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AZ 9, Pirates 8 - Never Say Die

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Record: 23-21. Change on last season: -2. Pace: 85-77

Quote of the day: "At that point in time, you take your chances" -- Tony Clark

You could certainly have been forgiven for writing this one off after the Pirates scored six runs in the third. Micah Owings, who had been so good in his previous starts, suddenly couldn't find the plate: he walked three straight batters, including two with the bases loaded, and all of them scored. Finally, after allowing a two-run single to the pitcher - the ninth batter Owings had faced that inning, he was yanked for Cruz. An error by Hudson let another run score, and the Pirates had a 7-1 lead. What are the odds of Arizona coming back from that?

Well, according to Fangraphs, our chances bottomed out at just 2.7% in the middle of the sixth inning, or about one in 37. However, Jackson homered to lead off the seventh, and we then loaded the bases on two walks and a hit, for Clark to come off the bench and pinch-hit for Robbie Hammock. Judging by reactions in the Pittsburgh papers, their manager's summoning of McLeary from the bullpen was a carbon-copy, in reverse, of Melvin using Medders after Johnson's last start: "The same Marty McLeary who had been hit hard in every outing since his recall from Class AAA Indianapolis two weeks ago? The same Marty McLeary who had been used only in mopup duty? Right. Boom!"

And the sixth pitch of the at-bat, on a full count, was a fast-ball down the middle. Clark, pausing only to lick his lips, dispatched it high into the center-field seats, and all of a sudden, it was a tied game once more. After that, Quentin's two-RBI single in the eighth had an air of near-inevitability to it, and though the Pirates pulled one back in the bottom of the inning off Lyon, Valverde had an unusually-sedate ninth. He retired the Pittsburgh hitters in order to complete a most improbable victory. Credit also to Cruz, Medders and Slaten, who kept the Pirates from nailing the door shut with four innings of scoreless work after Owings departed.

It was also very nice to see us score some runs, tying a season high with nine. Obviously, Clark's blast was key (his 18 RBI now trails only Hudson and Byrnes, who have both about two and a half times as many at-bats at Tony. Better yet, he already has more RBI - and as many homers - as he had all of last season. But it was a good day all told, with 13 hits and six walks - both highs for the month of May. Drew had three hits batting leadoff, Reynolds had three as well, while Quentin reached three times on a hit and two walks: Jackson and Hammock had two-hit days.

It's been a while since we've had that kind of offensive production, and it saves us on a day when our starter was not up to the task. That was the shortest appearance by any one in our rotation since the infamous Juan Cruz 0.2 IP disaster of more than a year ago [okay, technically, Cruz went two innings on Sept 30, but that wasn't a real start - since they were two perfect innings, he wasn't pulled for incompetence]. Great to see the hitters picking him up like that, it has to be said - it's usually been the other way around this month, with any wins coming from excellent pitching. So turnabout is fair play.

Unsurprisingly, a good Gameday Thread rewarded those who stuck around for the whole show - not me, but that was a prior engagement, not disgust at our performance. Though that didn't hurt. ;-) suitsmetoATnT, AZDarkKnight (Ortiz was last seen on the DL, after taking a drubbing, IIRC), unnamedDBacksfan, flyingdutchman, Muu, DiamondbacksWIn, azdbacks51, johngordonma, VIII and cavscout were in attendance, so thanks to them for their comments. Actually, Mrs. SnakePit and I did discuss going to Pittsburgh for the game, on her US Airways benefits - red-eye out Friday night, come back Sunday morning. Never quite got around to it: in the bottom of the third, that seemed like a good thing, but now I quite wish we'd gone!

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Oh, take a wild stab, +34.4%
God-emperor of suck: Micah Owings, -37.3%