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AZ 4, Marlins 0 - Multiple Vargasm

Record: 65-73. Change on last season: +4

Seven innings of four-hit, shutout ball in today's game: not a shock. That it was Claudio Vargas who produced it, rather than Dontrelle Willis? Big surprise. Follow that up with two innings of near-perfect relief from the Killer V's [Vizcaino and Valverde], spoiled only by a towering pop-up which Snyder dropped - the hitter then walked. And Arizona had posted their first shutout in 43 games, since July 19, when we beat the Dodgers 8-0. I note, with pleasure, the presence of Quentin, Jackson and Young in the line-up, the lack of Luis Gonzalez and Craig Counsell, and the final result.

Item: Carlos Quentin's towering home-run in the 2nd inning, which gave us the lead. Item: the not-quite-so towering - in fact, somewhat outfielder-assisted - home-run from Counsell's replacement in the fourth. Item: Andy Green's stellar defensive play at third-base. Okay, I am being somewhat selective here. The rookies (Q, J, Y, and Green) went a combined 2-for-16 overall, and the unnamed Counsell substitute was actually Damion Easley, whom I've recently advocated stapling to the bench. But there was something about the performance today which just seemed more energetic and focussed than we've seen recently.

Vargas was excellent. Spotting his pitches almost perfectly, lots of movement on them. The key moment came in the sixth, when the Marlins put two men on with one out, and their big bopper, Miguel Cabrera at the plate, representing the tying run. Needless to say, flashbacks of previously-blown leads over the past few games were unspooling in my head like the Zapruder film in JFK. But Vargas was having none of it: Cabrera became one his six strikeout victims, on a foul tip, and Willingham then flew out harmlessly. Seven innings, four hits, two walks, no earned runs. That's his best outing in more than four months, probably since April 25, when he also threw seven shutout innings. [Okay, I admit it, I've been waiting almost since then to justify using today's headline ;-)]

Vizcaino threw a perfect eighth, and looked very good doing it, before Valverde came in for the ninth, in a non-save situation. Though the way we've been playing lately, I think any pitcher who preserves a lead for us, deserves credit for a save, regardless of the score. He got three strikeouts, with some wicked 95 mph fastballs, and now has 16 K's in eleven innings of work since coming back from Tucson. I think it's safe to say that Jorge Julio's services as a closer are unlikely to be requested - certainly this season, and possibly never again by the Diamondbacks.

[I just realised that the entire game was pitched for Arizona by three players whose names all started with V. I wonder if that has ever been done before, excluding complete games? Maybe by two players (on the 1997 Expos, did Dave Veres save one of the seven games started by Marc Valdes?), but I doubt by three. Before this year, there have only ever been 106 pitchers in major-league history whose names started with V. (Quick: who had most wins? Dazzy Vance, with 197; second is Fernando Valenzuela, at 173) Twelve were active in 2005, four of them for AZ: Valverde, Vargas, Villarreal and Vazquez. Clearly, we should trade for Justin Verlander. :-) But I think this ranks up there with the game we had earlier this season, which was pitched entirely by Brandons.]

Offensively, Hudson had three hits, continuing his hot hitting - his average for the season is now up to .292. It's almost certainly going to be his best career year, offensively: his previous highs were .276, with 12 HR and 63 RBI. He's already got 13 HR and 64 RBI, and at the current pace (.338 since the All-Star break), it's quite possible he'll reach .300 before the end of the year. As noted above, Easley had two hits, while Chris Snyder drew two walks, scored a run, and drove in one with a sacrifice fly.

Thanks to a lively set of visitors today, who combined to deliver the highest number of comments since a July 28th GameDay Thread against the Astros. DiamondbacksWIn, JustMe, andrewinnewyork, icecoldmo and William K were the contributors in this area. A new era of optimism has dawned for Diamondbacks fandom, as we look forward to the rest of the season with renewed vigour. Er, okay: make that "slightly less distressed malcontent than yesterday." Regardless, let's hope the lineup today foreshadows what we can expect for the remaining 26 games, more or less. The absence of Drew, for the second consecutive day, was worrying: I can only presume that his hand is still proving a problem. If so, I've absolutely no problem with them being cautious. He has a long, glorious career ahead of him; let's keep it that way.

Excited to hear that Miguel Montero will get the start tomorrow, catching for Edgar Gonzalez: another piece of the jigsaw puzzle which is our future drops into place. I suspect he may not quite be ready to start for the Diamondbacks on Opening Day next year, so we'll see Snyder and, possibly, Hammock (remember him? I know andrewinnewyork does!) as the initial roster entries. But it probably won't be long, if current progress is maintained, before Montero is knocking on the door, demanding a full-time role. Hammock might still survive, however, since he has that super-utility ability, and can play just about every position bar pitcher. Think of him as the Swiss Army Knife on the roster...

On the whole, a good day in Diamondbacktown. It's always pleasant to see the back of a losing streak, and especially when the win comes from such an unexpected source. I doubt it'll do much for our playoff chances - 0.4%? 0.5%? - and I stand by my previous rule, wo will not get excited until we put together a solid winning run of at least three games. But the fact that a) we played the rookies, and b) produced our best performance in quite some time, puts a spring in my step and makes me feel a damn sight more optimistic about the future than I was 24 hours ago. I shall sleep well tonight! :-)

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Today: V for Victory