Record: 14-11. Change on last season: +2. Pace: 91-71.
Quote of the day: "YEEESSSSSSSS! WOOOOOOOOO! SCOOOOOOOOOTTTTTYYYYYYY!" -- Me. Last night. Seventh inning.
I have no voice left. What a phenomenal contest that was, certainly in the top three Diamondbacks games I've seen live. Already, eight of our fourteen wins have required us to come from behind, but this was the first time we needed to fight back from so far down. There was just something in the air: the crowd was amazingly loud during the seventh-inning stretch, singing Take Me Out lustily, and despite our offense slump and a 4-1 deficit, there was no sense of panic. First, we pulled one back on an RBI single by Montero that appeared to swerve as it made its way through the right-side of the infield. Or maybe the Giants defense just sucks. :-)
Either way, it set the stage for Hairston, who wasted no time, taking the first-pitch he saw from Chulk the Chucker, and dispatch an absolute no-doubter, 418 ft into the left-field bleachers. That was his first-ever pinch-hit homer - and, his first HR of any kind in the majors since September 2nd, 2004. Once again, a seemingly-insurmountable deficit had been overturned with a single swing of the bat. The four runs we scored in the seventh not only matched the season high for any inning - they were also more than we've scored in the seventh inning of the previous 24 contests combined.
Of course, we still had the little matter of our bullpen, trying to hold a one-run lead over the remaining six outs. In their defense, they've actually been pretty good at this - we're 7-1 when leading after six innings, and that improves to 9-0 when leading after eight. But they always seem to leave base-runners scattered like confetti: Cruz (WHIP of 1.44), Lyon (1.45), Valverde (1.55) and Medders (1.73) would be your chief culprits there, even though all bar the last-named have ERAs below 3.30. Way below in the case of Lyon, at 0.87. Quite how you allow only one earned run in 10.1 innings, on eleven hits and four walks, I'm not sure - it probably involves live chickens.
Last night, it started with Slaten, who got to go after Bonds, but ended up walking him on a full-count. He did nail the other two hitters he faced, however, and received a warm round of applause as he walked back to the dugout. Tony Peña came in, and retired Bengie Molina to end the eighth. Jose Valverde then appeared for the ninth - and about all I want to say here is, he got his major-league leading tenth save. Because, believe me, I will have much more to say about this one later on. That appearance reduced me to leaning on the seat in front, head in my hands and the wild pitch made me feel physically ill. I won't say what I felt after Durham's ball vanished into the right-field corner, in the seconds before it was declared foul.
It's probably safe to say that this appearance, together with Micah Owings' sterling work down in Tucson last night [five shutout innings, and a 7-0 K:BB ratio] has probably sealed EdGon's fate. Five hits and three walks in five innings, led to three earned runs, and he was somewhat lucky to get away with that - good defense behind him significantly helped [not least Byrnes' corkscrew grab in deep left] and his gopher-ball tendencies are troublesome. Bonds, I can understand, but Pedro Feliz? Expect Owings to replace him in the rotation, with EdGon shunted to the bullpen (maybe pending a trade?), replacing Nippert in the long relief role. Speaking of whom, Dustin was effectively wild last night: two perfect innings despite pitches that bounced or sailed to the backstop.
I almost convinced Mrs. SnakePit that Hudson's Gold Glove award meant that he has to wear an actual golden glove for the rest of the season. Damn my inability to keep a straight face. [shakes fist]
Very vocal crowd, among the best I've seen: maybe the Hudson bobbleheads brought out the kids, who are always more enthusiastic. Heck, they even started a "Let's go D-backs" chant without being prompted by the Jumbotron. Okay, that'd be laughable at, say, Fenway, but this is major progress at Chase Field, folks.
Despite what Paolo Boivin said in the Republic, people still do care about steroids and Barry Bonds. Specifically, they loathe him intensely, and I'm right there with them, whether he's clean now or not - that's like liking OJ because he hasn't murdered anyone lately. Best heckle of the night, after a wild hack at a Slaten pitch: "What happened, Barry - did your head get in the way of the ball?"
