Record: 34-24. Change on last season: 0. Pace: 95-67.
Quote of the day: "When in doubt, I threw the curveball. " -- Doug Davis
I'd like to start by saluting the finest sporting performance of the weekend. I speak, of course, of Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, who demolished the world hot-dog eating record at Arizona Mills on Saturday, scarfing down 59 1/2 dogs and buns in just 12 1/2 minutes, at the Southwest Regional championships. That shatters the mark of 53 1/4 set by Takeru Kobayashi - the two will face off at the Nathan's contest on Coney Island on July 4th, for all the...ah, wieners. The connection here is, Chestnut then flew back to New York to throw out the first pitch at todays D-backs-Mets game. Er, shouldn't that be throw up the first pitch?
Anyway, he probably won't be the only Mets fan feeling both a little sick and glad to see the back of Arizona today. The Diamondbacks dropped yesterday's match-up, behind impotent offense and poor bullpen work, but took the series in New York, on the back of 7.2 sterling innings from Doug Davis. I really wouldn't be surprised to see these two teams face off again come October - though I'd rather we won the division, which would probably mean facing the NL Central champion, likely an easier task. Okay: calm down, Jim. We still have more than a hundred games to go, it's probably a little early to be concerned about playoff matchups.
AZ 1, Mets 7
On Saturday, the winning streak came to an end - and the noise as it did so can be summarized as "Psssssssttttt...", since we lost, not with a bang, but a whimper, going down 7-1. Arizona actually scored first, Eric Byrnes hitting his ninth homer of the year in the third, to give us a 1-0 lead; we only managed one runner past first-base the rest of the way. Byrnes got two hits, as did Orlando Hudson, who also had one of our two walks, and there was precious little else to cheer about on that side of the box-score. Tony Clark was 1-for-4 with 2 K's; over the last couple of outings against Sosa, it's clear that Clark's ownership is nothing but a statistical quirk.
Livan Hernandez did what he could to keep Arizona in the game, delivering another quality start. He lasted six innings, and gave up three earned runs, all of them coming during a crumbly, grungy fourth inning, where the Mets sent eight men to the plate, despite a lack of hard-hit balls (save Delgado's leadoff homer). He was his usual mix of banana-curves and crafty junk, throwing 120 pitches and allowing eight hits and two walks. When he left, the game was still within reach, since the Diamondbacks were only 3-1 down, but the bullpen - who've been rocky on this trip - continued their poor form.
Slaten put two men on base while retiring only one hitter, and had to be replaced by Cruz. However, he fared worse still, surrendering a two-out, three-run homer to Mets replacement-level player Gotay, which turned the New York advantage into a five-run one before the seventh was over - basically ending this as a meaningful contest. Cruz gave up another one in the eighth: about the only good thing was that I'd benched him this week from my fantasy baseball team, so the cushions were hurled at the TV with only moderate venom.
It's always easier to take losses where you were fundamentally and clearly outplayed, and that was the case here in two of the three areas: relief pitching and hitting. The streak was bound to end eventually, and this was a no-doubter, which is likely for the best. singaporedbacksfan, unnamedDBacksfan, azdbacks51, Frank, hotclaws, seton hall snake pit, Metsblog275, andrewinnewyork, johngordonma and Goose were present in the thread. Thanks in particular to johngordonma, who was at the game at added some very interesting notes, and Metsblog275 - I always enjoy a little friendly smack-talking with rival fans. I particularly enjoyed that he put the D-backs "down for 11Ks of shut out baseball tomorrow." How'd that work out? :-) We'll see after the Gameday Graph...
AZ 4, Mets 1
Hmm, looks to me like the Mets came closer to being shutout than the Diamondbacks, thanks to a great outing by Doug Davis. He pitched 7.2 excellent innings, with the only damage coming on a leadoff double at the start of the sixth, that came around to score on a pair of groundouts. Otherwise, he was brilliant until the final inning, throwing strikes early and with masterful command of his curve. He got into trouble in the eighth, when a Reynolds error put men on the corners with one out, and Mets' clean-up hitter Carlos Delgado at the plate, representing the tying run.
