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Obviously, no Diamondbacks' game on which to report, but we still managed to move into a three-way tie at the lead of the NL West, after the Dodgers lost and the Padres won. As we hit the one-third mark, the division is shaping up largely as expected: a three-way dog-fight between AZ, LA, and SD, with the Giants and Rockies trailing behind (the gap currently projects to 15-20 games back over the course of a whole season). It's certainly a strong division, possessing the second-, third- and fourth-best records in the National League - even the last-place Rockies would be good enough for second in the Central!

Some nice articles around the press this morning, so in lieu of me writing anything much, I think we'll have a Friday link dump:

  • Valverde: Save the best for last - details the almost obsessively ritualistic approach our closer takes to a game. Always asks for a new ball; never ties his left shoe till he reaches the mound; uses dirt rather than the rosin bag.

  • Diamondbacks nearly missed on Scherzer - Nick Piecoro goes behind the scenes of the late, late, late late signing of our first-round pick. Says Josh Byrnes, "It was a lot of discussion in the final 10 minutes, finalizing it literally in the final minute. Tenths of seconds were showing on the clock." I liked the comment after the piece: Boras: Cultural Negotiations of Baseball for Make Benefit Non-Glorious Pitcher Named Scherzer.

  • All facets working well during current win streak - Jack Magruder looks at what has driven us during the seven-game surge, and concludes it's a combination of good pitching and good hitting.

  • D-backs seek well-rounded prospects - With Scherzer signed (and, thankfully, rule changes mean there'll be no more year-long negotiations), time to look forward to the 2007 draft. Steve Gilbert looks at where we might be heading. According to the mock draft, we'll go with RHP Phillipe Aumont at #9, or maybe LHP Nick Schmidt. Mind you, that draft has Scherzer going to the Nationals at #6. :-)

  • Big Unit looking like Big Bargain - Paolo Boivin looks at the kinder, gentler Johnson. "He knows the perception of his coarse exterior is the equivalent of a protective force field around his clubhouse cubicle. "Maybe," he said, laughing, "I could leave a trail of bread crumbs to my locker.""

  • Upcoming Series: Arizona Diamondbacks Pitchers - MetsGeek previews the upcoming series, and expects New York to take two out of three. I think someone will take two of three, but it's probably too difficult to call which way. Whoever takes the opener will - obviously - be the favorite there.

  • Blogger Beat: AZ Snakepit Finally, MetsBlog.com were kind enough to ask me a few questions about the upcoming series, ranging from Randy Johnson to Mark Reynolds. I was disturbed to discover, while writing my responses, that we're now 3-15 against the Mets since the start of 2005. Hopefully, that will change this weekend.

Opted to hold off on the "Diamondbacks All-Star" poll for another week, as we need to squeeze in the "May Player of the Month" poll. For your consideration:
May Hitters
May Pitchers
And the nominees are:

  • Eric Byrnes: Led the team in HR (5) and hits (37), batted .333 and drove in 16 runs.
  • Livan Hernandez: 41 innings in six starts, five of them quality, four allowing only one run.
  • Conor Jackson: batted .316, with more BB than K too (12:7). .932 OPS.
  • Randy Johnson: Went 3-1 with an ERA below three. In 30.2 innings walked only two, while striking out 41.
  • Mark Reynolds: Only played half the month, but hit .426, and drove in 15 runs in 15 games.
    Honorable mentions: Chris Young (.325), Carlos Quentin (17 RBI), Tony Pena (OBA .170) and Jose Valverde (12 IP, 9 H, 12 K, nine saves)

The poll on Mark Reynolds resulted in no clear conclusion, though the most-popular choice (32%) involved keeping him at third and moving Tracy to first. Not quite sure what would happen to Jackson in that case. Though I guess "Moving him to utility" got 44%, combining the two options that involved dropping different players.