Record: 66-75. Change on last season: +3
Rookies in starting lineup: 2
Best performance of the year so far? You could certainly make a case for it. While not the biggest offensive performance of the year (that'd be the 15 runs scored against the Cubs on July 31st), or even the largest margin of victory (13-0 over the Braves, May 20th), neither of those teams are going to the playoffs, like the Cardinals almost certainly are. So that definitely makes this victory all the more impressive, and it's not as if the Cardinals had a B-string lineup out there - well, not until after we took an 11-1 lead in the sixth, when it became more like a spring training game!
We blended the "old and busted" with the "new hotness" in order to do it. Luis Gonzalez, on Gonzo Night, went 3-for-3 with - inevitably - a double, to tie him with Tony Gwynn on the all-time list, and set a new franchise record for the year of 48, so far. Nice quote from Gonzo: "Arizona's been my life for the last eight years. It's kind of a strange situation that I'm going into, because I've never been in that situation for the last six or seven years. But at the same time, I'm a grown-up. I kind of take those in stride. Whatever happens is going to happen. We'll just wait and see. I want to stay here, there's no secret about that."
Though it should be pointed out that whether he plays here or not is probably entirely in his hands. He has to decide which is more important: staying in Arizona, or playing every day? And those who argue for retaining "veteran presence" should also note that the two rookies who started, Jackson and Quentin, possibly did even better than Gonzo, combining to go 7-for-10 with five RBIs. Eric Byrnes only had one hit, but it was his 22nd homer, and helped him drive in four, while Chad Tracy also homered. Orlando Hudson had two hits; he scored three runs, as did Gonzalez and Byrnes.
Counsell started in place of Drew, and went 0-for-5. That extended his hitless streak to 22 at-bats, and sinks him to 1-for-29 since his return. However, Melvin gets a free pass for that choice, since Drew apparently had a bit of temperature. Oh, and was bothered by a sore hamstring. As well as the ongoing issue with his hand. Sheesh. Rookies, they're just so fragile. :-) Basically, any issue to do with Drew's health, and Melvin will get the benefit of the doubt from me. However, why not give Andy Green the starts instead of Counsell? Be nice to see what he can do given an extended look, particularly for next year.
Meanwhile, Livan Hernandez turned in his best performance for us thus far. He allowed just two hits over seven innings, with the only damage Encarnacion's home-run which led off the second. He walked an unusually-high four, and only struck out one, but when hitters aren't hitting off him, he was very effective, keeping the ball down with a good mix of sinkers and sliders. More starts like that would be very welcome, needless to say. Lyon and Choate polished things off: the former allowed a couple of hits, but no runs, and Choate had a perfect ninth, on six pitches.
Even with the lure of 2-for-1 Hot Dogs and discounted Luismabilia, there was not an enormous croud present for Gonzo Night, it has to be said: only 25,299, and that on a night when the roof was open for the first time since June 10 [between then and last night, Arizona's record was a dismal 21-37; maybe we should play with the roof open all the time, 110 degrees or not?]. That's above average for a Friday night this year (23,926), but by less than 1,400, or 6%: fans clearly prefer Chad Tracy bobbleheads. Here's the crowds for the other Friday night home games thus far:
- April 14, vs. Houston: 24,517
- May 5, vs. Cincinnati: 21,077
- May 19, vs. Atlanta: 25,025
- June 9, vs. NY Mets: 23,690
- June 23, vs. LA Angels: 23,682
- July 14, vs. Milwaukee: 24,117
- July 21, vs. Colorado: 23,068
- August 4, vs. Houston: 24,485
- August 11, vs. Florida: 21,950
- August 25, vs. Los Angeles: 26,276
- September 8, vs. St. Louis: 25,299
Shame there weren't many people around to see such a good outing from Arizona - didn't seem to be many people watching it on TV either, since it was just me and azdb7 in the comments [and azdb7 bailed early, due to sickness]. Or maybe TV viewers got turned off by Thom and Mark's endless wittering about college football. Look, the appeal of this second-rate version of the sport is lost on me entirely, but with my usual tolerance, I'm prepared to file it, alongside karaoke and homosexuality, as things I don't personally enjoy, but have no problem with others engaging in, as long as they don't impose it on me. So, the last thing I want to hear as we put up our best performance of the year, is alleged "baseball" commentators discussing a completely different sport for two innings straight. If I want to hear about college football, I'll watch a freakin' college football show. Thank you for your attention in this matter.
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Today: St. Louis Blows
I've closed the poll on resigning Batista: the final vote was 2-1 in favor of keeping him for next year. The new one is regarding who should be our everyday catcher next season. There was a piece in the Tribune, the salient points of which are summarized in the diary on the right. Your votes and comments are very welcome; it's another difficult choice for the organization, and seems much less clear-cut than many. For example, trading Shawn Green was almost a no-brainer, but how certain are we that Montero and Snyder will be offensively adequate next year? Good-hitting catchers are something of a premium item, which cuts two ways: either we should hang on to Estrada, or trade him, while his value is at its highest.
Tucson were unable to complete the sweep over the Salt Lake Bees in the PCL playoffs, going down 5-3 in Salt Lake. Starter Evan MacLane got slapped around in the first three innings, giving up five runs, including two homers. The bullpen steadied the ship, with Daigle, Bajenaru and (freshly returned from the Olympic qualifiers) Bacsik allowing only one hit over the last five innings. And the Sidewinders fought back, closing to 5-3 in the seventh, then putting the first two men on in the eighth. However, a pop-out and a Hammock double-play ended the threat. They still lead the series 2-1, and can close the series out tonight with a victory.
More playoff action for the D'backs minor league system though, with our Missoula Ospreys opening its Pioneer League playoff series against the Billings Mustangs. Things looked bleak, as Missoula entered the eighth down 4-2, but catcher John Hester smacked a grand slam to turn the game around. Reliever Clay Zavada picked up the win for 3 1/3 innings of one-run ball, and Daniel Stange got his 14th save, fanning two in the ninth. The 6-4 victory was crucial, as this is only a best-of-three series: Billings won both halves of the regular season, so were hot favourites coming into the series.