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AZ 9/1, Dodgers 3/5 - Ladies and gentlemen: the playoffs have left the building...

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Record: 73-82. Change on last season: +2
Rookies in starting lineup: 3/4

I snuck out of the Natium belly-dance + White Claws drummers show (which was, incidentally, fab) a little before Saturday night's game started, just to hear what the score was. End of the first, and it's already 3-0 to the Dodgers? Well, stick a fork in this game, and mark up another loss, caused by poor pitching and weak hitting. I began leafing through my mental thesaurus, looking up synonyms for the word "inept". But as I sat in the car - the TVs in the bar were all showing college football at that stage - Jackson rapped a single, driving in Tracy to score our first run. And before I'd flipped my thesaurus to "promising", Quentin tied it up with a two-run blast.

From there, Arizona didn't look back, scoring a total of nine unanswered runs, on a glorious night for our rookies. Despite Jackson, Drew and Quentin being buried at the bottom of the order, they went a combined 8-for-13 with 5 RBIs, powering Arizona to seventeen hits, and a victory that just kept us in playoff contention. As a result, we did manage to last longer than the Boston Red Sox, who were eliminated on Saturday from the 2006 post-season. Are you listening, Curt Schilling? :-) And it also dropped the Dodgers out of a playoff spot, which was nice.

You wouldn't have thought that likely after the first three hitters reached for LA, making the score 2-0 before Batista retired his first hitter. The Dodgers added another run with one out, and this one - as you can tell from the Fangraph - looked to be slipping away early. However, we caught a break in the second, when Chad Tracy struck out, but the catcher whiffed too, and the ball went to the back-stop, allowing him to reach. Penny, oddly, struck out four batters that inning, but Arizona took full advantage, as mentioned, then added single runs in the third, fourth and seventh, and topped it off with a trio in the ninth.

Byrnes, back in the leadoff spot, had four hits, while Jackson and Quentin added three apiece; all three men drove in two runs each. Hudson, Estrada and Drew also had multi-hit nights. Missing out on the hit parade were Batista (0-for-4 with 4 K's), Tracy (0-for-4) and Luis Gonzalez (0-for-6). But Batista got his eleventh win, tying his previous career high, with eight solid innings. After the disastrous first, he allowed just two hits and three walks over the next seven shutout frames, taking his ERA down to 4.36. Valverde came in for the ninth, even though our three runs meant it was no longer a save situation, so his performance was hardly of much import.

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Today: Oh, no: here we go aga...hang on!

I had high hopes of watching Sunday's game, but it just didn't quite work out. Brit-pal Damien came over, and I ended up playing his five-year old son at chess: I am pleased to report I won, avoiding the resulting humiliation. Though maybe my taunting and laughing post-victory was a little excessive. :-) Said child subsequently needed to be distracted by Jimmy Neutron, so that largely put an end to the baseball, and hopes of contributing to the thread therein.

Noticed a spot of friction in the comments: I am somewhat in agreement, since it's clear that any "support" suitsme may have for AZ is not genuine, being entirely self-serving. However, having failed to post much myself - the late arrival of the thread, incidentally, was because I thought it was a 1:40pm start - I am really not able to criticize anyone else for posting...or not posting, come to that! Both SF and AZ will be watching the playoffs this year, so we are in the same boat. The difference being, we'll be better in 2007. ;-) It's not just here that apathy is taking its inevitable toll: at time of going to press, DBBP had only 21 comments for their Gameday Thread, and they usually average about 130.

Obvious question for Melvin. Why the hell was Luis Vizcaino - who hadn't thrown even thirty pitches in any of his 67 previous outings this year - left to hang out there for 42 this afternoon, before giving up a grand salami to Nomar on the 43rd? I only saw the last three hitters of the game, and it was clear by that stage, this was not the Luis Vizcaino we know and love, but a pale shadow thereof. Was there a shortage of arms in the bullpen? Shouldn't have been, not with Valverde being the only one to see use on Saturday. So what the heck was going on?

That wasted a solid, if wild, outing by Hernandez v2.0, who somehow managed to avoid major damage despite walking five in seven innings. He also allowed five hits, but the only damaging mistake was allowing the first career hit to the opposing pitcher, Kuo - and a double at that; he came round to score on a single by Lofton. The Dodgers had their chances: man on third, one out in the 3rd, or bases loaded after the run came home in the fifth, with one out. However, Hernandez wiggled free, escaping further LA runs.

On the other hand, Kuo was mowing down the D'backs batters like Autumn wheat. We managed four hits and two walks off him in eight innings, and it took an unearned run in the third to give us the lead, after Betemit couldn't handle a grounder by Snyder. A double from Quentin went to the wall and scored Drew, but Snyder was held at third when it seemed likely he would have scored. A crucial choice by third-base coach Carlos Tosca, and with runs (generally) having been so hard to come by lately for Arizona, one wonders if it was wise. Jackson was the only player with multiple hits, and depending on what happens elsewhere, that might mean his .290 is the highest batting average among all qualifying rookies. Well done there, CoJack.

Interesting lineup construction today. Tracy was out with a spot of tendinitis in his left knee, while Hudson was given a leave of absence to deal witb some family issues. Easley and Callaspo took over there, respectively. Drew and Jackson also played, and Gonzalez was "rested", and replaced in left by Hairston. Said Melvin, "He's probably just a little tired right now. He's played a lot." Well, he hasn't exhausted himself on the basepaths, being 4-for-21 this trip... Another day off in SF is likely, but there seems no doubt he'll be there for every game of the last series at Chase. Snyder was behind the plate, though it has become clear that J-Strada is becoming a whiny little kid about his playing time. Excerpted from today's Republic:

"I'm not happy about this at all," Estrada said of his situation, which has included his share of recent games on the bench. "At this point, and I know this sounds bad, but I'd almost rather not play. Heck, let the kid (Montero) play. Let him get some games if that's the direction they're going to go in and those are going to be their guys next year... If they want to keep avoiding the question, they can go right ahead. That's for them to decide. They don't want to give me the courtesy and let me know. Fine. But I think the fans can put two and two together."

Already done it, Johnny - already done it. Pop Quiz: who has the highest OPS among our catcher this year, you or Chris Snyder? Answer: not you. I think he has basically sealed his own fate (I hear the Giants are looking for a catcher?), "sell high" being the concept. I am also prepared to wager that you won't be hitting over .300 in 2007 for your new outfit. You had a great year, J-Strada, and thanks for that, but you should not be biting the hand which fed you: you could easily be sitting in Atlanta, playing the Snyder role, backing up McCann and only getting to start day games after night ones.

Thanks to those who commented over the past couple of days: regardless of location or motivation! VIII, unnamedDBacksfan, icecoldmo, suitsmetoATnT, Wimb and jeremy. Fangraphs and Heroes/Zeroes to follow tomorrow, I think. We lose the series - that's nine of the past elevent now - and need to go 4-3 over the remaining seven games to match last season's record. That would be fractionally above pre-season expectations, personally, and a good watermark for the franchise as a whole. Overall, this season is perhaps less remarkable for who played, or how, but for who won't be here next year: Ortiz, Shawn Green, and Luis Gonzalez...