Post-season victories: 3. Wins remaining: 8
Quotes of the day
"You gotta keep him in there. He's the closer. And once he gives up a run, you go get him. You gotta at least go with your best until they get a run. He's pitched through a lot of jams over the course of a season. We've seen him go out there in that fashion and get out of it. Until he gives up a run, it's his game." -- Bob Melvin
"I wasn't tired. I felt good. I felt as good as I had all year. I tried to throw my sinker, and it wasn't going in. I was just trying to get by. I felt so good." -- Jose Valverde
It's one thing to lose to a better team. It's one thing to lose through your own failings. It's something entirely different to lose because your manager adheres to moronic credos such as "Until he gives up a run, it's his game." That kind of thing is stupid enough in a regular-season content - after all, there's 162 of them, so we can work around the odd Melvin meltdown (and we did) - but in the playoffs, especially in a must-win contest like this? Let's just review, shall we?
- Valverde ended with 42 pitches, a number surpassed only twice in more than 250 career appearances.
- Before facing Taveras, Jose had already thrown 38. That's the most this year, and only reached one time in 2006.
- Papa Grande passed 30 in 2007 once, during a disastrous outing against the Phillies back in May, where he allowed three runs while getting two outs...and had to be rescued by Brandon Lyon.
- He made four appearances in 2007 with 25 or more pitches; his combined line there:
Valverde: 4 IP, 8 H, 5 BB, 11 R, 10 ER, ERA 22.50
- Overall career line in 18 games with 30 or more pitches:
Valverde: 27.1 IP, 30 H, 21 BB, 19 R, 18 ER, ERA 5.93
Really. we're not talking rocket-science here: his control simply evaporates. Valverde was half-way to a credible number of pitches for a starter, and should have been gone, at the very latest before facing Taveras. It was apparent to everyone in the stadium that Jose had nothing left, from about the second batter he faced that inning. His body-language was totally shot, and Nick Piecoro said "You could tell from Valverde's behavior in the 11th inning that his swagger was gone. Even his face didn't show his usual confidence. If it was so readily apparent to the 48,000 in attendance - many of whom were screaming at the top of their lungs for a fresh arm to come in - why the hell wasn't our manager paying attention?
Now, that's what I call a follow-through!
I think the thing that pissed me off so much was the arrogance of Melvin, apparent in not even having anyone up in the bullpen. Y'know, just in case of the remote possibility that the masterplan created by his sublime genius might turn out, oh, to suck farts out of dead dogs. But by the time he actually got anyone up, never mind being ready to come in, the inning was already well out of control. The one person I don't blame much is Valverde, though you should check out the video of his post-game comments at Diamondbacks.com - his look is utterly at odds with his brave words. I hope he went home, cuddled his little girl, and is ready to go in Colorado.
Other factors come to play, of course, not least the offensiveness of our offense. You will probably not do well in the playoffs, when you can score only three runs in 20 innings - though again, we hit for more bases than the Rockies. Both pitching staff have been phenomenal, but we actually have a batting line almost 100 points better in OPS than Colorado; .247/.329/.301 vs. .211/.313/.225. The Rockies' OPS is more than 250 points down on the regular-season figure, with their much-vaunted offense restricted to one extra-base hit, a double, in 71 at-bats. Helton, Holliday and Atkins, who each hit over .300 the rest of the year, are a combined .174 (4-for-23).
And they're still two games up. I have to say, Arizona has been accused of being "lucky" - but that claim seems to be based entirely on our run-differential. I can't recall two consecutive games where everything went our way, as it has for the Rockies in this series. Their first run scored on a blooped hit that dropped right on the foul line. Mark Reynolds gifted them a second with an error that led to an unearned run, and the winning run reached base on another crappy infield squib that went about 45 feet. [Though we - or, at least, Melvin - will take responsibility for the three walks from a gassed closer which followed] Add the miraculous catch by Taveras to rob Clark of extra-bases and the tying run in the seventh, and the Rockies' streak of amazingly-good fortune is clearly continuing.
Much credit due to Doug Davis, even though it took him 106 pitches to get through five innings, and we dodged a bullet, as he was running on fumes there - getting Tulowitzki to pop out and end it, was more by fortune than anything. But you know how much Melvin needs to be forced out of the dugout with a cattle-prod, if he's going to go get his starter before the end of the fifth. Despite radically different approaches, both starters had almost identical lines: five innings, five hits, four walks and one earned run apiece: Jimenez had an extra K. Have to say, I am not looking forward to facing Mr. J in seasons to come, he looks like the real deal, even at age 23.
A rare picture of Doug Davis, standing on second-base - and wondering where to go from there. :-)
Davis even had a hit in the third. Not just any hit, an extra-base hit, and he's only had three of those in his career, since his 2001 debut - it's his first since August 19, 2005. He came round to score the tying run on a single by Young, who was then thrown out trying to steal second. We had chances after that, but Ojeda and Reynolds both went down swinging to end the fourth and fifth, with two on and the bases-loaded respectively. And that was it for the offense until the ninth, when Corpas hit Young with a pitch, he went on to third for a single by Drew, and came home when Byrnes reached on an error.
