Record: 68-76. Change on last season: +3
Rookies in starting lineup: 3 (including Andy Green)
There was a certain stately inevitability about last night's defeat, even after Damion Easley's two-run homer tied things up for us in the eighth. That was simply the smile a cute girl gives you, before you realise she's actually smiling over your shoulder at her 240-lb Neanderthal. You simply can not expect to win any games when you give the opposition ten free passes: "Go ahead! Take your base! Hit the ball? No, you don't need to bother doing that - just saunter down to first and we'll take things from there." Not really a recipe for success.
Vargas set the tone early on, walking five Washington batters before they got their first hit. Yet the weird thing was, the Nationals only started scoring when Claudio stopped giving out the bases on balls, in the fourth inning. His sixth and final walk was the sole one which came around to score - that was after Vargas had left the game, and because Brandon Lyon couldn't throw strikes. Lyon faced five hitters, and the one he retired was a sacrifice bunt, with the other four reaching on two hits and two walks. Both inherited runners scored, as did two more, and Lyon was rapidly yanked for Slaten, who promptly got a double-play and ended the innings. Medders pitched a scoreless eighth.
Memo to Vizcaino: when you intentionally walk the bases loaded, you do not:
- a) Walk the next batter
- b) Especially in a tied game
- c) Particularly during the ninth inning
Also, please note that waving your arms like a semaphoring penguin at the umpire when he, admittedly, calls a strike as ball four doesn't help. You walked the previous hitter so you could go after this one, so you shouldn't be reaching ball three to begin with. You've been about the most reliable arm in our bullpen all year, so I am surprised that I need to point this out.
Back with our starter, there was a weird dichotomy to Vargas's performance last night: he walked six hitters, but still threw a lot of strikes. Well, at least when he wasn't walking people, anyway. Let's do a little simple arithmetic. He threw 100 pitches to 28 batters; 63 strikes, 37 balls. He walked six, accounting for 24 of those balls. This means, that to the other 22 hitters, he threw only 13 pitches out of the zone. Basically, 2/3 of his balls came to less than 1/4 of the batters he faced. Walking Soriano twice is perhaps understandable, though with his wheels, is a risky option. But he also did that to Lopez - who has two homers and only 13 extra-base hits in 200 ABs.
Offensively, there was plenty of long-ball going on, with homers for Jackson, Young, Snyder and Easley. You don't generally expect to lose when you hit four balls out of here, but the first three homers were all solo shots, so they didn't do enough damage to the scoreline. Overall, we outhit the Nationals 11-9, and they also only had one extra-base hit, a double. As noted above, it was the walks where they crushed us, 10-2, and that's what proved our undoing. Hudson and Easley had three hits apiece, while Snyder and Jackson had a pair.
Thanks to andrewinnewyork and William K for turning up last night, in another disspiriting late-inning loss by Arizona against Washington. It's becoming almost routine, and it's as if Frank Robinson has a Diamondback-shaped voodoo doll in the dugout, that he jabs pins into at the start of the seventh inning. Let's just say that, if we have a lead tonight, no matter the size of it, I will not be content until we record the final National out in the ninth.
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Today: Flying Tonight
It's been confirmed that Enrique Gonzalez has been dropped to the bullpen, with Edgar taking his place in the rotation. Said Melvin, "We don't want a young kid to mentally go through this any longer." Edgar has, of course, already gone through "this", with an 0-9 record in ten starts and a 9.32 ERA, as a 21-year old in 2004. No mercy was shown then, so I guess this is evidence of Melvin's kindler, gentler, more caring approach to management. However, it's also important since Edgar will be out of options next year, and a decision has to be made on whether he has a permanent place with the Diamondbacks.
In the Cy Young race, big performance for Brandon Webb's biggest rival, Chris Carpenter, last night. He followed Webb in posting a complete game shutout, as St. Louis blanked the Cardinals; he did allow six hits, however. That gives him his 14th win, one behind Webb. However, the good news is, if the schedules and rotations stay the same as they are, Webb has four starts left (including the last game of the season), Carpenter only three, so Webb should be able to maintain his current advantage in victories over his challenger.
Finally, to the "Oh, how the mighty are fallen" department - usually reserved for rock bands who play casinos, and actors now appearing in SciFi Channel original movies - we greet former Diamondbacks first-base superstar in the making, Travis Lee. Originally a #2 draft pick in 1996, Lee became a free agent and signed a fat contract with the Diamondbacks. He had the first hit, run, RBI, homer and stolen base in franchise history, but never lived up to the hype, batting .252 with 39 HR in 338 games. He does share the single-game hits record, with five on June 9th, 1999 - though that's more memorable as the one from which Kim got ejected, after a bandage containing heat balm flew out of his shirt sleeve!
Lee left Arizona in the trade with Philadelphia that brought Curt Schilling to the desert, and has since bounced around with the Yankees and Devil Rays. But he'd been hitting just .224 this year and was released by Tampa on Sunday. Said manager Joe Maddon, "There was no playing time left for him here. We thought it would give him an opportunity to catch on with someone else possibly for these last couple weeks. There was no real plan for him now and in the future with us." Ouch. When the Devil Rays tell you, "Thanks, but no thanks," where do you go?