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AZ 1, Padres 4 - Afternoon (not-so) delight

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Record: 64-69. Change on last season: +3

There's something sweetly illicit about a day-game: even if you shouldn't be at work, it still feels like you're playing truant for the afternoon. In the absence of Mrs. SnakePit, I was joined by Pete, who'd finished work for the day at 2:30pm, and so headed over to Chase Field to make use of the spare ticket. [He didn't glaze over in quite the same way as Chris does when I start ranting about baseball, but she will remain the default, by virtue of being cute. :-)]

It was, however, another disappointing performance from the Diamondbacks. While the Padres didn't have more than a two-run lead until the 9th inning, it never really felt like it was within Arizona's power to come back. Even after we put the first two men on base in the sixth inning, there was a certain inevitability about our subsequent failure to bring the runners home. Hell, even advancing the runners would have been nice. We had just one hit through four innings - that, an infield squibber by Drew, placed with such perfection as if he'd bunted it, which led to our only run - but we did have men aboard in seven of the nine innings. It's just that whenever we hit the ball, it inevitably came within reach of a Padre.

Vargas didn't pitch all that badly, and suffered the reverse fate, with an eerie number of bloops and seeing-eye singles. It certainly didn't help that Dave Roberts - the man you most want to keep off the basepaths - was 4-for-5 with two stolen bases. Our starter seemed to have problems putting both hitters and innings away: I lost count of the number of times Vargas would get ahead 0-1 or even 0-2, only to end up allowing a hit or walking the guy. Each of the three runs he allowed came with two outs in the innings; so did four of the six hits, and all three walks.

By the end, he was clearly running on fumes - Pete spotted it a few pitches before I did, but it rapidly became obvious to all. Getting through that fifth inning was a major effort, even if he did strike out the side (albeit round two hits, a walk and a run), and Vargas's reaction when he got the final out was clearly one of "thank God that's over". I think the last hitter he faced would probably have been the last hitter he faced, regardless of the result. It fell fractionally short of the quality start, but three runs over five innings could have got him the win, if our offense had been any less impotent.

After he departed, the bullpen was left to fend for itself over the final four innings. [They, probably more than anyone else, must be eagerly anticipating the arrival of reinforcements on September 1st] Medders gave us two solid innings and Vizcaino pitched a perfect eighth, though Lyon gave up a ninth-inning run, albeit of no real significance. And duly, Hoffman came in, with a three-run lead and demolished the hitters in brutal fashion, though Estrada somehow managed to muscle the ball out of the infield.

There was precious little other muscling going on, however, with no extra-base hits for Arizon. Apart from the sixth, our best chance was perhaps in the first when Chris Young walked, then stole second with a jump of such audacity I'm sure he arrived at his destination before the ball reached the plate. However, as in the sixth, that's exactly where he stayed. Even the run we did score was manufactured in the most cheapskate fashion, without the ball leaving the infield: Drew's squibber, a bunt by Vargas, a wild pitch and a groundout.

Young batted leadoff, and was the only player to reach safely twice, on a hit and our only walk. He also drove in the only Diamondbacks run, stole the sole base, and had the best defensive play of the game, a grab right up against the wall in deep left-center to rob Adrian Gonzalez of an extra-base hit in the third. He will, naturally, be back on the bench tomorrow. :-( But I think it's safe to say that, on this performance, we have a credible contender to occupy the top of the order for 2007.

Game Notes

  • So much for the much-vaunted new PA. Sounded the same as the old PA to me, occasionally a good bit worse. I still have no idea what job Tony Clark would do if he wasn't a baseball player, as the audio to go with that clip was muffled + inaudible.

  • We were sitting in the Poore Brothers section. As a result, after the "ball under the hat game", stadium workers ran up and down the aisles lobbing bag of chips at us. It was like being the victim of a drive-by snacking...

  • Luis Gonzalez came to the plate to the Jimmy Buffett tune, Cheeseburger in Paradise. Snarkier visitors may permit themselves a snort of derision at this.

  • The statistical obsessive in me applauds the way in which Vargas ordered his outs. He started with ten straight air-outs (eight outfield flies, a foul-out to third and a pop-up), then two ground-balls, and finished by striking out the side in the fifth.

  • Pete has a theory that whatever hot-dog is in last place rounding second base, will always win the relish race. On today's evidence (relish), it seems to work, but more investigation is, I think, required.

  • When Lyon came in, they put a picture of a lion on the Jumbotron, and play the sound of a lion roaring. Never one to miss the obvious, are they? :-) Actually, good job they had the picture, or I'd have thought it was the sound of a toilet flushing. [See point one, above]

  • Trevor Hoffman in action was scary. Tracy and Clark, in particular, were not "near miss" swings. They were "barely the same zip-code" strikes. The gulf between someone like Hoffman and, say, Jorge Julio, was painfully apparent.

Thanks to VIII and jazzbo13 for their terse - but undeniably heartfelt - comments on the game. I suspect that no-one saw it, so maybe we can just pretend it didn't happen? There were only 20,233 in attendance at Chase Field - before this year, I think that would have been a franchise-record low, but now it wouldn't even make the top ten [for example, every game during the two May series against the Padres and Pirates saw smaller crowds]. With 14 games to go, the Diamondbacks are ranked 25th in attendance, at 25,077. That puts them on target for 2.03 million, only about 1.4% down on last year. And that'd still be 100,000+ more than the AL West leaders, Oakland, are on pace for this season.

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Today: Lost Highway

The homestand finishes 2-4, as we get beaten by two teams ahead of us in the NL West. The team is still saying the right things: "We've got to win these games, so we're going to have to go on a stretch and play really well on the road," according to Eric Byrnes. But we won exactly one series this month (7th-9th, vs. the Giants), so it's not as if this is a temporary glitch, or just a road-bump. No, we finish August at 10-18, and if we do that next month, we'll end up with a worse record than 2005. I'm hoping we can avoid that: ideally, while I'd like to see us reach the .500 mark, that would need us to go 17-12 over September. I don't have much hope of such a performance right now...

Off-day tomorrow, so Heroes and Zeroes for the series will follow there, and perhaps a book review as well. Though if I'm going to do that, I'd better get my ass in gear and finish off said book! Got a good chunk done today, before the baseball game, but still have 30-odd pages to go. It's a lot harder to find time to read, now that I don't have a formal lunch-break any longer...