Record: 37-27. Change on last season: +2. Pace: 94-78
Quote of the Day: "This is an extremely young team, inexperienced. They saw the best team in baseball (and) what it takes to win. You can't give them extra outs, you have to do the little things right, and they competed against a real good team." -- Randy Johnson
I think it's probably true to say that this was a series, much like The Simpsons - one that got better as it went on. It began in dismal failure for the Diamondbacks, with an embarrassing and humilating ass-whipping on Friday night that, I've read, included a nice bleacher-brawl). But Saturday was a great deal better, with the Diamondbacks showing much more fight, before going down in extra-innings. And yesterday proved a further improvement, although the final score of 5-1 probably flattered the Diamondbacks, as much as the 10-3 one on Friday flattered the Red Sox.
All hail, Randy Johnson. He may be 43, but his presence on the mound is still enough to send the likes of David Ortiz running for the dugout, carrying a sick-note. He was "rested" as a result, but those brave enough to stand in the box didn't exactly fair all that much better. Johnson struck out eight in the first four innings, once again passing Roger Clemens for second on the all-time list, and ended up with nine on the day.
He walked three, but since two of those were Manny Ramirez on four pitches each, I think we can say these were more pitch-arounds than walks. However, the second came back to bite him, as Lowell doubled to score the only run for the Sox. But Johnson kept his cool, throwing 113 pitches, the most in an outing since July 19 last year. He allowed four hits over six innings, and just the one run, which takes his ERA for the year down to 3.52. Over his last five starts and 29.2 innings, it's a stellar 1.52, with a 4-0 record and a K:BB ratio better than ten to one (42:4).
Not that it was easy, because Arizona had little more luck solving Daisuke Matsuzaka. His legendary "gyro" pitch might be just that - a legend - but we struggled to get good at-bats against him, and we needed to manufacture a run to tie the game in the fourth. Hudson walked to lead off, stole second, and came home on a single by Drew. Similarly, in the sixth, a leadoff walk led to a run, with Jackson scoring on a double by Quentin. "Walks will kill you" may be a cliche, but on Sunday it was true. All told, our five runs reached base on three walks, an error and only one hit.
Eric Byrnes led the way from the leadoff spot, getting three hits to increase his season average to .319. Jackson reached three times, on a knock and two walks, and Drew had a hit and a walk, but hits proved hard to come by. Chad Tracy came back, replacing Mark Reynolds at third, but had an unfortunate day, going 0-for-4 with three K's. However, he did see 29 pitches in those four at-bats, more thab Byrnes and Young did in their ten combined.
Hey, Jailen: it's your second major-league game, why don't you come in and defend a one-run lead, against the best team in the majors? That said, after a leadoff single, in the seventh, Peguero performed admirably, getting through the side on ten pitches. Peña deserves a save for facing Youkilis, Ramirez, Varitek and Lowell in the eighth. And Arizona took advantage in the bottom half, scoring three unearned runs, thanks to Carlos Quentin's 45-foot "triple". Well, an attempted sac. bunt ended up with Quentin on third and two runs home, thanks to a wild throw.
Those insurance runs came in very, very handy in the ninth. Valverde came in for a non-save situation and, initially had no problems, retiring the first two hitters. However, a walk and a single then brought the tying run to the on-deck circle, in the shape of David Ortiz. Sweat was mopped nervously from a number of brows in the Phoenix area. Luckily, he got Crisp to fly out to Young, possibly averting another bailing out - it wouldn't have surprised me if Doug Slaten had come in to face Ortiz, should the need have arisen.
But it wasn't, and all was well in the land of Arizona once again. With the Padres and Dodgers both losing (it was not, overall, a great weekend for the NL West), Arizona moved back into a tie for first-place with San Diego. Both are 1.5 games ahead of Los Angeles, with Atlanta the closest non-division contender for the Wild Card, two games down. You could certainly look at this series as half-empty or half-full. On the down side, losing a home series is not good. But on the other hand, we were three outs away from actually winning the series, against the team with the best record in baseball, and without using our ace. Hopefully, the next time we see the Red Sox will be in the World Series...
Somewhat extensive GameDay Thread, rumbling on quietly into this afternoon, in part a result of my tardiness. Hey, it an off-day, so there's no hurry. :-) Present were: hotclaws, AZDarkKnight, Muu, DiamondbacksWIn, MFAN, singaporedbacksfan, soco, Goose, Ben, andrewinnewyork, Wimb, Englishdback, sdkramer and icecoldmo for the fun.
And now it's off to New York. Don't look know, but the Evil Empire have won six in a row... Tomorrow's game, provisionally titled The Battle of the Sinking W's, as Webb faces Wang, should be a cracker. Fantasy Baseball round-up to follow tomorrow morning.