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AZ 7, Nationals 1 - We Licah Micah

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Record: 3-2. Change on last season: +1

Quote of the day: "I wasn't even expecting it. If that's the deal, I'll do it every day. And the pie, too, I'll take the pie in the face all day long."" -- Micah Owings, on the post-game beer shower and shaving-cream pie he got after his win.

Safe to say that was - for 8 2/3 innings, anyway - the best Diamondbacks' performance of the season so far. Micah Owings performed beyond all expectations: after seeing the worst debut in franchise history wearing an AZ uniform during the Colorado series (hello, J.D.Durbin!), this was quite possibly the best. He's only the fifth player in the majors since the franchise began, to have pitched 5+ innings in their first game and allowed just one hit:

Name             Date   IP  H  ER  BB  K
Micah Owings   07/04/06  5  1   0   3  6
Cole Hamels    06/05/12  5  1   0   5  7
Josh Beckett   01/09/04  6  1   0   3  5
Brian Tollberg 00/06/20  7  1   0   3  7
Jeff Weaver    99/04/14  5  1   0   1  5

As far as the Diamondbacks go, the previous best debut was six innings of three-hit, one-run ball. That was done both by EnGon on 06/05/28 and, coincidentally, John Patterson on 02/07/20, who'll be starting today's game for the Nationals. [If you say, what about Brandon Webb's seven shutout inning, three hit, 10 K performance against the Mets, his debut was actually 5 days before that, in relief.] Even though it was only five innings, I'm very pleased, and will henceforth be referring to him as Micah Pwnings. :-)

[On the hitting side, the best debut is Travis Lee, who went 3-for-4 with a homer during the franchise opener in March 1998. Today's trivia question: only one other player has a multi-hit performance, in their first game in the majors, with the Diamondbacks. Who's that? Answer at the end...]

Owings struck out four of the first six Nationals he faced, and ended with 6 K's and just a single allowed, though he did walk three and hit two batters: a few nerves can probably be permitted, given the occasion. He wobbled in the fifth, loading them up without a hit, on two walks and a plunked National. Since it was only 2-0 at that stage, a hit would probably have tied the game, and Zimmerman is perhaps their most dangerous hitter. But Owings bounced back magnificently, striking out Zimmerman on three straight fastballs to end the threat, the inning, and his day on the mound in spectacular fashion.

The sixth which followed was equally crucial for Arizona. After Hudson and Tracy were out, Jackson got a line-drive to center, and Hairston singled. Then Chris Young, on the third pitch of his at-bat, crushed a three-run homer to left with a very sweet, easy-looking swing, to make the score 5-0, and the Diamondbacks settled down from there. Tony Peña pitched two hitless innings, and Juan Cruz looked very good in retiring the first five hitters he saw. Then, he suffered a bit of a meltdown allowing three straight hits, including a homer. But if you're going to do that, with a 7-0 lead is a pretty good time to do it.

Chris Young added a to his homer, and now has eleven RBI over four appearances in Washington - his seven for 2007 is tied for the NL lead, despite his .176 average. Callaspo had three hits, including a pair of doubles, though did strike out for the first time this year. In case you're wondering - and to give Callaspo something to aim at - the franchise record for consecutive games without a K belongs to Alex Cintron. He had 20 games and 72 at-bats between strikeouts, from May 15 to June 13, 2003. [I just subscribed to's premium service: can you tell? :-)]

Conor Jackson also had two hits; perhaps the best line in the game was Orlando Hudson's 0-for-4 with a walk and two K's. I should hastily add, he faced a total of twenty-seven pitches, almost one-fifth of all those thrown by the Nationals. Compare and contrast Eric Byrnes, who also went 0-for-4 with a walk, but saw only fourteen pitches in his five plate-appearances. Not quite the patience we are hoping for, from the man batting at the top of the order.

Slightly lower turnout in the Gameday thread yesterday: an East Coast start time likely didn't help. I expect it'll be busier today, what with it being the weekend and Webb on the mound. I know I'll be here, in full effect: the first game of the season I'll actually get to watch from the beginning! Thanks to azdbacks51, AZDarkKnight, VIII, Muu, dahlian, Ben, Zephon, andrewinnewyork, singaporedbacksfan, William K, TheMainMan, unnamedDBacksfan, DiamondbacksWIn and soco for their comments, as we swing back above .500. Let's try and stay there for a while this time.

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]

With everyone in our rotation now having been seen, we can pause and take a look at the pitching so far. On the plus side, an overall staff ERA of 3.00 is pretty impressive. However, this shallow figure conceals symptoms of a deeper malaise in a couple of areas. Firstly, a lack of depth: Livan Hernandez is the only man to pitch beyond the fifth inning, and as a result, has the only quality start. In addition, we're walking far too many hitters - 15 in 27 innings - though it's good to see that we've only allowed one home run. We are also striking batters out: 28 so far, more than one per inning.

Next time through, however, we need longer outings: we can't ask the bullpen to get eleven outs per game, as we have thus far. The ERA from there is currently a nasty 5.79, but that includes J.D.Durbin (for whom a cringing apology is due). Take him out, and the other seven members have a much better line:
Bullpen: 18 IP, 18 H, 5 ER, 5 BB, 19 K, 2.50 ERA
About the only black-mark is three homers to date, two off Juan Cruz in only 3.1 innings, though he has fanned six. Brandon Lyon (3 IP, 1 H) and Tony Peña (4 IP, 2 H) have perhaps been the most impressive there in early showings.

Medical matters: Quentin took batting practice before the game and said he's progressing well, building up his endurance. Jeff DaVanon is scheduled to run curves for the first time, but no anticipated date for his return has been announced. Drew was a scratch from Friday's game due to the infamous "flu-like symptoms", though since he also had a minor groin issue, the extra day off was probably helpful there as well. The huddle on the mound around Cruz in the ninth was because he had a cramp in his rib; no long-term effects are anticipated.

And Randy Johnson threw a bullpen session, in preparation for Sunday's game in Class-A Visalia. Bet their opponents are looking forward to that. He'll then start Tucson's opener next Friday: the Tribune says April 19 in San Diego is the current expected date for his return to the majors. He would be available April 18, but that's currently pencilled in as a Brandon Webb start, so they'll probably keep our #1 on his usual four days rest, and then push everyone else back a day. Whether it's EdGon or Owings who drop out, we'll likely have to wait and see.

And the answer to the trivia question is: the only player apart from Travis Lee to make his major-league debut as a Diamondback, and have a multi-hit game there is...Chris Snyder, who went 2-for-3 in his first appearance on August 21, 2004.