However, with the aid of a beautiful first-pitch banana-curve, he struck Delgado out, in what was probably the opposition's best chance of the game. He walked Lo Duca to load the bases, after a tough at-bat, and Davis was replaced by Peña, who got Easley to ground out harmlessly to third, after dodging a bullen, in the shape of a pitch hammered down the left-field line that went foul. And Valverde picked up his twentieth save of the season, with a remarkably drama-free 1-2-3 ninth. That allows Papa Grande to pass Kim for second on the franchise all-time saves list, and leaves him three behind leader Matt Mantei (74).
At first, it seemed like both pitchers had planes to catch - oh, hang on: we did, at least. But for the first four innings, both starters burned through the opposition, facing only three hitters over the minimum 24 combined. Then, the first four AZ hitters in the fifth all reached, with Quentin breaking the deadlock with a ground-rule double. Callaspo made it 2-0, despite grounding into a double-play, and that was all the offense we'd need. Hudson added a sacrifice fly in the sixth, and Byrnes showed excellent hustle on coming all the way round from second on an infield hit by Reynolds.
Got to point out, Eric Byrnes is red-hot at the moment (pun not intended!): since May 16, he's hitting .361 (26-for-72). He also walked twice today, though that's an area he could do with improving, as the fourth-inning one ended a streak of 47 plate-appearances without a free pass. Mark Reynolds reached base safely, on that hit and a walk, but it's probably safe to say that this is a series he's rather forget. Again, K's heavily out-numbered walks, and I am a little concerned about our plate-discipline. Over the six games of this road-trip, even though we won five of them, our BB:K ratio was a nasty 10:46.
dahlian, DiamondbacksWIn, soco, VIII, johngordonma, singaporedbacksfan, downinflames77 (welcome!), AZDarkKnight, hotclaws, seton hall snake pit and Wimb were all present to enjoy the game, which made for a nice way to start Sunday. There's something to be said for morning baseball on the weekend: you can get the game watched, and still have plenty of time for everything else. Which, in my case, would be reading the papers, watching a little lucha libre, plus writing up these reports and a movie review. And it's still only 4pm! Might go watch the Yankees-Red Sox for a bit after I've posted this.
All told, an excellent tour of the East coast, proving that this team is capable of playing with the big boys. Sure, the Mets were hurt - but it's also worth nothing that today Arizona was without Drew, Young or Tracy, so were also well short of our Opening Day lineup there. Unfortunately, looks like the Dodgers and Padres also won, so we remain locked in a deadly embrace at the top of the NL West. We and the Padres have the day off tomorrow: Dodgers play Pittsburgh, so they'll either move into sole possession of first or drop into third. Such is the tightness of the race.
Then, the Giants come to town, and that will give us a chance, since the Dodgers face the Padres in San Diego. Hopefully, those two will slit each other's throats, while we beat up on the Giants. Wondered why suitsme hadn't been around lately, but a quick glance sees Bazza and the Eight Dwarves tied for the Rockies in last place, having lost seven of their last nine games. They've also won only one of their last eight series - and that was at home against the Houston Dis-Astros, so hardly counts.
Still, will be some decent pitching matchups. Cain vs. Johnson on Tuesday; Morris vs. Webb Wednesday, and then that well-known veteran Toby Announced faces Hernandez v2.0 in the finale. Got to think we can take two of three at the least, though we should probably treat it as a warmup for the next real challenge, the arrival of the Boston Red Sox next weekend.
I see the Diamondbacks have banned clubhouse alcohol. They say such a move had been contemplated for six months, and it's got nothing to do with the death of Josh Hancock, dear me, no, not at all. Of course, there's no evidence he drank anything in the clubhouse before his crash either. Said Tony Clark, "Anything that you determine perhaps would place yourself or the players in harm's way you're forced to look at."
Oh, yeah? Two words for you, Tony: SPIT TOBACCO. There's not many things I agree with Joe Garagiola Sr. about, but that's one of them. Why is that still allowed in the clubhouse - as a glance at the hamster-like cheek of Miguel Montero will easily demonstrate. Baseball players are adults, and should be treated as such. If they want to have a beer after a game, I certainly don't blame them. After all, prohibition worked so well, when it was tried in the entire country, didn't it? What this will do is simply move the drinking elsewhere - to places outside of the team's control. I'm sure Tiggo's will welcome the extra custom...