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AZ 5, Giants 1 - AZ takes a long Cruz

Record: 57-56. Change on last season: +3

That was a pleasant surprise, wasn't it? Who would have expected Cruz to enter previously uncharted territory - if he looked a little unsure out on the mound in the eighth inning, it was because that twenty-second out was something he hadn't been there for before. Yep, a career-long start for him, thanks to the Giants not showing much patience for waiting him out [was speaking to shoewizard last night, and he reckons that's the key - you can predict how well Cruz will do, by checking stuff like the BB:K ratio of the opposition. Er, at least, I think that's what he said...all I'm certain of, is that it made perfect sense at the time. However, I was into my third Guinness by that stage :-)].

It may be that the imminent presence of Livan Hernandez has galvanised the back end of the rotation, in the same way that Carlos Quentin's arrival apparently spurred Luis Gonzalez into 2000 flashback mode [when he had a career-high 47 doubles, though he's got 40 already this year]. First Enrique Gonzalez squeezed five solid innings out on short rest, now Juan Cruz reaches hitherto untold outs from his arm. The spotlight will turn to Claudio Vargas, as he tries to avoid being tossed from the rotation - he's not scheduled to pitch before Hernandez gets here, but for me, he would be the best candidate to go into the bullpen. He could still be very useful on the occasions when Cruz or EnGon blow up early.

All told, 7.1 innings for Cruz, allowing seven hits, walking only one and striking out three - the only run he allowed was on a solo home-run to Randy Winn in the third. He threw 105 pitches, which is only one more than he threw the previous start, when he went just five innings, though he faced four more batters here. After he left, Pena came in for the eighth inning, while Julio pitched an impressive ninth (in a non-save situation), striking out two Giants' hitters.

LuGon was the only position player without a hit - even Callaspo, pinch-hitting for Cruz in the eighth, got a double, his first knock as a Diamondback. For once, Hudson's promotion to the #2 spot didn't bother him too much, and he had a triple, as well as an RBI single to open the scoring in the first. That was part of a three-run inning, which was all the offense we would need: Green and Quentin also had RBIs in that frame. Quentin, Drew and Snyder all had two hits in the bottom half of the order.

Bonds was kept quiet again, going 0-for-3, though I confess we did get the benefit of somewhat doubtful umpiring during the double-play in the sixth, though his lack of hustle was painfully apparent. It also helped when Feliz was thrown out at home - it's nice to see that we are not the only team occasionally capable of unrealistic expectations on the basepaths. Surprised to see Tracy back in the lineup, but it seems his back was merely tweaked, not anything more serious. Jackson, however, was kept out with a bone bruise suffered when Schmidt drilled him, and will likely sit another day or two.

Our other two "not quite DL" players, DaVanon and Webb both seem to be coming back. DaVanon took batting practice yesterday, and would have been available as a pinch-hitter. Best of all Brandon Webb threw a bullpen session, and reported no problems, so should be ready to start on Saturday. Oddly, Estrada suffered another upset stomach, and was scratched from the lineup. He had an ultrasound on Tuesday, and it's a girl. ;-) [Actually, he did have the ultrasound and is scheduled to see a specialist today] Counsell also took some cuts - but how could Melvin possibly justify pulling Drew from the lineup?

Thanks to VIII, suitsmetoATnT, Devin, npineda (oh, the world will hear from me again!) and keith for their in-game input. With the Dodgers rolling to their eleventh win in a row, and the Reds also winning, there was no ground gained in the wild-card race, but the Padres did lose, so we are 1.5 games back there. Baseball Prospectus gives us a 22.9% chance of making the playoffs, which is sixth-best in the National League. The Mets are virtually there, the Cardinals are three chances in four, and the Reds, Padres and Dodgers are at 50/50 or thereabout.

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