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Diamondbacks 3, Cubs 1 - Aces High

Quote of the day #1: "I've said all year that all of us young guys were kind of thrown in the middle of this. We really don't know what's going on. We just go out there and do what we do, that's play ball." -- Mark Reynolds

Quote of the day #2: "I thought I'd be a little bit more nervous. And I was a little bit the first few pitches, but I was able to calm those pretty quick. I didn't feel it was a must-win game. Obviously, we want to go out there and win every ballgame. It was a huge win for us, but I don't think it's a must-win when we've still got a bunch of games left." -- Brandon Webb

There'll be a lot of second-guessing this morning, as to whether the D-backs won Game One, or Piniella lost it. Taking your ace out after only 85 pitches makes sense, since he's scheduled to pitch in Game 4 on short rest. Especially when the man coming in is, by ERA+, the second-best reliever in the entire league. However, when said reliever breaks the tie by allowing a leadoff homer to Mark Reynolds, a walk, a double to the Littlest Ballplayer, and a sacrifice fly from suddenly look like an idiot.

That is, unsurprisingly, the focus of the evening's events. However, it should not overshadow the fact that our ace won, while their ace didn't. Brandon Webb gave us all we could possibly have hoped for: seven innings, with four hits, three walks, nine strikeouts and only one run, on a bases-loaded chopper from Theriot that Reynolds couldn't quite reach. Outside there, while he only had a single 1-2-3 inning - his last - Webb's sinker was imperial, and made the best Cubs hitters look very bad: spots #1-5 in their order were a combined 1-for-20, with one walk and eight K's.

The best demonstration of that was the third, where he allowed a lead-off double to Zambrano, then fanned Soriano, Jones and Lee in order. And the fifth was almost as good. A wild Reynolds throw to first (too much adrenalin?) put the lead-off hitter, and at that stage tying run, on second: Webb, again, retired the next three, without the runner advancing. The Cubs were 1-for-10 with RISP overall and, as Pinella admitted, you won't win many games scoring one run on four hits.

After Webb, the bullpen did what they've been doing all season. We were 73-7 when leading after seven innings in the regular season, and can add another notch to that last night. Lyon pitched a perfect eighth, though Valverde - almost inevitably - walked a man with two outs. That brought the Cubs biggest home-run threat to the plate, as the tying run, and everything was crossed in SnakePit Towers, until he got Soriano to ground out weakly to Drew for the final out. That's the first time we've tasted victory in the playoffs since Gonzo's bloop in 2001. Boy, did those Nathan's dawgs and Stella Artois taste good.

If the pitching staff was wonderful, Stephen Drew was probably the hero among the position players. His 432-foot blast over the swimming pool to the concourse in the fourth to put the D-backs on the board first. He also made a couple of stellar defensive plays, robbing Zambrano on a screaming line-drive, and also keeping Theriot's chopper in the infield, preventing a second run from scoring on the play. Credit also due to Reynolds, for his blast, and Ojeda, who joined Drew in getting two hits.

That first win is crucial, on a whole number of levels, especially in a short series like this one. It leaves the Cubs needing to win three games of four, and the only way they'll avoid seeing Webb again, at Chase, is if they sweep against Davis, Hernandez and Owings. While I have some qualms about certain members of the rotation, I feel fairly confident one of that heroic trio will get a win. The pressure for tonight is all on the Cubs: not least because it's an exact rematch of the August 25th game, where Davis faced Lilly at Chase Field. The result there? Arizona came out on a score of 3-1. Here's to more of the same tonight.

Couple of random game-notes. Chase Field did not become Wrigley SW: most reports say Cubs fans were no more than 20% of theose in attendance, and were rarely heard, on TV at least. Credit too, for having Jerry Colangelo throw out the first pitch before the game: perhaps a sign that fences are being mended in that area. Kendrick called Colangelo on Tuesday to make the request, saying, "There's been an undercurrent that I think has been unfairly reported, that we've forgotten our past and that we don't revere what happened under Jerry and with players like Luis Gonzalez. We certainly don't feel that's the case, and we want to show that."

And, I have to say something about the asshole behind home plate, using a flashing Cubs sign in the ninth to try and distract Valverde. Not that there's much to say, except "He's an asshole." Now, I do see the posters on BCB were as appalled by that as I was - but that guy is exactly why Cubs fans have such a bad rep. It's always the extreme ends of the curve that get the attention: and with such a large fan-base, the Cubs will have some very extreme ends.

Can I just say, TBS's coverage sucked. Riddled with factual errors, entirely unenlightening commentary, the picture kept breaking up and, incredibly, they cut to a commercial break as the manager left the mound after talking to his pitcher. They ended up showing one-half of an advert there. Plus, is there any chance the networks can learn there is such a thing as plug overkill? I skipped the first series of 24 because Fox hyped it too much in 2001. Now, I have emailed all my family and friends ordering them not to watch Frank TV.

To no-one's great surprise, all records for GameDay Threads were smashed, shattered, and lying in the dust: nine hundred comments . Fortunately, snakecharmer has automated the roll-call process, so thanks to her for this list: soco, azdb7, DbacksSkins, npineda, Peachy, DodgerBlueBalls, batster, AZDarkKnight, hotclaws, nihil67, snakecharmer, oklahomasooners, seton hall snake pit, Silverblood (welcome, friendly Rockies fan!), Englishdback, Stile4aly, 4CornersFan, VIII, Red Army, Devin, singaporedbacksfan, Ringo Kid, Muu, Wimb, cj060896, Turumbar, Brandon Potatoes Lyonnaise (welcome!), dbackerinparadise (and welcome once more!), johngordonma, unnamedDBacksfan, Pigpen Fan, AnybodyAnytime, Adam, leemellon, bcloirao, TwinnerA and mikeb (did I say, welcome?).

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Brandon Webb, +29.9%
God-emperor of suck: Eric Byrnes, -9.9%
Honorary quite-goodness: Mark Reynolds, +16.2%; Stephen Drew, +11.2%

It's only one step: ten more needed. But I certainly feel a lot better this morning, with a 1-0 lead, than if we'd played our ace and seen it trumped.