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AZ 5, Marlins 8 - The Sixth: it's the New Eighth...

Record: 64-73. Change on last season: +3

Is it too late to start a 'Fire Melvin' campaign? Is six losses in a row enough? [during the past four of which, we had a lead in the sixth inning or later, only to surrender it] Eight defeats in the last nine games? How about twelve in fourteen? This matches the worst streak during the nightmare of June; that was the sole time we've lost more than six games in a row this year too. Plus we face Dontrelle Willis tomorrow, so anyone who thinks the losing streak is not going to tie the season-high of seven, has to convince me first.

Sure, we're still three games ahead of where we were last year. That 2005 team, however, suddenly woke up and played 16-9 baseball the rest of the way, and I just can't see any way the current lineup is capable of this. But as Baseball Prospectus rates our chances of playoff baseball at 0.6%, before the defeat today, Melvin continues to construct his lineups in the same way that has been so abysmal lately. Even Tom Candiotti, on the radio, is openly calling for the youngsters to be playing, yet BoMel still insists on rolling out people like Luis Gonzalez (3-for-28) and Craig Counsell (1-for-22 since coming back), who will not be a serious part of our lineup next year. Baseball players are not Cher: they do not get a "farewell tour".

Is Drew hurt? That's the only conceivable excuse I can see why he is not playing every day, and there does appear to be an ongoing issue with his hand. Still, we get this BS: "Melvin said that he just wanted to get Counsell a start, but said that the off-day for Drew increases the chances of his hand healing quicker. "[Counsell's] going to get his days, Stephen's going to get his days," Melvin said."

Wrong answer. Drew's name, along with Jackson, Quentin and Young, should be etched into the lineup card first - not, as it appears, fitted in around the veterans. And pinch-hitting for Craig Counsell with Damion Easley? Earth to Melvin: let us know when the shuttle lands. Let me make it perfectly clear: if the rookies play, I do not care whether we win or lose. That's my gift to Bob Melvin, and it's what Kendrick etc. hopefully are saying to him too. Winning games is now irrelevant; we should be preparing for 2007.

Unfortunately, it seems, on the evidence available to us, that Melvin is still marching to the beat of a different drum. In fact, it appears to be a xylophone of some sort. If so, it's time for a change: maybe we can prise away Girardi from Florida, since it seems he doesn't get on well with Loria. No surprise there, as Girardi is doing his damnedest to sabotage Loria's masterplan to extort a new stadium from Florida, by pouting and putting out the worst team possible until he gets it. [Yeah, while I'm not quite sure how that's supposed to work, it seems the only logical explanation]

And at first, it was going so well: the Marlins were 11-31 in May. But curse you, Girardi! Despite having a team that could be funded from the money found in A-Rod's turnups, they've come back to climb above .500 - the first team ever, after being 20 games below the same season. They're 1.5 games back in the wild-card race, and I can only agree with the sentiments expressed by Englishdback: "It would be so funny if the Marlins won ANOTHER world series this year without actually trying...The whole baseball world would be so pissed off, it would be great! Go Marlins!" Indeed. Take heed of the lesson, Bob: play the rookies.

Anyway, back in Florida, it was business as usual for the Diamondbacks. That, nowadays, apparently means we sprint out in front of the opposition, then blow it all in one inning. At least we kept them off the board in the eighth, so that's nice. No, what hurt was the two runs in the seventh and, particularly, the six allowed to score with two outs in the sixth off Enrique Gonzalez. He'd allowed one hit through the first five innings, and faced one batter over the minimum. But in the sixth, he surrendered six hits, including five in a row with two out: as noted over the weekend, about all I can say regarding this meltdown is, "Well done! You must get up very early in the morning."

In his defense, he had pitched well the first five innings, and apart from the three-run homer, the other hits were not hard. He almost escaped allowing only one run, but Tracy hesitated before throwing to first, on a chopper by Willingham with two out. Willingham beat it out, and five more runs would score before EnGon finally got the third out. How that will play into his future in the rotation, it's hard to say. Cross off the sixth and he threw the ball as well as he has all year. But that's a statistical fraud, so you can't really do that, and he lost his fifth straight decision.

We scored four runs in the first, then only had Eric Byrnes 21st homer of the year to add. He had two hits, and stole his 20th bag for the season, making him the first Diamondback to join the 20-20 club since...Devon White, all the way back in our debut season of 1998. He had 22 HR and 22 SB, so Byrnes could surpass him in both departments. White also did it in 1987, playing for the California Angels. Probably unlikely, unless he goes on a mad tear during the last month, that he'll reach the rarer heights of the 30-30 Club.

Hudson had two hits and a walk: after that first-inning explosion, we had only four H and one BB in the remaining eight innings. E. Gonzalez was relieved - again, arguably, too late by Melvin, who appears to be majoring in the Delayed Implementation of Farm Building Lockage Apparatus, post-Equine Departure this year - by Medders, who pitched a lengthy (31-pitch) seventh, allowing a homer to Dan Uggla. The dregs of the game were handed over to the expanded roster to finish. Southpaw Doug Slaten made his major-league debut, facing two righties, allowing a hit - this does suggest he's seen more as a general reliever, rather than a LOOGY, while Aquino tidied up thereafter, with a strike-out/throw-out combo.

Scary moment when Chris Young charged into the outfield wall after flagging a ball down in right-center. Watching the replay, he bounced off the wall, took a couple of steps, then dropped to his hands and knees. Fortunately, it seems he was only winded - an injury to a star prospect would be exactly what we need on this disaster of a roadtrip. Instead it's "just" two five-run leads we've blown in slightly more than 48 hours - and, as noted, we face Dontrelle Willis tomorrow. If that lineup does not have at least three of Quentin, Jackson, Drew and Young, or does included LuGon or Counsell, I'll be seriously annoyed. Maybe Melvin should borrow my weed-whacker: having seen what it does to dead birds, maybe he can use it on the dead horse he's flogging...

Thanks to William K, jeremy (welcome, once more!), unnamedDBacksfan, Englishdback and azdb7 for their comments. The last-named points out the amazing consistency in the stats put up by Arizona's regulars. It bears formatting nicely and posting below - min 350 AB's:

           BA  HR  RBI
Tracy    .277  16   69
Gonzalez .275  14   66
Hudson   .289  13   63
Byrnes   .279  21   63
Jackson  .278  11   64
Estrada  .302  11   66

That's consistency, and not just any kind, but consistent mediocrity of an impressive level. There are, at time of writing, sixty-nine players with seventy or more RBIs in the major leagues. Not one of them plays for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Would it be churlish to mention that Dan Uggla has more homers (22) and RBIs (81) than anyone on his former team, and a batting average (.291) that trails only Estrada? "Well done! You must get up very early in the morning."

Bit of help for Brandon Webb's Cy Young campaign today, as Carlos Zambrano got yanked after just 1.1 innings, allowing four earned runs on four hits and four walks. He took the loss, rather than his 15th win, and jacked his ERA up to 3.50. He has lower back stiffness, and will undergo an MRI tomorrow, which is good news for Webb's mantelpiece. Speaking of injured Cubs, here's a dire warning on the perils of catching: "Cubs C Michael Barrett was still in the hospital Monday morning for a follow-up procedure after having surgery Saturday night to stop bleeding in his scrotum. He is on the 15-day DL after getting hit in the groin area by a foul tip on Saturday." Get well soon, Mr. Barrett. Really...

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