enough, taking out Jackson in response for our wildness yesterday, but are they going to retaliate every single time one of their batters gets hit? Certainly, they are leading this series in unarguably intentional plunkings, and I would not be surprised in the slightest if Melvin decides a little payback is in order tonight. However, pre-game warnings are no doubt scheduled by the umpires for this evening, so don't be surprised if Melvin gets his fifth ejection of the season.

Thanks for a civil, polite, well-mannered and entirely troll-free set of comments last night. William K, Ben, unnamedDBacksfan, Devin, highandtight and icecoldmo stepped away from the hot-dogs in order to share their thoughts. Much talk about the recent lack of production from the heart of the order. Thought I'd shed some light on this, by listing the output from the various spots, and also the various positions, and seeing how it stacks up compared to the rest of the National League [ranking there is by OPS]:

      BA  OBP  SLG  OPS  Rk
#1  .261 .313 .361 .675 #14
#2  .275 .347 .481 .828  #3
#3  .265 .327 .442 .769 #13
#4  .236 .349 .369 .717 #16
#5  .274 .357 .413 .770  #9
#6  .300 .353 .480 .833  #5
#7  .328 .360 .505 .865  #2
#8  .253 .342 .380 .722  #6
#9  .192 .263 .288 .552  #5

P   .154 .181 .182 .363  #8
C   .300 .341 .452 .793  #5
1B  .252 .352 .401 .754 #14
2B  .255 .318 .401 .719 #11
3B  .276 .333 .462 .796 #10
SS  .251 .317 .352 .669 #11
LF  .269 .370 .417 .787  #9
CF  .291 .348 .496 .844  #2
RF  .312 .370 .481 .852  #7
DH  .276 .343 .483 .826  #3
PH  .191 .323 .291 .614 #12

Some expected results, but also some shocks there - who'd have had first base as our least-productive position, relative to the league? At first, I thought Clark's black hole of suckiness was to blame, but even Jackson alone would be ranked 13th. While he does now lead the team in on-base percentage, a lack of power slides him a long way down the list as far as output from first-basemen go, since he's not your typical slugger. Yet, anyway: in Chad Tracy's first season (he turned 24 in May of it, just like Jackson did this year), his slugging percentage was .407, basically the same as Conor's .401.

No surprise that it's center-field and catcher which have led the way (excluding the minimal DH at-bats). The pairings of Estrada/Snyder and Byrnes/Davanon [both have the same 63/27 split in terms of games played - that's more than 84 in total, because of times they played in the same game] have been bright spots, even during the dark month of June. Otherwise, however, the infield has not been a positive the whole way round, all four spots below average.

In terms of lineup construction, the clean-up spot has been abysmal. Luis Gonzalez has far and away the most plate-appearances there (259), with next best being Conor Jackson, down on 77 - interestingly, Jackson does much better (.853 OPS) in the five-hole than anywhere else. Counsell batting leadoff is also clearly not working - while as a short-stop, his production is tolerably below-average it just should not be in the #1 slot. Byrnes has been incendiary (.955 OPS) batting at #2, and it might be time to give him an extended run at the top of the order.

Oh, and I believe tonight sees the humiliation of the SnakePitette on national television, with the screening of the edition of Room Raiders on which she and Mrs. SnakePit took part. Mrs. SnakePit is, of course, much less bothered, since no-one she cares about watches MTV. :-) 6pm on MTV, or maybe it's 6:30; I forget, and can't be bothered to go look! So I'll just say, "Check local press for details."

[Late-afternoon update]

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