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AZ 3, Phillies 9 - When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth

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Record: 19-17. Change on last season: 0. Pace: 85-77.

Quote of the day: "I may have been the old Randy for six innings. Then I just got old." -- Randy Johnson

Pop quiz. You've got a 3-0 lead, but your starter has now loaded the bases with nobody out. The opposing team have the player who led the league in home-runs last year on the bench, and it seems clear now would be the time to use him. So, do you go to your bullpen and pick:
Player A: The one with the highest ERA of your active relievers, who had coughed-up as many homers in 14.2 innings, as the rest of the bullpen put together in their 82 innings.
Players B-Z inclusive: Anybody. Anyone at all, not named Medders. No, really. Dana Eveland - you're invited. Hell, let's pick J.D.Durbin off waivers and run him out there too. All you need is the ability not to give up a grand-slam.

It's not rocket science, folks. But in Bob Melvin's inflexible book of baseball management, thou shalt only use your closer in the ninth inning. Never mind that it couldn't have been more clearly the pivotal moment of the game, if the Jumbotron at Chase had been flashing "PIVOTAL MOMENT OF THE GAME" (while exhorting everyone to clap their hands). And, in said pivotal moments, you certainly do not want your least reliable, most homer-prone reliever out there. So what happened? First pitch, home-run, grand-slam to Howard. Kiss the lead goodbye, and the Diamondbacks crumpled like cheap sheets. Well done, Melvin - you must get up very early.

I mean, Tony Peña + Brandon Lyon + Doug Slaten = 177 batters faced, not one single home-run allowed. That was really the only thing which could seriously hurt us in this situation. So why wasn't one of them used? I note Slaten got Howard to hit intou a double-play in the seventh, and to quote shoewizard, from over on DBBP: "Any idiot... (well, almost any idiot) can tell you Slaten vs. any righty batter the Phils have is a better matchup than Medders vs. Howard."

Indeed, why was Johnson left out there in the seventh - he was at 91 pitches by the end of the sixth, and his stamina issues have been very, very apparent in his earlier starts. What was the point of sending him out there for the seventh? Or, at the very least, leaving Randy out there to not retire the first three batters? We have an off-day tomorrow, so it isn't as if we needed to save anyone - and a three-run lead is far, far more than we've given the bullpen recently. Mind you, I'd like to have been a fly on the wall in the dressing-room afterwards, and seen Medders trying to avoid eye-contact with Mr. Understandably Grumpy.

Hell, never mind Randy, I'm spitting blood about this one: it's another case where Melvin's idiotic managerial tactics almost certainly cost us the game. In a division that's shaping up to be tighter than...a very tight thing [I'm afraid all the imagery I could come up with definitely fell into the NSFW category!], we don't need this kind of incompetence. Home teams with a three-run lead going into the seventh inning are supposed to win 91.2% of their games. I guess that doesn't take into account having an idiot that apparently rolls his Bullpen Dice to decide who faces the reigning NL Home-Run champion with the bases leaded.

The question is going to be, what happens to Medders when Juan Cruz returns? [Which could well be by the weekend] His performances this year have been far from the excellent levels shown over the past couple of seasons, and he must be a candidate for a trip to Tucson. At one point, Dustin Nippert would have seemed the likely candidate, but until Medders has shown he can get past these gopher-ball tendencies, the Sidewinders are the only team I want to see him play for.

Before the seventh inning, Randy Johnson was positively regal. Through six innings, he allowed three hits, no walks and had struck out nine Phillies hitters. He fanned the side in the first inning. And then, for good measure, repeated the medicine in the second. It was just like the good old days, when you knew that attending a Big Unit start in Phoenix would be good for a free chalupa, at the very least. He only had more K's once last season, so that was greatly encouraging, as far as his performance goes. Johnson really should have got his first win.

While the spectacular seventh-inning may be the focus of the attention, let's not forget that our offense again sputtered, scoring four runs or less for the ninth consecutive game. That's the longest such streak for the Diamondbacks since July 2004, when we went eleven games straight, from the 17th-28th. Still some way to go before we hit the franchise record of fifteen games, from July 19-August 3, 2003. Just for amusement, the modern-era (post-1957) mark is twenty-six straight, by the Angels, which occupied almost all of May 1969.

Again, just seven hits, with Jackson the only player to have more than one and also the only player to take a walk all day - though he did blot his copy-book somewhat, with another horrible throwing error in the eighth. Our K:BB ratio has gone somewhat belly-up lately. In April, we had 5.4 strikeouts and 4.0 walks per game; in May thus far, we're at 5.7 strikeouts, but only 2.2 walks. It's the rookies that are largely responsible; between them Quentin, Drew and Young have four free passes this month, and twenty K's. Of course, the team as a whole is batting .220, which doesn't help.

Finally, from the AP report: Johnson and Moyer met for the first time since Sept. 21, 1989, when Johnson pitched for Seattle and Moyer Texas. The span of 17 years, 230 days is the longest period between starters for opposing pitchers in history. Asked if he remembered that game, Moyer replied, "No, do you?" [Just for the record, Randy won, Seattle scoring five in the fourth to overturn a 3-0 deficit, and going on to win 8-3. Playing centerfield for Seattle that day was a fresh-faced rookie by the name of Ken Griffey, Jr. Wonder what happened to him?]

After tumbleweeds rolled across the Gameday Thread on Tuesday, things were much, much better on Wednesday - even if enthusiasm understandable evaporated after Medders offered a first-pitch fatty to Howard. Thanks to unnamedDBacksfan, qudjy1, Ben, DiamondbacksWIn, Goose, DBACKS KICK ARSE, leemellon, AZDarkKnight, VIII, seton hall snake pit, azdb7, Frank (welcome!), flyingdutchman, AzPhan and Muu for their contributions. Let's hope this meltdown doesn't lead to another streak, but at least we should have Webb pitching the next game, after today's off-day, which will help.

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Randy Johnson, +-13.1%
God-emperor of suck: Br*nd*n M*dd*rs, -30.1%

Part of me is loathe to bring up anything that involves the Diamondbacks business model [it'd be like prodding certain posters with a stick], but the business section of the Republic has a piece on the team's marketing strategy. They've gone for the "less is more" approach, which lets them sell the advertising space at a higher price.

Update [2007-5-10 14:59:16 by Jim McLennan]: Just brought the Gonzo vs. LF comparison to the present day. The gap is narrowing rapidly now: we've basically caught up in slugging percentage, and are barely twenty points down in on-base percentage. That doesn't include his 0-for-3 performance today, which means Gonzo is only 5-for-24 in May, with no extra-base hits. In comparison, Byrnes is 11-for-31 with two homers and five extra-base hits.