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AZ 4, Giants 3 - Half-way There

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Record: 46-35. Change on last season: +7. Pace: 92-70

Quote of the day: "What? You don't hit the curveball anymore?" -- Livan Hernandez to Barry Bonds, after getting the slugger to pop out in the sixth.

That was fun. The tenth time we've played the Giants this year ended in - what else? - a one-run game, with the Diamomdbacks prevailing on a 10th inning homer by Miguel Montero. That's nine consecutive games against San Francisco decided by a single run, which has got to be bordering on some kind of a record. The timing was excellent; the go-ahead run scored while we were finishing up dinner at JJ's Cantina, and Valverde closed it out before we arrived round the corner at Chaser's. There, we were running the merch table for Hardwire and The Strand, though the highlight of the evening was probably the lady who took off her own shirt to try on one of The Strand's. I quite enjoyed that. 8-) Mrs. SnakePit...perhaps less so!

So, all told, a good night, and not even Bonds' arrogantly choosing to make a mockery of my, ah, mockery and prove the Republic right by swatting his 750th homer off Livan could spoil it. Hit as many homers in a losing cause as you like, Barry. Not a problem. Mind you, when that dishevelled vagrant - sorry, Giants fan - wandered into left field, we briefly wondered if (ok, were hoping) he was going to wrestle Bonds to the ground, and unleash a devastating assault on what's left of Bonds' knees. Good job Barry didn't have to chase him down though, or they'd still be circling left-field.

After the past few games, where it seemed the D-backs defense specialized in handing over free runs to the opposition, nice to get a couple of them back. Dave Roberts clanked a routine fly-ball to center-field in the seventh, and what should have been the third out of the inning, because a two-run hit which gave Arizona the lead 3-2. That was probably the only way we were going to score, having had runners on base in every inning to that point, and all we had to show for it was a bloop RBI double by Drew.

Fortunately, Livan had got his act together - something desperately needed after both his last couple of outings, and the pounding delivered to our bullpen arms - and pitched eight innings of three-run ball. The key was probably that he only walked one hitter (Bonds, naturally), with the home-plate umpire for once giving him the latitude that he needs to work effectively. It was a huge relief that, Montero's blast meant we weren't in for one of those marathons against the Giants: it's the third time we've gone to extra-innings with them this month, though it's been a couple of years since it's passed eleven frames.

Luckily, we only had to use Tony Peña and Jose Valverde - to a cheers from the rest of the bullpen, who had been holding their elbows, ordering large bags of ice, and make whimpering sounds, in an effort to get the point across. Valverde retired the Giants 1-2-3 in the bottom of the tenth, even pitching to Bonds with the bases empty and two out. But it's been a while since Barroids has been walked in that situation: indeed, the last time he got a free pass with two outs and the bases empty, in a tied, extra-innings game, was all the way back on September 7th, 2001. Here, Jose got the ground-out: that's the first time Papa Grande has got Bonds out in over three years (June 2nd, 2004 was the last time), so you'll understand my elation.

Our offense was somewhat streaky, with no-one getting a hit. Emphasis entirely deliberate, since everybody had a multi-hit game, or didn't get one at all. Drew was the only one with an RBI, of course, while Byrnes and Hudson added a walk each. Arizona was only 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position, which obviously blows chunks, but is about par for the recent course. We're only batting .238 overall for the last month, dead last in the league. Hell, opposing pitchers seem to have better stats than that lately, but the Diamondbacks have still gone 14-12 somehow.

Somewhat feisty Gameday thread, with a long debate over Melvin's decision to replace Hudson with Ojeda in the eighth. However, reports this morning suggest it was simply because Hudson felt some tightness in his calf, rather than anything tactical. Asked after the game if he might need a day off, Hudson replied, "For what? To go to the spa?" He should be back in there again today though, so the scheduled, pistols at dawn event between dahlian and DbacksSkins has been postponed. :-) Also present: suitsmetoATnT, AZDarkKnight, singaporedbacksfan, DiamondbacksWIn, johngordonma, Muu, soco, MFAN and cavscout.

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Conor Jackson, +32.3%
God-emperor of suck: Chad Tracy, -22.1%

I see Fox Sports have finally bitten the bullen and will be covering our second-baseman when they premiere Orlando Hudson: In My Own Words, debuting Monday at 8:30pm. It will be followed at 9pm by Orlando Hudson: Let Me Tell You Another Thing; then, at 9:30, it's Orlando Hudson: While I've Got Your Ear; 10 o'clock brings Orlando Hudson: Can I Just Say This?; and finally, at 10:30, we polish off the evening with Orlando Hudson: Hey! Where are You Going? I Haven't Finished Yet!. :-) No, really - we love O-Dawg, but the press release says, 'The show gets the two-time Gold Glove winner to reminisce...' - emphasis added, as if you had to pry words out of Hudson. From what I've seen, you don't so much interview him, as vaguely aim him. Should make for an interesting show.

New poll up: what to do with Byrnes? He's leading the team in Avg, OPS, HR, RBI, runs and SB, and is being given serious consideration for the All-Star game, where the selections will be announced on Sunday [no chance of a D-back getting voted on, but Byrnes, Webb, Valverde and Hudson are all potential additional picks]. The question is, however, what to do with Byrnes as far as the team is concerned. Do we try and swing him in a deal now, given the precipitous nature of his second-half slumps throughout his entire career? Hold onto him, and try to ride the hot-hand into the playoffs? Or do we sign him to an extension? That won't be cheap; he's a free-agent this winter, and his performance thus far will likely make him a hot - and expensive - commodity.

That replaces the "Arizona's season will end..." poll. Giving 0 points for a vote that says we won't make the playoffs, up to 4 points for a World Series win, the AZ Fan Confidence level measures 1.28, at the half-way point in the season. That's down from 1.75 when we first carried out the poll, early in April, which is a little surprising, given we have over-achieved beyond all but the most optimistic expectations. Only about a quarter of those polled now expect us to get beyond the NLDS, compared to around half at the start of the season.