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AZ 5, Phillies 4 - Close, and no closer...

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Record: 30-23. Change on last season: -1. Pace: 92-70.

Quote of the day: "I had a Buckner moment there." -- Conor Jackson

It's probably significant that rather more than half of the comments on the Gameday Thread today came in the ninth inning or later. Because, up until that point, this was a very solid, if somewhat unremarkable performance. Conor Jackson led our offense with three hits and four RBI, while Doug Davis made good use of three double-plays, which helped him escape some dangerous jams. We entered the ninth 5-1 up, with Valverde taking the mound, even though it wasn't a save situation.

As noted earlier today, Papa Grande was on a streak in which he had retired thirteen batters in a row and given us ten consecutive scoreless innings. Even discounting that, given simply the score, the Fangraphs chart was hugging the bottom line like a drunken sailor holding on to a lamp-post. From 1994-2006 (except 1999), the visitors had a four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth 1,629 times, and lost just nineteen of those games - a 98.8% win expectancy. So this one was surely in the bag. Uh-huh.

Except, it would appear that Jose Valverde did not get the memo, since he did almost everything in his power to get the Diamondbacks over to the 1.2% side. Putting two men on for Ryan Howard (is it just me, or does everyone else want to call him "Ron" too?) is bad enough. Striking him out, then allowing the three-run homer to some guy called Dobbs (whom I want to call, J.R. "Bob" Dobbs) is worse still. Then Pat Burrell, in an 0-for-17 slump, singles; and just when Valverde gets a ground ball for the third out, Conor Jackson decides to do his best impression of Bill Buckner, and lets the ball run through his legs to put the tying run on third.

At this point, Bob Melvin has seen enough, and goes out to remove Valverde, bringing in Brandon Lyon instead: probably a good thing, as I think I saw Doug Davis looking round the dugout for a tire-iron. Lyon faces the last guy off the Phillies bench - none other than Rod Barajas, who was reserve catcher for the Diamondbacks, back in 2003. Lyon runs the count full, and then Barajas uncorks one out to deep right-field, where a very grateful Carlos Quentin pockets it at the warning track. Doug Davis drops the blunt object, with which he'd been preparing to perform Tubular Bells on Papa Grande's head, and the team slinks back to their hotel in ignominious, ah, victory.

For if ever there was a demoralising, dispiriting, morale-sucking win, I think this probably was it. And that came after eight innings where Davis kept the top run-scoring team in the National League firmly under check [AZDarkKnight took me to task in the Gameday thread for calling the Phillies the best NL offense, when the Mets have better stats. But to me, offense = runs. They don't look at OPS when deciding who wins the games. :-)] The key was his curveball, which he kept throwing for strike one, setting up his cut fastball. The result: no walks, the first time this year he's allowed less than two.

Not that there weren't moments. The Phillies had a man on third, one out in the first, but Davis got Utley swinging, then made reigning MVP Ryan Howard look very ordinary with a banana curve. Double-plays in the second, third and fifth innings also helped, none bigger than the last-named where they had the bases-loaded with one out. However, Garcia grounded weakly back to the mound, where a grateful Davis threw home for the force, then on to first to end the inning. The only damage was a solo shot by Howard to lead off the seventh, but this was followed by three groundouts to Reynolds, and Davis completed his night with a 1-2-3 eighth.

Hardly a great performance from the offense, outside of Jackson, anyway. After Byrnes got on to lead off the game, he drove the ball out of the park, for his third homer of the year. And after a walk to Clark and a bloop double by Byrnes in the ninth, he doubled in both men for a pair of very, very crucial insurance runs. He had three hits all told, and is now batting .329 for the month of May. Byrnes' two knocks got him up above .300 for the first time in over a month: he's hitting .337 (28-for-83) since May 5th. Reynolds and Snyder each reached safely twice, on a hit and a walk.

An active, if somewhat stressed-out, Gameday Thread: I trust all the participants are now lying down in dark rooms, breathing into paper-bags or whatever. Goose, unnamedDBacksfan, DiamondbacksWIn, smartsnake (welcome!), Muu, singaporedbacksfan, Frank, AZDarkKnight, Devin, Wimb, VIII, MisterTinDC, azdbacks51, soco and flyingdutchman were all there to "enjoy" the "fun". Just another one-run notch on the bedpost, really...

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Doug Davis, +41.3%
God-emperor of suck: Jose Valverde, -18.6%

The victory means that there's only one team in the National League with as many wins as Arizona: the Mets have 32 to our 30, though admittedly, the Dodgers and Padres have played three games less than the Diamondbacks, and the Braves two - all three teams have 29 wins. Still, better to have the W's in the bank, and it leaves us half a game back of the lead in the division, with everyone back in action tomorrow. And no, I haven't forgotten about the Fantasy Baseball report: it should get done tomorrow morning, so stay tuned for that.