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AZ 3, Rockies 4 - Ice Cold in Denver

Record: 1-1. Change on last season: 0

Quote of the day: "I make that play all the time. It was a bad play." -- Alberto Callaspo

I was debating with myself last night on whether to pick the over or the under on this Las Vegas bet: runs allowed by Hernandez v2.0, against goals surrendered by the Coyotes. Turns out I was wrong to doubt our starting pitcher, who came through with, let's be honest, a far sturdier performance than most of us were expecting, allowing two runs in seven innings. Meanwhile, the Coyotes defense fell apart: they outshot the St. Louis Blues 32-29, but our goaltender let in five goals over the first two periods, and was unceremoniously yanked, as we went down 5-2. But more on that later.

This one was pretty damn heartbreaking. We took the lead in the top of the eleventh, when Drew hit a two-out RBI single off...hey, Byung-Hyun Kim. That came after Kim walked Snyder, and hit Callaspo with a pitch, leaving us three outs from going 2-0. But it was not to be. Bad Valverde showed up, allowing three hits while retiring only two Rockies: the tying run came home on a double that Eric Byrnes couldn't quite grab, a despairing grab result in it hitting him on the wrist. [That's two plays thus far we reckon Quentin might well have made...] And then Callaspo couldn't handle a grounder, though by most accounts it was a tough error.

Still, defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. I can understand the desire to have Valverde stick to two pitches, the fastball and splitter, but when he persists in grooving the fastball down the center of the plate, hitters will soon learn to adapt against him. Tulowitzki certainly did, going from flailing wildly for a K yesterday, to punishing a pitch into the deep outfield today. And that's in the course of 24 hours. Valverde needs to start pitching more with his head, and less with his heart: he's got the raw "stuff" to be successful, but he needs to learn hos to use it.

Cranking it back. Hernandez wobbled in the first couple of innings, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks, and all the predictions of doom seemed only a matter of time. However, there was only one more single over the next five innings, though we did get to see Chad Tracy's first throwing error of the season. Credit where it's due: this was a very solid outing, despite all the crap which he talked in spring training. If he can keep up that level, and give us quality starts, there'll be very little that we can complain about [and, my bet with the Rockies is looking on much safer ground, at least until we see Rodrigo Lopez tomorrow.]

After him, Pena allowed two hits and a walk in his two innings of work, and Lyon pitched a perfect tenth before Valverde did his impression of mid-June 2006. Be interesting to see who comes in today, if the Diamondbacks get a save situation, with Jose having appeared for two days in a row, and Peña throwing 29 pitches. Will they run Papa Grande out there for a third day, or switch to, perhaps, Brandon Medders? Let's hope it's a moot point, as we crush the Rockies and get a complete game from Doug Davis. :-)

Our "aggressive baserunning" cost us in the second. Our first two got on, and Snyder then singled: Hairston was held at third, but Young steamed right around second, and we basically ended up with two men sharing the same base. Instead of bases loaded, one out, it was men on the corners with two out - and with Hernandez at the plate, that was the end of that. It took us into the fifth innings to claw back the Rockies 2-0 lead, with RBI singles from Hudson and Byrnes wiping out the deficit.

Drew, Jackson, Byrnes and Hairston all had two-hit nights, and Hairston also nailed Atkins at home-plate to end the eighth and preserve the tie. On the other hand, Tracy went 0-for-4 with a K and a GIDP: on the basis of that performance, looks like his weakness against lefties is unredeemed this season. Young was also 0-for-4, and Hernandez 0-for-3 with 2 K's: the latter is only worthy of mention because Livan came with a rep as a bit of a hitter. But since coming over from Washington, he's now just 2-for-26 - that's about half Webb's average last year.

Painful though it was, best remember that these things happen: if it's the last blown save of the year, I'll be deliriously happy. If Byrnes or Callaspo had made their plays, we'd probably have been celebrating another Diamondbacks win, and the base-running issues from earlier on in the game also hurt us, so we can't put all the blame on him. He's just a highly-visible component of the defeat, much more so than he was for the win yesterday. Saving is a thankless task: you're supposed to do it, and every failure is magnified as a result. I'd certainly rather have close losses like this, than blowout defeats; if we can stay in all 162 games this year, we'll be okay.

Another brilliant performance from our commentators yesterday, surging to 220 comments. [Hey, when I said, "Try harder" I didn't expect anyone would listen! We still trail Purple Row and their 222 though. :-(] Let's hear it for: VIII, qudjy1, cavscout, unnamedDBacksfan, suitsmetoATnT, DiamondbacksWIn, TheMainMan, AZDarkKnight, npineda, Devin, William K, singaporedbacksfan, azdbacks51, johngordonma, MisterTinDC, soco, trevjohnson, Diamondhacks, webby17 and quintero. Wow, if I get many more, the roll-call will be longer than the game report. Day-game today, so I'm not expecting anything near as much. Wouldn't mind, though...

Otherwise, main news is Randy Johnson throwing 60 pitches against the Sidewinders. Everything went well there, with Melvin even hinting that Johnson might skip one of his scheduled minor-league outings, if he can get his scheduled 20 innings in (he'll be right there, if he throws five and six in his next two starts). Said Melvin, "To expect him to go out there and throw 100 mph is probably unrealistic. But when he's healthy there's a potential to go out there and throw 95. That's good enough. At 95, if he's got proper arm angle with his slider, he's still going to have good bite on that slider." I think we'd take 95 mph.

Carlos Quentin has been shut off cortisone, so as to get a better read on how he's feeling. He hit off a tee yesterday, and is still talking about missing only a week. Let's just say, the sooner we can have him in right-field, the better - though Scott Hairston has done nothing to merit losing his place. 3-for-9, and even his defense has been pretty good, such as nailing the go-ahead run at home, mentioned above. Admittedly, Eric Byrnes is 5-for-10...

Just a few closing thoughts on my trip to the ice-hockey game last night, and how it compares to the Chase Field experience:

  • The Westgate Center is coming along nicely: I'm not sure what it's like when there's no events, but it was certainly buzzing last night: think they had the viewing party for American Idol there as well as the hockey. Unlike downtown, it's a good place to hang out before the game. Though if I hear the goddamn "Sanderson Ford" advert one more time, I'm throwing a rock through their window.

  • Our freebie tickets had a face-value of $110...and while they were good, we were still 17 rows back from the glass. Conversely to the usual Chase scenario, there were probably more people in the upper levels than on the lowest one: at those prices, I can understand exactly why. "Family friendly"? I think not.

  • I was the only person there wearing, for SnakePit promotional purposes, a D-backs shirt. :-) It was kinda cool, in an "I'd rather be somewhere else kinda way." I did notice that the Coyotes colors are exactly the same as the new Diamondbacks ones. Coincidence?

    As for the game, the Coyotes sucked: it was clear that St. Louis was the better team. On the plus side, we did win the fight which broke out in the third period. Was disappointed there was only one, but amused they played clips from Slapshot after it took place. On the down side, they had cheerleaders. Aargh.

  • 20 minute gaps between the periods were a bit of a pain. Did enjoy the mascot broomball game they had there though - it was kinda surreal to see a large drop of water rugby-tackle a giant gecko though. But overall, while the night was entertaining, we wouldn't pay to go, and certainly not the $110 per person we'd need to shell out to get decent seats.