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AZ 3/4, Astros 9/3 - Let's Play Two (sorta...)

Record: 56-55. Change on last season: +3

Kinda like a double-header: I didn't get a chance to write up yesterday's game before today's one started, so figure I might as well save time and energy, and get both written up at once. Let's face it, enthusiasm during yesterday's contest was basically eliminated by the Astros' second-inning grand-slam. Hard to remain optimistic after that, though I did hang around until the Astros had built a 7-1 lead, all but one run coming on homers off Nippert.

He, once again, didn't get the job done in a spot-start for the Diamondbacks. The results here were slightly worse than the first time, with Houston plating seven earned runs on eight hits and three walks. About the only flickering hope to be found in the stygian darkness [as an aside, went to see The Descent that night, and will be sleeping with the lights on for a bit...] was that he did fan six hitters. But it's apparent that Nippert, if anything, has gone backwards from the pitcher he was at the end of last year.

The bullpen was called into action again early, and were okay, rather than brilliant. Medders allowed two runs in an inning of work, on three hits, but if you're going to choose a game in which to suck, one in which you're already losing by five, is about as good a choice as any. Thereafter, Choate, Aquino and Lyon posted zeroes, albeit with the Astros perhaps not showing the same level of application as earlier on, and those three innings took only a total of 38 pitches.

Offensively, it was nothing much to write home about, though six of our nine hits did go for extra-bases, including five doubles. Hudson had a pair, and Estrada also had two hits. Green reached safely twice, on a hit and a walk, but the latter was the only base on balls that Arizona managed. After a good spell where Tracy was getting his K's down to a level where he almost isn't on target for a franchise record, he fanned twice, so looks like the Tracy K watch will be continuing for a little longer.

Byrnes delivered his team-leading 17th homer. That was after coming in as a replacement for Jeff DaVanon, who sprained his ankle stealing second base in the first inning. Having to replace him strained our already thin bench, to the point that when it came time to pinch-hit for Nippert in the bottom of the fence, Bob Melvin sent up Gonzalez. Not Luis, Enrique. Yes: a pitcher with 19 career plate appearances in the major leagues, though in that time, he did possess an average over .300. And he at least put bat to ball, grounding out.

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Today: Nippert Not Pert

The thinness of the bench made for a couple of roster moves on Sunday. Nippert, as expected, was sent back down to Tucson, but more of a surprise was the dispatch of Randy Choate, who was designated for assignment, joining Mike Koplove in that pile. Coming up to replace them, are Alberto Callaspo and Jeff Bajenaru - both of whom managed to escape my attention, in the diary discussing the trades made by Arizona over the off-season. Callaspo came from the Angels, in exchange for Jason Bulger, while Bajenaru was with the White Sox, until he was dealt for Alex Cintron.

Callaspo will be used off the bench, pending the return of DaVanon, who has not been placed on the DL. He's currently expected to miss perhaps only the Giants series, so this could be a relatively brief stay for Callaspo. He was batting .336 for the Sidewinders, with an impressive 51:23 BB:K ratio. Bajenaru's role is likely to be long relief, and I suspect he'll probably see action tomorrow, since Enrique Gonzalez will be appearing again - this time as a starting pitcher, rather than a pinch-hitter. That's going to be on three days' rest, so it makes sense to have someone who can go two or three innings out of the pen. Bajenaru has a 4.48 ERA in 46 games for Tucson.

Sunday's game started almost the same way i.e. badly for the Diamondbacks - slightly quicker, with Houston jumping out on top in the first inning, but only a two-run homer this time, rather than a grand slam. Despite the muttering of dark thoughts concerning Claudio Vargas, he settled down after a 29-pitch first inning, and succeeded in giving Arizona a much-needed quality start, posting zeroes from there through the sixth. It wasn't pretty - he allowed six hits, two walks and hit a batter - but it was good enough.

Meanwhile, Arizona clawed their way back into it, tying the game in the third, with the big blow a double by Drew, our first hit in the game, after a Snyder walk, which put runners at second and third with no outs. Both then scored on a groundout by Vargas and a fortuitous bad-hop grounder from Easley, which squirted past Houston's third-baseman. We took the lead in the sixth: Gonzalez [Luis, this time!] doubled to lead off the inning, was bunted to third by Jackson, and came home on a single by Quentin. Eric Byrnes, with his 18th homer, completed our scoring in the bottom of the seventh.

After Vargas departed, Vizcaino and Pena held the fort for the next two innings - though the former allowed two walks, and the latter also gave up a hit and was the beneficiary of some good defense by Quentin [the play of the game in that area has to be the diving stop by Drew which, by itself, was praiseworthy since it saved the tying run from scoring. However, he then threw the runner out from his knees, deep in the hole. There's a link to video of both plays on this page]. Julio came in for the ninth, and was less than stellar: with a two-run lead, he ended up striking out Ensberg with one run in, and the tying run at third base. Fanning the side = good. Doing so round three hits = not so good...

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Today: The Vargas Strikes Back

Thanks to those who commented over the past couple of games: William K, singaporedbacksfan, unnamedDBacksfan, Englishdback, icecoldmo, Wimb, suitsmetoATnT, jazzbo13 and Ben. The victory means we stay two games behind San Diego, but close to one behind Cincinnati in the wild-card race, with the Dodgers also having the same W/L record.

Heroes and Zeroes
Series 35: vs Astros, at home

Drew: 5-for-11, stellar defense
Hudson: 4-for-8, 2 RBI
Estrada: 4-for-9, 3 RBI
Pena: 2 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 2 ER
Batista: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 7 BB, 5 ER
Nippert: 5 IP, 8 H, 3 BB, 7 ER

Once again, Drew tops the board, in an offense-heavy Heroes section, largely because our pitching was pretty blah. If he keeps this up, it's going to be almost impossible to justify dropping him (current OPS = .979) for Counsell (OPS = .700). I also think it's time to give serious consideration to moving him up to the #2 spot in the order. Hudson was given the day off for the final game of the series (he's got a bit of a dodgy left ankle), but has got his season average up to .281 - a great turnaround, considering it was down at .218 on May 23. Estrada also had a pair of multi-hit games, and has been very consistent, hitting .300 or better every month so far.

The wheels on the Penario Invulnerabilty Bus kinda fell off during Friday night's outing, with two home runs and the loss. Though he did bounce back nicely today, including getting one of the hitters who took him deep in the series opener. Batista and Nippert? Well, little more needs to be said, because those lines basically speak for themselves. Batista lacked any control, and I'm sure Nippert realises you won't win many games when you give up three home runs. However, this was a spot start, so it's Batista's issues that concern me - he is supposed to be our #2. Insert obvious joke there.

And with that, off to bed. Tomorrow should be an interesting day, one way or another... I'll get the GameDay Thread up, but whether I get much beyond that done, we'll need to wait and see. I suspect by the end of the day, I will either find myself having a great abundance of free time, or none at all!