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AZ 4, Phillies 3 - Phlattening the opposition

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Record: 32-23. Change on last season: -1. Pace: 94-68.

Quote of the day: "Take some Advil, I'll be good" -- "Iron" Mark Reynolds, on his rehab strategy

Randy Johnson gave another typical Johnson v.2007 performance: a) dominating, and b) short. This time, once again he threw six innings of one-hit ball, and left after only 61 pitches, having walked none and struck out six. Johnson is now up to 25 K's since his last walk [If you're interested, Curt Schilling struck out 47 over five consecutive walkless starts in 2002] but his back bothered him: "It may be from just not being on the mound for 10 days," he said. "I'm not worried about it. Just a lack of activity."

At first, it looked this was going to be a titanic battle of dinosaurs for the ages, as the two 40-something lefties traded zeroes, after Eric Byrnes homered on the very first pitch of the night. Even after Johnson left, Moyer kept on going into the eighth, but Byrnes homered again [that's help the LF/Gonzo comparison] and Mark Reynolds flicked a tiny speck of dust from his shoulder - in the shape of being knocked unconscious 24 hours previously - and swatted a two-run homer to give us a 4-0 lead. Today's Mark Reynolds fact: his house has no doors, only walls that he walks through.

The ninth inning started with Lyon plunking Rowand. I'm wondering if that was intended payback for Utley's reckless slides the previous day [Drew was out for the day, and Callaspo lucky to escape the same fate]. Utley got buzzed his first at-bat, but escaped direct retribution. There's more on this topic here, an interesting take on the unwritten rules of baseball. Yes, I know I ranted against them when we played the Astros, but a pitch getting away is not the same as a deliberate slide outside the basepaths.

However, that 0-2 "mistake" nearly proved very costly. Lyon then got a ground-ball that appeared to hit Hudson in the cup, shall we say. Hudson collapsed like a deflated balloon, while the ball carried on through for a two-base error rather than a double-play. A triple then brought the tying run to the plate with no outs. Enter Valverde to bail out Lyon - well, turnabout's fair play, I guess, the roles having been reversed on Monday, when Brandon saved Jose's disastrous outing.

Papa Grande then got the first out, but a Burrell single made it 4-3...with the reigning MVP, Ryan Howard pinch-hitting. A pinch-runner stole second, but on a full count, Howard hit pitch that probably would have been a hit, save for the Howard shift in the defense. Everyone was moved round, so Hudson snared the ball and doubled off the runner who had abandoned their base. I don't think I've ever heard a crowd go from jet-engine loud to deathly-quiet faster.

Two hits and two RBI each for Byrnes and Reynolds, who represented pretty much the offense, also scoring three of our four runs. No-one else got on base more than once. Good work by Slaten in the seventh, pitching a perfect inning. In the GameDay thread, we saw VIII, Goose, Ben, npineda, MFAN, AZDarkKnight, Frank, Muu, soco and johngordonma, as we rolled to a seven-game winning streak. I think we can take the day off with a warm glow of a job well done...

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Randy Johnson, +40.0%
God-emperor of suck: Brandon Lyon, -18.4%

Given I was happy to settle for a split on this road-trip, it's great to get the three wins in the first three games. A couple of interesting points about the series. We didn't merely sweep the Phillies: we never trailed them in any game. That's startling given all three contests had more than their fair share of heart-stopping moments. In fact, we led for 176 of the 182 outs, since we scored with nobody out in the top of the first in two games. We were tied for the other six, those all coming in the first inning of the middle game - we were relatively sluggish in that game, and only went ahead there with nobody out in the second.

Our starting pitching, in particular, was phenomenal - Davis, Owings and Johnson combined to put up the following line:
Starters: 19 IP, 15 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 14 K, 0.95 ERA
That's excellent stuff, especially against a team that had the reputation as an offensive powerhouse coming in to the game. Mind you, thus far, the NL West and their stud pitching has done a pretty good job against the NL East and their stud hitting. The overall West record is 26-22, and you could argue it's the best division in baseball overall. Though it's AZ's 10-4 record against the East that's responsible for most of that difference.

As noted last night, we signed Max Scherzer. The exact terms are still uncertain, but it is believed to be a major-league deal - meaning he'll go straight on to the 40-man roster - worth $4-4.5m. That's somewhere in the middle between the numbers wanted by Borass [sic.] and the D-backs. There seems some doubt over whether he's going to be a starter or a reliever: it seems a lot of money to pay up front for the latter. Still, it's not my money, and happy to stash another pitching prospect away.