Record: 61-59. Change on last season: +5
It's probably safe to say that Livan Hernandez has not overwhelmed fans with his performances over his first two starts. 14.2 innings, 21 hits, three walks and nine earned runs for an ERA of 5.52 is hardly the level of lights-out production you'd want from a starter. But Wednesday's appearance would be a poster child for "good enough": what was important would not be the five earned runs, or the disturbing way Hernandez v2.0 fell apart in the seventh inning. It's the fact that he was still pitching into the seventh at all.
Because, after the previous 18-inning marathon, we could not afford to have a pitcher take the "five and dive", as Brandon Webb put it after his last start. Not with half our bullpen arms dangling by a loose flap of skin and the remainder chilling gently in a vat of ice. So, combined with our offense suddenly catching up on their quota of two-out RBIs [eight of them tonight], the innings and the W beside Hernandez's name are the sole entries in the box-score which matter. Yes, wins are extremely over-rated as far as judging a pitcher goes, but the W is the only thing that matters in the standings.
The wheels fell off him in the seventh as the Rockies scored two runs and had two more aboard without any outs. If it hadn't been for Garrett Atkins' nine-thousandth double-play of the year, the Rockies might still be batting. After a walk, Livan was yanked, having thrown 104 pitches, which is "barely getting warmed up" by his standards. Vizcaino wasted no time, getting the last out of that inning, then setting the Rockies down in order for the eighth, using 14 pitches - the same as he threw last night - to get four outs, including two K's. Lyon worked the ninth, also fanning two, and that was all we needed: those two will get the day off Thursday, but everyone else in the bullpen should be available once more.
The batting order was shaken up, with Stephen Drew moved into the leadoff spot, and Eric Byrnes down in the five hole. There was only one hit for each (Drew extended his hitting streak to 13 games), but each drove in a run - Byrnes had two, which were crucial, as they tied the game up in the third. It was, however, the fourth inning where Arizona blew things open, scoring five runs including Shawn Green's first home-run - indeed, his first extra-base hit - of August. Every starting position player had a hit and an RBI: Hudson and Green had two hits, while LuGon and Snyder has three each. Snyder's average is up to .299, which is great to see: we may need a solid backup if Estrada's stomach forces him onto the DL.
Nice play by Quentin off a ball which came back off the wall, using it to nail Helton at second leading off the third. With the score tied at two at that point, that was a crucial play, which may have prevented the Rockies from taking the lead straight back. Hudson, however, did commit his tenth error of the season, in the bottom of the ninth with two outs: fortunately, it proved insignificant, or we would be burning O-Dawg in effigy. On the basepaths, Byrnes was picked off first, immediately after his two-out single - that's what you get for straying just a little too far from base, and not heeding the warning of a pitchout.
On the whole, however, this was a solid performance, with the nine runs a level of production we've only seen once this month (the 10-2 win in the opening game of the Cubs double-header on the 3rd). Tied in with the losses by the Dodgers and Padres, it moves us into sole possession of second place, 2.5 back of LA, and keeps us one game behind Cincinnati. Though the way things are going in the Central, it may be the disintegrating Cardinals who have most interest in the wild-card by season's end.
Thanks to William K, Wimb, VIII, TheMainMan and npineda for their contributions during a Gameday Thread which perhaps was most notable for...well, actually being there, a significant improvement on Tuesday. :-) I hope to be able to extend this streak of timely posting to, ah, two games tomorrow, as long as I remember that it's a day game with a noon start. No television for this, so I'll be joining the rest of you huddling around the radiophonic apparatus: since it's a Webb start, I'm feeling optimistic we can close out the series with a win, and move to within two games of the Dodgers.
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Today: Good Enough...
Interestingly, I note that in terms of increasing our chances of winning, Stephen Drew's sole hit was worth more than three times as much (12.6%), as Chris Snyder's entire three-hit night (4%). I also see that our hitters got most of the credit for the win, with our pitchers responsible only for 7.3%. Compare and contrast the previous night's marathon, where they got credit for more than 200%.
[To explain: the fangraph starts at 50%, and ends at 100% or 0%, depending if we win or lose. So the total score of our pitchers and hitters will always be +/- 50%: in the 18-innings game, the pitchers were +200%, the hitters -150%. That's because every time the Rockies batted in the bottom half, they had an edge since our hitters had already posted a zero. But by retiring them, the advantage was removed and credited to the pitchers. Then our hitters went up, and gave the edge back. Repeat, twelve times, and among the hitters only Byrnes (+4.5%) still had a positive impact, with Carlos Quentin at -33.6%. Medders, on the other hand, was at +51.7%]