Record: 43-32. Change on last season: +7. Pace: 93-69
Quote of the day: "He's a very unemotional guy, very stoic. But tonight, in the dugout, I've never seen him so upset." -- Bob Melvin, on Livan Hernandez
And so Livan should be. After that performance, Mrs. SnakePit suggested burning her #61 Diamondbacks jersey, because this was another horrible start from Hernandez 2.0: 13 of the 23 batters he faced reached safely, on nine hits and four walks. Three things saved him: a) Miguel Montero showing hitherto unprecedented defense, throwing out two base-stealers, when before the game they'd been succeeding at a 75% clip; b) Carlos Quentin saving at least two, probably three runs with a bases-loaded grab at the wall off that infamous slugger...er, Corey Patterson; and c) our offense scoring seven unanswered runs, mostly off the abominable Baltimore bullpen again.
Ok, fair enough, we didn't think Livan was really the 3.20 ERA pitcher he was through the first seven starts. But in the past three games he has thrown fourteen innings and allowed thirty hits, ten walks and seventeen earned runs. In five June games, he's winless, has a 7.67 ERA and opponents are batting .371 off him. Yeah, we've heard all the platitudes about it being "inevitable that you're going to have a series or a pocket of outings where either a group or an individual struggles." But how long - especially in a tight race like the NL West - do we go on before acknowledging something must be done? Hell, Livan's post-game comments sounded positively Ortiz-esque: "I felt good tonight. I felt better than I have. I made some mistakes and that hurts more when you feel good." Some mistakes? Thirteen base-runners in four innings?
All hail the bullpen, for their five shutout frames of two-hit ball. And, in particular, Juan Cruz: it's not often a reliever truly deserves a W, but Cruz certainly did. He allowed a single to the first batter he faced in the fifth, to load the bases with nobody out. At that point, our chances of victory were only 13.5%: but two strikeouts and a liner to Ojeda stopped the Orioles from scoring. We scored three times in the bottom half to take the lead; another zero from Cruz followed, and the sole real blemish thereafter was Doug Slaten walking the only hitter he faced. Valverde polished off things with a perfect ninth, to pass Matt Mantei for #1 on the franchise list, with his 75th save.
The comeback from 4-0 down was powered by a bunch of different players: Montero got it going, with a two-run single in the third; Byrnes smacked a monstrous homer 467 ft in the fourth to make it a one-run game, and then Reynolds had a clutch triple that gave Arizona the lead. RBI hits by Ojeda and Hudson in the sixth completed the scoring for AZ in the win, which came even though they were out-hit by Baltimore 11-8, and out-based by them as well, 16-14. Our only edge was in walks, where we managed seven: Jackson reached safely all four times he came up, on two hits and two walks. Ojeda also had two hits. Chris Young, on the other hand...0-for-4 with three punchouts, and didn't look good doing it.
Solid GameDay thread: hotclaws, singaporedbacksfan, MFAN, Goose, a happily wobbly Wimb, Frank, soco, Muu - nice idea for a Livan name there, in "Gornandez" - DbacksSkins and npineda took part. To answer the last-named, they've got other teams' mascots in town because it's Baxter's birthday today... [Pause for eye-rolling here] The Dodgers loss and Padres win means both us and SD leapfrog LA to take over at the top again, but it's really too close to tell. However, the Dodgers are, as I write, losing 9-2 in Tampa, so it looks like we'll have a chance to put some light between them and us. Could use it too, since they've aligned their rotation for the upcoming series so we start off facing Penny rather than Kuo.
In the Tribune, Jack Magruder looks at how the pieces sent to the Yankees in the RJ trade have fared - and the answer is, not well. That's comforting. On the other hand, quite a few of the major-league players we let go during the off-season are doing very nicely, thank you. Luis Gonzalez has an OPS+ of 125 for the Dodgers; Shawn Green is at 118 for the Mets; and Johnny Estrada is batting .284 in Milwaukee (though he still won't take a walk, with only five all season!). Hell, even Craig Counsell has a better OPS+ than Drew this year. All of which makes it pretty remarkable we're tied for first. If our young players had reached pre-season expectations, we'd be cruising to the playoffs.
Shoe already mentioned it in the diary, but I'll repeat it here: notes on the Q+A with Josh Byrnes from earlier in the weekend can be found here. Looks to be all but certain that Eric Byrnes is gone for next year: which makes me wonder if they might be better off trying to trade him, or simply hang on and, hopefully, get a draft pick for him. I also was interested to read Byrnes saying teams that take more walks than they give up will always be winners. That's an area where we need to improve: AZ is at -19 there, compared to +37 for LA, +62 for SD and +47 for Colorado. Oddly, though, the Mets are at -10 and the Brewers only +18.
GameDay Thread to follow in minutes.