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AZ 3, Nationals 4 - Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before...

Record: 64-71. Change on last season: +3

So, we go into the bottom of the eighth inning, leading the Nationals. Thanks to a sterling performance from our starting pitcher, we've held them to just one run through the front seven. But then, it all falls apart. Washington scores three times in the bottom of the eighth, and we lose the game by one run in a thoroughly dispiriting fashion.

No, it wasn't very funny the first time I heard it either, earlier today.

S'funny: if Batista had pitched eight innings, and Hernandez 2.0, seven - rather than the other way round - we'd probably have won both games. Can this pair of late-inning losses therefore be laid at the door of Bob Melvin? Hmmm. Hard to say. The first one might be excusable, but given that defeat and the fact that we have three additional arms available in the bullpen, I would have had Livan on an extremely short leash for the eighth inning. As azdb7 points out, leaving him after he allowed a homer and then put the tying run on base...that was definitely a mistake.

And, as in the first game, we outplayed the Nationals for the first seven innings. We scored in the first, when Eric Byrnes blooped a two-out single to score - inevitably - Chris Young, who'd walked to lead off the game. And then Luis Gonzalez hit a two-run homer in the third with two outs to score Orlando Hudson, who had also walked. However, over the final six innings of the game, we managed just a pair of singles and one walk, and didn't get a runner past first base the rest of the way.

Still, four hits probably isn't going to get it done in most games. Yes, we batted a pathetic .129 against the Nationals in the nightcap (4-for-31); meanwhile, Hernandez allowed 11 hits and a walk in 7.2 innings of work, as the Nationals batted .333 against him (11-for-33). [Randy Choate came in to bolt the stable door after the lead had already been given up, got one out on one pitch, and was done for the day. The man's LOOGY-ness is astonishing: his average appearance this season has lasted less than nine pitches - 197, over 22 outings. On a per-game basis, that's second only to ex-D'back Mike Myers (434 in 50 games) among pitchers with 20+ games. Nice work if you can get it...]

To quote the report from mlb.com, "As Hernandez exited the field, he seemed surprised by the reaction of the crowd behind Arizona's first-base dugout. Fans rose and applauded, and Hernandez finally doffed his cap in appreciation." Hmmm. Difficult to say whether the applause was for his 3 1/2 seasons with the team, or because he'd just gift-wrapped them a sweep of the double-header with an eighth inning in which five of seven Nationals got hits off him. Hernandez v2.0's record with the Diamondbacks sinks to 1-4, though his ERA fractionally improved.

Apart from that one pitch by Choate, no sign of any of the players brought up in the roster expansion, in either part of the double-header. However, given how little playing time Andy Green saw while he was on the 25-man roster (a mere 71 at-bats), it wouldn't appear he or Montero will see much more action. But what about the bullpen? One wonders what the point is of bringing up these extra arms if they're not going to be used in the appropriate situation?

This sweep has, I think, killed all but the most optimistic hopes of post-season baseball for Arizona. Denying this, or not acting accordingly, is a waste of everyone's time, as well as an excellent opportunity to see whether our prospects are ready for big-league action. Every pitcher or hitter they get to face now, is one they can learn from, and take the experience forward into 2007 and beyond. Running veterans out there who will not be here next season - and I'm sure I don't need to name names - is a pointless exercise, and if Melvin continues to do it, I am going to be very annoyed...

Thanks to npineda, azdb7, icecoldmo and jazzbo13 for their comments on the second game. GameDay Thread for tomorrow to follow very soon, since I will not be up for first-pitch. 10 am starts should be banned on the weekend. ;-)

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Today: Eighth Inning Retch, Part II