Record: 70-77. Change on last season: +4
Rookies in starting lineup: 2
Brandon Webb's Cy Young campaign took a direct hit amidships in the first inning today. Three hits and a throwing error by Webb meant the Rockies scored before making an out, and had runners on the corners, still with no outs. Webb's sinker was sinking...nicely into the middle of the strike-zone. Pre-game hopes of him taking his ERA down below three were picking up their jackets, thanking us for the invitation and heading toward the exit. But somehow, with the help of two good plays from first-baseman Chad Tracy - yes, you read that right, both "first-baseman" and "good plays" - and Webb escaped without further damage.
And then, it was as if Webb found the switch marked "Ace", and casually flicked it to the ON position. He put the Rockies away in order in the second inning. And the third. And the fourth. Then, just for variety, he struck out the side in the fifth. By the time he allowed a hit in the sixth, he'd retired sixteen straight Rockies. The only bit of trouble thereafter was the eighth, where the first two batters singled. However, Webb got the next three outs to put up another zero, and finished off the game by striking out Holliday, Hawpe and Spilborghs in the ninth.
Just another complete game for Webb: nine innings, six hits, no walks (and only one three-ball count), one run and ten strikeouts, tying a season high. So, over his past two starts, that's one earned run on seven hits, in eighteen innings, striking out fifteen while walking none. Absolutely dominating stuff. In the Cy Young race, His ERA came down to 2.92, and he now has two more wins than Chris Carpenter, who is probably his only serious rival for the award. He starts Saturday, and it's almost like a toe-to-toe heavyweight slugathon. Both men posted complete game shutouts in their previous starts, and Carpenter had a six-hitter in his, like Webb tonight. The Cardinals ace goes against the Giants, so much as it pains me, guess I'll be cheering for our division rivals!
There was also the little matter of Luis Gonzalez, in his first appearance since the announcement that he won't be back in Arizona next year. If there was an outpouring of emotion, it wasn't apparent in ticket sales, with the crowd of 22,017, if anything, being a little lower than the usual Friday night attendance at Chase Field. But those present made their feelings very clear, during a lengthy standing ovation before Gonzo's first at-bat. "To see all the fans with signs and little kids yelling, it makes me feel good not only as a player but as a person," Gonzalez said. "For God's sake, I caught a routine fly ball and they were cheering like I dove for it."
In a real classy move, Rockies pitcher - and former D'back colleague - Byung-Hyung Kim simply stepped off the mound and adjusted his shoelaces, quietly delaying the game while the applause rang around the park. Nice comment by Melvin, tongue apparently in cheek: "Knowing B.K., I think he's just having trouble with his laces. He has to get them perfect out there. I know B.K.'s a little bit of a superstitious guy too. I don't know. It's 50/50 whether or not he's giving Gonzo a little time or he's just trying to get himself all tied up nice and tight." Colorado manager Clint Hurdle added, "That's probably the most time I've ever seen a pitcher tie up two shoes." Kim was nowhere to be found after the game, so all we can do is speculate.
Gonzalez then drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly. Ironically, after the Rockies had three hits and only one run, we scored our tally without a hit: Counsell walked, stole second, advanced to third on a sacrifice, and came home on the sac.fly: truly a manufactured run. Counsell stole another base later in the game, but then blotted his copybook, getting picked off base after apparently suffering a bout of narcolepsy. Eric Byrnes was also caught stealing, only the second time this season that's happened.
It was a lot of little innings that got us to victory, with single runs in the first, second and fourth. We added two in the eighth, to make the margin a little more comfortable, and this probably helped convince Melvin to let Webb go out there for the ninth. Melvin said, "I told him, 'That's it for you. I'm not going to send you back out there.' He said, 'Oh, yeah. I'm going back out there.' I said, 'Do you feel that good?' I said, 'Alright. I'm going to have a short leash with you.'" As noted, three strikeouts proved Webb's case admirably.
Looked like Jose 'The Hitman' Mesa was warned by the home-plate umpire in the eighth, after sending a pitch sailing behind Byrnes' back. Mind you, maybe that was just total lack of control, since Tracy had just scored on a pair of wild pitches. Tracy, Byrnes and Snyder all had two hits - the last-named is now at .302 for the year - while Stephen Drew went 3-for-3, and was a homer short of the cycle. However, he left the game early, due to "tightness in his groin"; it's not thought to be serious, but I wouldn't expect to see him play Saturday.
Somewhat strange lineup construction, with Chad Tracy making his first start of the year at first-base. Craig Counsell played third-base in his place. I guess Counsell, too, will start every home game for the rest of the season, which is probably only right. He, too, met with Josh Byrnes on Friday to discuss his future - or lack thereof. Beforehand, he said, "I don't expect to learn anything new. We'll do it. It's not necessary, but we'll do it." It seems he's clearing out his locker too, but it's good to see the organization treating Counsell with the same consideration as Gonzalez, and keeping him informed.
Thanks to VIII and William K, for their comments: the former points to this article in the Republic, discussing what will happen as the infield grows together, and into each other: "If the group is allowed to stay together and grow, it may one day be remembered as one of the Diamondbacks' most identifiable links in franchise history." Interesting comparison to the Dodgers' infield of the 1970's, with Steve Garvey, etc. - somewhat amused to hear Jackson describe 2006 as "the worst year of my baseball career." Hey, it's not been so bad, Conor!
And congrats to Tucson who won the Pacific Coast League championship, completing the sweep over Round Rock with a 6-3 win. More info on that to follow, and also Missoula's victory in their minor-league championship - forgot to mention that today, what with all the hoo-hah surrounding our departing RF. Will get to that tomorrow, since Mrs. SnakePit is calling me to bed. :-) Not sure how much time I'll have, since we're spending the day helping famous B-movie mogul, Charles Band, run his Full Moon Horror Roadshow - should be fun, but won't leave much chance for baseball!
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Today: Another day, another Webb complete game