We got on the Jumbotron! Still waiting to get onto the Kiss-cam though. Then we'll show the crowd something... >-O I was hoping the Kiss-cam would show Barry Bonds and a mirror, but no such luck.
Particularly bizarre diversion with the latest in-game contest. They throw something into the pool, and a contestant has to guess whether it will sink or float. The "thing" this time was Lou Seal, the Giants' mascot. Let's see, now. A) It's a seal. B) It is very obviously wearing a life-preserver under its costume. The kid chosen still went for "Sink". Hope springs eternal, I guess.
Equally bizarre was the "Food Fight". A race between a burrito, a taco and a large soda from the outfield to the third-base foul line. The costumes looked damn creepy, like something you'd nightmare up after a late-night stop at Filiberto's. Call me gullible, but based on the word "Fight", I was also hoping for something a little more violent. I must have watched too many episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, perhaps.
Hairston's homer came just in time to stop the late-inning exodus all but dead in its tracks. However, the family in front still packed up and left at the end of the eighth. I will never understand people who leave before the ninth inning of a one-run game. If you don't want to see how it ends, what are you doing there to start with?
Not a great day for my expectations, even if I don't care much. Hudson did get a hit, the bullpen posted a shutout and I'm claiming half a point for Hairston's homer - I didn't list him explicitly as a Young Blood, because I didn't think he'd play. The roof was very definitely closed; having seen the sandstorm in Scottsdale (appropriately, as we watched Aguirre, Wrath of God), I can understand why.
Thanks to everyone who hung out in the GameDay Thread, particularly during the long, dark early innings where Matt Cain looked like he was going to get away with it again. That has to be the least impressive one-hitter I've ever seen. More live chickens there, I think. Present: DBACKS KICK ARSE, VIII, shoewizard, DiamondbacksWIn, johngordonma, suitsmetoATnT, wimb [you can email me the essay - the address is in the sidebar], singaporedbacksfan, Goose, azdbacks51, icecoldmo and, since he asked, seton hall snake pit. Singapore is an early 2007 Nostradamus Award nominee for, "Cain is at 90 pitches... So chances are he will not last beyond the 7th, and then it will be time for us to exploit their bullpen." Good call.
This was another game where the D'backs won in spite of Melvin, rather than because of him, with two monumental blunders. Firstly, pitching to Bonds in the first with a base open and the score tied. We walked him three times in the same situation yesterday: why not today? He did admit it was an error, saying, "That's not my crowning moment right there... I tried to go against the grain a little bit, and it didn't work. I learned my lesson." But, sheesh: the best home-run hitter of our era, against our most home-run surrendering starter? [eight in 30.1 IP now for EdGon, to go with nine in 42.2 last year] With somewhere safe to put him and a reserve player on-deck? This isn't rocket science, folks.
Equally bad was the decision to use Valverde in the ninth, for the third straight night. But I guess Melvin's Big Book of Baseball Management says, "If it's the ninth and a save situation, you use your closer." [Unfortunately, the chapter about blowing arms appears to have been torn out.] Valverde gamely gave it his best shot but, very obviously, had nothing. Ray Durham first sent a shot down the right-field line that was foul by inches, and finally flied out to uber-deep left-center, a smash that was only hauled in by a high-velocity Chris Young. And if you think I'm over-reacting, look at last year. Valverde's mid-May melt-down was immediately preceded by a similar spell of appearances on three consecutive days, from the 14-16th...
I did wonder why Stephen Drew got the day off, since his bat has been hotter than anyone else's over the past week. Turns out he was given a break because of a "little bit of a groin pull". Should be back today, all being well. I think it's time for both Hudson and Byrnes to be given a day off: they have played every inning of every game so far, and are 4-for-18 and 1-for-17 during the home-stand respectively. On the other hand, I notice that Chad Tracy is 7-for-13, which has increased his batting average over 50 points, to a respectable .278 - now higher than Byrnes.