Byrnes' grounder should have left us with men on first and second and one out. Matsui's tried for a game-ending double-play, but his flip to Tulowitzki was high, so he leapt over Drew as he slid into second and never touched the bag. However, Drew assumed he was toast and started jogging towards the dugout - kindly providing Tulowitzki with the out he actually failed to get. Said Drew, "I looked back and saw no call, and I figured I was out. So I headed back in and I looked at Chip. He's telling me to go back. At that point it was too late." A rookie mistake, basically: something we can do without in the playoffs, where the margin for such gaffes is extremely thin indeed.
Finally, got to say something about our bullpen, who performed heroically again, just as they've done right the way through the post-season. The bases-loaded walk with two outs in the eleventh, brought to an end a streak of 17 consecutive innings without an earned run in the post-season - the only black mark, an unearned score against Juan Cruz yesterday, because of Jackson's error. Famine pitched a perfect sixth, and was followed by Pestileñce, who went one, or rather two, better than the previous game, striking out the top third of the Rockies on only ten pitches. He also posted a zero in the eight, Lyon retired the side in order in the ninth, and Valverde had a 1-2-3 tenth. Until that fateful eleventh, they'd combined for five innings of one-hit ball, with no walks and seven K's. Last night, however, it just wasn't enough...
The crowds seemed to get there very early; even though the game didn't start until 7:15pm, at 5pm, there was still a 45-minute wait for a table at the Hard Rock Cafe.
Wanted to buy a T-shirt to commemorate the occasion, and they had set up merchandise stands outside the park - but they were charging $32 for them. I just laughed and walked away: that's gouging at its most unacceptable. They may well be reduced to clear after Monday. :-(
Instead, we got a free D-backs hand-towel on the way in - I didn't realise this has a long history. This served two purposes: it was used for waving, to encourage the team - and it also proved very useful in the top of the eleventh, to cover our eyes as Valverde melted down. Douglas Adams was right.
Even though we lost, it was still enthralling baseball. If you're going to charge $85 for a seat, then at least this game delivered value for money. Four and a half hours of it. Despite multiple beers beforehand, I didn't leave my seat from first pitch to the last.
I back, you back, Mrs. SnakePit's sister backs, the D-backs...
Full house, though some seats weren't filled until the third inning or thereabout. Great atmosphere. No trouble at all.
The crowd hated Young being thrown out, booing lustily, and I wondered if there was going to be any "issues" [luckily, our seats were just under the second-deck overhang, and safe from any reacton!]. The replays seemed to show he was indeed out: they might have wanted to consider putting those on the Jumbotron, to calm the crowd a bit?
Well, except when I had to because the idiots in front of me would stand up at "heart-stopping moments" like our hitters having two outs, the bases empty, and a 1-1 count. Memo to fans: if you stand up all the frickin' time, it diminishes the impact when you need it. If you don't want to sit, go buy a standing-room ticket. Otherwise, stand up only when the occasion demands it - rather than when Mike and Vanessa demand it.
This has already been mentioned elsewhere, but the second-loudest boos of the night were when Bonds was shown during the montage of highlights from the 2007 season. But was the hell was that surreal "Basket Catch" video about? Taking footage of Willie Mays' 1954 World Series gem at the Polo Grounds, and doctoring it with an over-sized head chanting "Basket catch, basket catch" in a monotone. Weird and utterly pointless.
The Seventh-Inning Stretch [AVI, 4.5 MB] Sorry about the fingerprints on the lens. :-)
I was expecting the Gameday Thread to have crashed through four figures when I came back, but it seems a combination of illness (get well soon, charmer!), attendance at the actual game, and perhaps the fan apathy beloved of the national media all took its toll, and we eventually ended at 700 on the nose. Present were soco, Jim Silverblood, Devin, andrewinnewyork, bitterfan (welcome...I think!), oklahomasooners, azdb7, dahlian, 4CornersFan, britdback, DbacksSkins, CA SnakesFan (welcome!), Muu, hotclaws, VIII, johngordonma, Wimb, kylerkenney and Charlie77, so thanks to them.
It isn't over, but the fat lady does appear to be clearing her throat, gargling with lemon-juice and rustling the sheet music, in an apparently meaningful manner. No National League team has ever come back from 2-0 down to win the Championship Series. However, I still think we do have a chance: win tomorrow, and we can then turn the ball back over to Micah Owings - or possibly Brandon Webb - with a shot at levelling the series 2-2. It's not impossible...though since we have Livan starting Game Three, I can't say I am filled with enormous optimism. However, thus far it's not really been the pitching that's been the problem: our offense needs to kick things up several notches, if the series is to see Arizona again.
Last, and probably least, looks like TBS's worst nightmare has come true. Game One of this series was easily the least-watched LCS prime-time game ever, pulling only a 3.6 national rating, smashing the previous worst, most recently set by Game 3 of the Cardinals/Mets series last year. Things are probably going to get worse for them, before they get better, given this game didn't start till 10:15 pm on the East Coast, and you'd have had to sit up until almost 2:45 am to see the conclusion of it. This worries me because, how is everyone going to remember not to watch Frank TV?