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AZ 8, A's 5 - 98 degrees and rising...

The heat is on.

It's kinda ironic that the largest cheer at the Muni last night came during the weather report. Some kid was reading off the dismal temperature figures from elsewhere in the country: "Albany: 29 degrees, snow. Pittburgh: 36, foggy. Philadelphia: 39, rain." And then, finally, "Phoenix: 98 degrees, sunny!" Woot! We're #1! We're #1! Not exactly an encouraging sign, when we're nudging three figures before Opening Day. Certainly, doesn't bode well for the chances of many games with the roof open at the start of the season...

The game itself was great. I think we should always start by getting five straight hits, and pulling out to a 4-0 lead before the first batter is retired. And let the record show, that just before Quentin's huge bomb, I turned to our group and said, "Three-run homer." I admit that I was, to a certain extent, mocking the A's fans, both with us and around us - but, boy, did I feel like Nostradamus when Carlos cranked one out of here. From then on, it was sheer entertainment, as we pulled away to an 8-0 lead. Maybe that was why the hot-dog Mrs. SnakePit brought me in the second inning was about the most wonderfully flavored one I've ever had: succulent, moist, tasty. I suggested trying for the "nine dogs and nine beers in nine innings" mark, but Chris snorted something about needing a second mortgage.

The anthem got a somewhat shaky rendition,
but I guess it's the thought that counts.

And, yeah, while ticket prices may be a lot more reasonable at spring training games, that's certainly not the case at the concession stand. While I was pleased to see they had Blue Moon on tap, the beers were significantly more expensive than the one I had at the Sinn show-lounge we'd visited on the way [to drop off flyers for the Ying Yang twins show]. That was a mediocre experience in itself. I used to go to the London clubs fairly often in my bachelor days, but the ones I've been to in Phoenix seem...well, boring. They all look the same, the DJ's sound the same, and they all play the same awful rap/soul music. In London, you might hear RevCos or Nine Inch Nails, and every place had its own character. Mrs. SnakePit and I decided that we need to open a strip-club like that, and we'd clean up. Hell, we could call it the AZ SnakePit. :-)

Anyway. Back at the game. I must confess to some nervousness as the A's fought their way back from an eight-run deficit in the middle of the sixth, to bring the tying run to the plate, with one out in the bottom of the eighth. That was because - embarrassing confession time - we were leaving the game early. Our guests wanted to see SnakePit Jr. perform at The Comedy Spot in Scottsdale, and the show there started at 10pm. Hence, we needed to sneak out, shamefacedly in my case, having heaped scorn upon the early quitters often enough at Chase. I bit my tongue, bearing in mind that, unlike us, our guests had not seen our son perform his routine 95 times already...

Drew's the boss

Our offense was on fire: our starters at spots #1-5 were a combined 10-for-18, with three homers and eight RBI. Drew and Hudson were both 3-for-4, with the latter driving in four runs, while Tracy added a pair of hits. The game started, as noted, with five straight hits, beginning with a bloop double by Drew down the left-field line, that he couldn't have placed better by hand. He added another double off Blanton later, and made a couple of excellent plays in the field: first, on a diving stop, and then showed great range to get a shallow pop-up behind him. Unfortunately, on the first of these, he then threw the ball into the dugout.

Our patience at the plate could also be questioned (two walks, 11 K's), though we weren't helped by a home-plate umpire who was clearly keen to get out of the heat, and has a strike-zone you could have landed a jet in. Hairston was the unfortunate victim in the first, and added another K later, but was hardly alone: Young, Byrnes and Clark all also had multi-strikeout nights. I noticed that Young was relegated to the ninth spot in the order [this being at Oakland's park, we used the DH rule - Hairston was given the spot] but still went 0-for-3 with a pair of K's, and didn't look good doing it. Should that keep up, don't be surprised if it's him that gets optioned to Tucson when DaVanon is ready again.

Whatever Snyder has, it's definitely catching.
Thank you: I'll be here all week.

On the mound, the pleasant surprise was the great form showed by Enrique Gonzalez, who one-hit what was, basically, the A's starting lineup, for four innings, with no walks and three K's [and that one hit probably wouldn't have been, but for Drew's errant throw]. He was mixing up his pitches effectively, and on the basis of this form, has definitely got a chance of being our temporary Johnson replacement. Can't say the same for Dana Eveland, who was all over the place: plenty of gas, but he walked four of the ten hitters he faced. And I'm not talking from full counts either; on more than one occasion, he threw six or seven balls in a row.

Julio came in after Eveland had loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth, and struck out Nick Swisher to end that threat. He also pitched the seventh, but allowed his first two runs of Spring Training, on three hits. Carrasco then tidied up, though not, as noted, without bringing the tying run to the plate, while I dragged my feet nervously at the top of the steps. The much-touted aggressive base-running by AZ did seem to be present, though it perhaps needs to be tempered a bit. Tracy made an ill-advised bid to reach second on a s single to the outfield where the throw went to third, and Hudson fell victim to the old "fake to third, throw to first" move.

All told though, it was a satisfying performance - really, there's nothing like answering a "Let's go, Oakland" chant, with your own, quietly spoken one of, "Eight-zero, Arizona". The more I see of them, the more I'm convinced that this team is going to score a lot of runs when the season starts. So far, they're batting .323, and have the best OBP (.401), SLG (.515) and runs per game (7.7) figures in the National League. Of course - and this can't be said often enough - we're only in spring training, but so far, so good. I'd happily take an 11-5 mark in any sixteen game stretch.