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AZ 6/5, Marlins 3/6 - Fishing Chips

Record: 59-58. Change on last season: +3

Not quite the results we were hoping for. Losing two out of three to the Marlins at home is disappointing, and given the way results have gone thus far today, this afternoon's defeat looks likely to lose us ground, both in the NL West and wild-card races. Though I am, as I write this, enjoying watching the Schmidt-Maddux matchup - scoreless after two - which will, obviously have a bearing on the overall division standings.

Firstly, and most importantly, Brandon Webb pitched on Saturday, got the win, and reported no subsequent ill-effects. That's the good news. The bad news is, this was some way short of Webb at his best. He only lasted five innings, and it's been more than a year (37 starts, on July 15 last season) since he's been pulled after that number of frames. In his defense, he had thrown only 83 pitches, so could probably have gone another inning, and it was kinda odd that he hit for himself in the bottom of the fifth, but was immediately replaced by Medders for the sixth.

Seven hits and two walks over five innings, with three runs, two earned - okay, just not what we've come to expect from our ace. Here's his take on the performance - I've highlighted the key phrase : "Arm was good, so I was really happy about that. I missed one start, but it felt like I hadn't been out there in a month. It was a little weird in just that short time off. I'm sure it will get progressively better my next time out. I didn't feel like I was throwing a whole lot of quality strikes tonight."

The importance of Hernandez's eight-innings outing the previous night became enhanced, as that, and Thursday's off-day, gave us an almost fully rested bullpen to cover the remaining four innings. Medders, Vizcaino, Lyon and Julio held the line, posting zeroes from there on, though Lyon wobbled somewhat. He had men on second and third with no outs in the eighth, bringing the tying run for the Marlins to the plate. However, he got three straight ground-outs, and any damage was averted: Julio struck out two in the ninth for his 16th save. That passed Papa Grande's total from last year, and ties Greg Aquino's number in 2004, for seventh on the D'backs single-season save list.

Our offense was... well, we scored all six of our runs with two out in the fourth inning. I'd probably be happier if the production was a little more evenly spread, but six runs is six runs, however they show up. We went into the inning 2-0 down, before Hudson tied the game with a bases-loaded single, LuGon added an RBI single, and after the bags had been filled up once more, Carlos Quentin unloaded them with his first career triple, into the gap in right-center. Quentin said, "He got behind in the count so I decided to wait on a fastball and I got one."

Three hits apiece for Jackson (who also walked) and Callaspo, the latter starting at shortstop because Stephen Drew tweaked his hand on a swing Friday night. [While not seeing his name in the linup is always a scary moment, I think it's safe to say that his performance today should have reassured fans. But we'll get to that in a moment, however!] Damion Easley, starting at third in place of Tracy, had two hits, but he and Webb also made errors, and Estrada allowed two passed balls behind the plate - guess his ulcer must have been playing up.

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Today: Fourth-inning Flip

Defense again was disappointing in Sunday's game, and this time, the mistakes proved costly as the Marlins scored three unearned runs in the fourth. Chad Tracy was charged with two errors on the same play, first bobbling a grounder, then sending his throw across the diamond wide of first. He's now on pace for 25 errors, which would match his 2004 total at the position - he also had one while playing first, for a franchise-record 26, all told.

It may initially seem unfair that EnGon got tagged with the loss, for allowing only one earned run in six innings of work. However, he was certainly partly responsible, as two of the three runs in that fourth reached on free passes from our starter, and he allowed a career-high five walks - the same as the number of hits - in total. He was in trouble from the get-go, loading the bases with one out in the first, after conceding a run. While he escaped that, his sixth, and last, inning was the only 1-2-3 he had all day.

On the other hand, he did go 2-for-2 at the plate, with a single and a double, so continues to be getting his licks in there. Pena, Lyon and Cruz were the men in the bullpen this time. Penario was disappointing, giving up three hits in his inning, and two runs, both coming on Cabrera's homer. Cruz made his first relief outing since April 23rd, pitching the ninth, and gave up a hit, but joined Lyon in posting a zero.

