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AZ 3, Red Sox 4 - Loss Leaders

Record: 36-27. Change on last season: +2. Pace: 93-69

Quote of the day: "I learned a long time ago, my dad taught me that facing teams and guys like that, they put their pants on one leg at time, too. I thought about that earlier today as I came into the game, and I tried to do my best and take one pitch at a time." -- Micah Owings

So, what happened, guys? I left you with a comfortable 3-0 lead to take care of, but by the time we got down to Wild Horse Pass, that had become 3-2. Lyon blew that in the eighth, then Cruz loaded the bases with no-one out in the tenth, and one sacrifice fly was enough. Though we did at least make Papelbon work, putting the tying run into scoring position before Reynolds lined out softly to end, likely, both the game and his run as a regular starter.

I am, however, much less upset by this loss than Friday's one. Maybe it's because I have Varitek on my fantasy team, so his homer and three RBI helped there, as much as it hurt the Diamondbacks. But I think it's because we actually played much closer to our potential than in Friday; we may have lost this game, but that was as much because of bad luck [what if, for example, Drew's bloop before Varitek's homer hadn't fallen in?]. We fought hard, pushed the team with the best record in the majors all the way, and even our fans showed a lot more fight. This goes to show that all losses are not created equal: as long as we can get a win today, this series has not been a disaster.

Micah Owings gave us another good outing, a quality start that went into the sixth inning, and the only damage being Varitek's two-run homer. This was a much better performance than the last time his start was skipped, and I think pitching in a simulated game - as he did in the middle of his lay-off - was a good idea. He was running out of gas in the sixth, and Melvin should probably have gone to the bullpen quicker than he did. That was largely because it took Owings 47 pitches to get through two innings.

It has to be said, I am a little concerned about our relievers, who do seem to be struggling of late. That's especially clear when you look at their collective stats in the team's recent losses:

  1. June 9 - 3 IP, 2 ER, blown save, loss
  2. June 8 - 5 IP, 5 ER'
  3. June 7 - 4 IP, 2 ER, blown save, loss
  4. June 2 - 2 IP, 4 ER
  5. May 23 - 2 IP, 0 ER
  6. May 22 - 1 IP, 2 ER, loss
  7. May 18 - 3.1 IP, 3 ER

All told, that's 18 ER in 20.1 innings of work, a 7.97 ERA. Now, some of that was mop-up work, and not all the losses are attributable to the bullpen, but it seems a somewhat worrying trend. We've used thirteen pitchers in the past month, and four of the five highest ERAs belong to the bullpen. Our bullpen ERA is now up above four, at 4.03, below average in the NL and ahead only of the Rockies in the division. Cause for concern?

Stephen Drew returned the favor to his brother, smacking his third homer of the season, a two-run shot over J.D.'s head just past the fence in right-field. That gave us a 3-0 lead, on the back of a perfectly-executed hit and run by Montero (the hit) and Quentin (the run), and until the sixth inning, it looked like it might be enough. However, we went just 2-for-22 the rest of the way, with a pair of singles the only hits. Hudson and Drew had a pair each, but K's outnumbered walks 9-2.

Nice to see the largest paid attendance in Chase Field history last night: 49,826, which beats the previous record, set in Game 6 of the 2001 World Series. Admittedly, Red Sox Nation were still out in force, but it seemed a much more well-balanced crowd than on Thursday night, I think perhaps in part because of the performance of the team gave us Arizona fans much more to cheer about. Here in the Gameday Thread, we welcomed Goose, singaporedbacksfan, DiamondbacksWIn, johngordonma, unnamedDBacksfan, AZDarkKnight, andrewinnewyork, MFAN, soco and kylerkenney. I hope unnamed's voice has recovered enough to give them what for at Chase today!

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Micah Owings, +15.0%
God-emperor of suck: Juan Cruz, -29.0%

Bit of a discussion after the game, as to how good this team, and whether we are capable of 'running with the big dogs'. This series is a bit of litmus-test in that regard, seeing as we play the best team in the AL, just after the best team in the NL [I mean the Mets, not the Giants, of course...] It certainly does seem to be the case that the American League is genuinely stronger, in terms of players. The good news is, if we can keep going - and we still occupy the Wild Card spot, even after losing three in a row - we don't have to face any AL teams until the World Series. And in a seven-game series, anything can happen. Talk to St. Louis if you need details. So, basically, this is something of a red herring: yes, the American League is stronger, but it probably doesn't matter that much.

Chad Tracy has been activated from the DL in time for today's game and, in a somewhat surprising move, Robbie Hammock has been optioned back down to Tucson. I'm astonished we decided to keep both Callaspo and Reynolds on the roster, but I guess we haven't made the anticipated use of Hammock as a third-catcher, and he is probably no better a hitter than Callaspo. Plus, with the imminent trip to DH-ville over the next week, the need for pinch-hitting talent and third catchers probably diminishes significantly.

Gameday Thread to follow imminently, so see you there!