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AZ 6, Giants 3 - No More for the Road

Record: 75-83. Change on last season: +1
Rookies in starting lineup: 4

That didn't suck. Not quite the dominating performance I was hoping for, but we did the necessary damage against Sanchez, Vargas gave us a quality start, and our bullpen... Well, unlike our last couple of losses, our relief corps managed to avoid doing a collective impression of Kurt Warner, and did not throw the whole thing away late for once. We win the series, and the victory lets us finish the road-trip at 4-5, which is not awful. Not brilliant, but not awful.

The D'backs sprang out to an early lead in the first, when Jackson reached on an error, and Byrnes uncorked his 25th homer of the year. The Giants tied it in the second on their own two-run shot, and took the lead on a double steal in the fourth. However, Arizona loaded the bases with nobody out in the sixth, after three straight singles; Byrnes grounding out but husted enough to avoid a double-play. [His three RBIs on the day, tie him with Tracy and Jackson for the team lead, all three men having driven in 77 runs going to the final series against the Padres.] Sanchez then uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Hudson to score the go-ahead run. Arizona tacked two more on in the ninth, pinch-hit RBIs by Callaspo and Hairston.

Meanwhile, Vargas was being solid on the mound, allowing only four hits and two walks in 6.2 innings of work - his two sacrifice bunt attempts, however, ended in a K and a double play, so more work there over the winter, Claudio. He did run into trouble in the seventh, loading the bases before departing with the tying run at third to make way for Slaten. He calmly got the third out to escape further trouble; Vizcaino pitched a scoreless eighth. Valverde came in for the ninth, and allowed a single, but kept the tying run away from the plate - we'd undoubtedly have seen Roidman come to the plate if that had happened - and picked up his first save in exactly two weeks.

An efficient performance from the offense: we only had eleven base runners (seven hits, two walks, Easley got hit and Jackson, as noted, reached on an error) but more than half of them ended up trotting across home-plate, which is a decent conversion rate. One was erased on a double-play, and four got left on base. Jackson was the only one to get two hits; Eric Byrnes stole second and third on Sanchez, giving him 25 for the year, matching his HR total. His membership of the "25/25" club is a credible achievement: only Soriano (46 HR, 41 SB) and Rollins (25 HR, 36 SB) have done it in the majors so far this year. Damon would be in with two more HR, while Sizemore need three steals by season end.

Tracy and Gonzo both were given the day off, and replaced by Easley and Byrnes respectively. Chad was still bothered by the tendonitis in his knee, and is expected to coast gently towards the end of the season. Not quite the case for Luis, of course: there'd be a riot if he didn't play every inning of every game during the upcoming home-stand. However, we did get Orlando Hudson back; he was actually with the team yesterday, after returning from a break to take care of business, but Melvin skipped him in the line-up Tuesday.

Thanks to azdb7, VIII, trevjohnson, jeremy and the hooky-playing Just Me for their feedback on the the last road game for this year. The victory leaves us one behind the Giants, and one ahead of the Rockies, with four to play. We end the season with a record of 37-44 away from home, which is four games down on last year. In 2005, we went 41-40, and were actually a little better on the road than at (then) BOB.

       HOME   ROAD  Diff
1998  34-47  31-50   +3
1999  52-29  48-33   +4
2000  47-34  38-43   +9
2001  48-33  44-37   +4
2002  55-26  43-38  +12
2003  45-36  39-42   +6
2004  29-52  22-59   +7
2005  36-45  41-40   -5
2006  38-39  37-44   +3 (so far)

The Padres and Dodgers must be feeling fairly chipper about their playoff chances, as neither the Cardinals nor the Mets are exactly surging into the post-season. The Cardinals' issues have been well-documented, though they at least won tonight, scoring three in the eighth to beat San Diego 4-2, just when it looked like another loss was looming. But they are still playing awful baseball at the moment. And after getting drubbed 12-0 yesterday, the Mets got shelled 13-1 by Atlanta tonight: most worrying for New York, Martinez was hammered, allowing seven runs in 2.2 innings in his last start before the playoffs. In his three games since coming back, he's 0-3 and has given up fourteen runs in 10.2 innings: not what you want from your ace at all, and he may miss the NLDS entirely. Maybe a Padres-Dodgers NLCS is not out of the question?

Anyway, Fangraphs plus Heroes and Zeroes will follow tomorrow. I'll be at the game Thursday night, to bid my farewell in person to Gonzo; breaking out the #20 shirt for the occasion, which promises to be quite memorable.