We chipped away all day, without putting together a big inning. Drew homered in the third to tie the game at one; LuGon went deep in the fourth to make the score 4-2; and an RBI single by Tracy in the sixth made it a one-run game. And even though we entered the ninth three runs down, we made things interesting: we scored twice before getting the tying run aboard with one out. However, pinch-hitters Estrada and Quentin, struck out and flew out, to end the game, the series and the homestand in disappointing fashion.

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Today: Bait and switch

In addition to the two hits for EnGon, Tracy and Drew also had a pair of hits. Stephen Drew is now hitting a remarkable .344 for the year, and it's interesting to compare his stats (and those of Carlos Quentin) with those of Andre Ethier, much-touted - not least by Thom Brennaman - as the top contender for Rookie of the Year:

              AB   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS HR RBI
Andre Ethier 277 .350 .396 .567  .963 11  47
Stephen Drew  96 .344 .385 .615 1.000  3  12
C. Quentin    50 .300 .386 .600  .986  4  17

The numbers are certainly in the same ballpark, the main difference being that Ethier has had a lot more playing-time. I'm not aware of a minimum number of appearances required for Rookie of the Year consideration, but I think if he can maintain this level of production over the final six weeks, he might certainly pick up a few votes. Quentin, however, is probably too late: maybe he can hang on to his rookie status for 2007?

With 45 games to go, Drew should probably be looking at total of around 250 at-bats, all being well. Will that be enough to merit consideration? It's possible. Last year, Ryan Howard won with 312, and Jeff Francoeur was third on just 257 at-bats. Ross Gload and John Buck got votes in the AL, during 2004, with less than 240 at-bats each. However, before that, you have to go back to 1994, when Bob Hamelin (312 at-bats) won the AL RotY, to find another "half-season" winner - and that was because there only was half a season!

Quentin's playing time is, of course, more uncertain, since he is reliant on Shawn Green making room for him in right, either by moving to first, or being "rested". However, there have been rumblings about Shawn being dealt to the Mets, according to Newsday. It seems Green has cleared waivers, freeing us up to send him to anywhere we can get him to waive his no-trade clause, and the Mets would want him mostly because of an injury to Cliff Floyd.

That said, the Mets "want to wait to see how Cliff Floyd and his Achilles tendinitis respond to inactivity before deciding if they need to find a replacement." As well as Green's no-trade clause, there's also the question of how much salary we have to kick in to get the Mets to take him: any prospects we get would also be from off the 40-man roster, so would be unlikely to help us immediately. Though there's no problem replacing Green: Melvin says of Quentin, "Everything that he's shown would suggest he's ready to play." As the stats above show, that seems little in doubt.

Heroes and Zeroes
Series 37: vs Marlins, at home

Jackson: 4-for-7,
Medders: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, K
-----------------------------
Green: 0-for-8, 0 BB, 3 K
Pena: 1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER
Byrnes: 0-for-11, 1 BB, 2 K

The slumps of Green and Byrnes continue, the pair going hitless in nineteen combined at-bats this series. Byrnes is clearly frustrated, smashing his lumber after a plate appearance this afternoon, with a splinter coming close to injuring Marlins' catcher Olivo. This was not a good series for our offense, managing 23 hits over the three games, with a number coming from bench players (three each for Easley and Callaspo), the pitcher (two for EnGon) or the rookies. Byrnes + L.Gonzalez + Estrada + Green = 4-for-40, which is not getting it done.

Unusual to see a series with none of our starting pitchers appearing at either end of the spectrum. Hernandez ate up innings as promised, yet allowed ten hits in eight frames; EnGon walked too many people, though allowed only earned run in six innings; and Webb produced a Vargas-like start in duration, while still earning the win. Instead, it's two members of the bullpen who get noticed: Medders pitched two perfect frames, while Tony Penario's inning of work today took a one-run game and turned it into a margin we couldn't overcome.

Thanks to the following people for their comments over the past two games: VIII, TheMainMan, dbacksfan23, singaporedbacksfan, Englishdback, Wimb, Devin and npineda - thanks particularly to the last-named for his first-hand report. That was a disappointing 4-5 homestand, and we'll have to do better as we head out on the road now. First stop: Colorado which, thanks to the humidor, has now dropped below Chase Field as far as being a hitter's park is concerned. We'll see how it plays now - and doubtless engage in some more scoreboard watching!