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Diamondbacks 3, Cubs 2 - Cruz Control

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Record: 51-48. Change on last season: 0. Pace: 83-79

Quote of the day: "This park can play big or it can play small. On the days when the wind is blowing in, this park can play really big. I just put a good swing on it. It was good for us that it went out." -- Stephen Drew

Our bats still continue to slumber - that's a total of sixteen runs we've scored in the last week now - but today, it was just enough, thanks largely to a powerhouse outing by the bullpen. Famine, Pestileñce and Death [a.k.a. Cruz, Peña and Valverde] combined to no-hit the Cubs over the final five innings, allowing Stephen Drew's solo homer in the eighth to make a winner of Cruz. Our Four Relievers of the Apocalypse have been lights out lately: here are their lines since the start of June:

  • Valverde: 15 IP, 6 H, 6 BB, 18 K, 2 ER, 1.20 ERA
  • Peña: 26 IP, 19 H, 9 BB, 21 K, 4 ER, 1,38 ERA
  • Lyon: 22.2 IP, 23 H, 6 BB, 15 K, 7 ER, 2.78 ERA
  • Cruz: 22.1 IP, 16 H, 15 BB, 33 K, 8 ER, 3.23 ERA
  • Total: 86 IP, 64 H, 36 BB, 87 IP, 21 ER, 2.20 ERA

Today, it was Cruz's turn to shine. In his first three-innings relief outing for Arizona, he faced the minimum nine hitters, striking out four and allowing only one walk - that hitter was promptly erased on a K/caught stealing double-play to end the fifth. He threw 39 pitches, reviving once again talk about whether Cruz could be called into play as a starter. The walk total is probably what bothers me: over his career, he's given out a free pass more than every other inning, and we've seen what such a level of charity can do to a starting pitcher.

Through Cruz's career, his ERA is almost the same as a starter and a reliever (4.17 vs. 4.25). He walks a few more people coming out of the 'pen, but that's countered with a lower OBA in relief (.230 vs. .261). All told, the OPS is close to the same - .733 when starting, compared to .725 when not. The key is that, as a starter, he's averaging barely five innings per outing [196.1 IP in 38 starts]: like Owings, he's another one who struggles the third-time through a lineup, with the OBA jacking up from .211 to .359. That is odd, since he does have three decent pitches, a good slider to back up his change-up and lethal fastball. It's probably a stamina issue more than a repertoire one: the walks get his pitch-count up quickly, leading to an early exit.

That certainly seemed to be the issue with Owings today, who took 95 pitches to get through only four innings. Not that Pwnings was bad, per se: two earned runs in four innings was all, both coming on an 0-2 pitch which Pagan tripled (and Eric Byrnes nearly threw into the ivy!). But when it takes you fifteen pitches to get through two plate-appearances by the opposing starter, a career .127 hitter, you know it's going to be a short stint on the mound. The best thing he threw all day was buzzing Aramis Ramirez with the first pitch: he subsequently went 0-for-4 with 2 K's, six left on base, and a double-play.

A little more oomph from the offense, with ten hits being a level of production only passed once since the All-Star break - and that was in the first game back. Hudson had a three-hit game, with Jackson, Drew and Snyder all getting two each. Chris Snyder has been looking a bit better of late: he's batting .275 in the past month, albeit now splitting playing time almost 50/50 with Montero. Plenty of K's to go around though: twelve all told, including two each for Young, Byrnes and Reynolds.

Despite the late arrival of the GameDay Thread - the Cubs having moved the start time an hour earlier than Friday's, without informing me - there was a brisk traffic. DiamondbacksWIn got things started, and was followed in the comments by suitsmetoATnT, DbacksSkins, icecoldmo and a late, if somewhat incoherent, entry from DBACKS KICK ARSE. The win didn't really help us much in the standings, since the Dodgers came from 4-0 down to beat the Mets, but the Padres are down as I write this, and the Rockies lost, so we're back in sole possession of third.

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Stephen Drew, +30.5%
God-emperor of suck: Mark Reynolds, -24.1%

Couple of additions to the D-backs watch section. Jeff DaVanon looks totally lost at the plate: there may be some after-effects from his long layoff, but as mentioned in the thread, if he needs to rehab, he should not be doing so as our everyday right-fielder. Unless this is some kind of plot to make us yearn for the golden, halcyon days of Carlos Quentin. There's also the Eric Byrnes watch, to see whether he falls into his usual second-half slump or not. June 30 was the 82nd game of the season, which is why I chose it as the starting point.