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AZ 9, Marlins 3 - Livan it Large

Record: 54-48. Change on last season: +2. Pace: 86-76

Quote of the day: "I think the coaching staff and the front office people would like to know, I would like to know, whether I'm going to be able to pitch and help this organization. If not then I think that I need to take care of things, and I think they would need to take care of things." -- Randy Johnson

My pre-game prediction of 7-3 to Arizona proved not too far off the mark, the D-backs tacking on a couple of additional runs above what was anticipated. And, boy, was it needed: the last time we won a game by six runs was July 3rd. The last time we won a game by more than that was May 25th, a span of fifty-two games. Only a few days ago, the poll question on the right seemed a genuinely viable issue. What a difference four games makes: now, your streaky Arizona Diamondbacks seem almost unstoppable. Particularly playing the NL East, against whom we're 14-5 on the year.

A step forward in several positive directions. Livan Hernandez got his first win in almost two months, pitching seven innings of one-run ball. Perhaps more importantly, he walked only one, which makes a huge difference in his effectiveness. Seven hits allowed, but only two Marlins made it past second-base. After a second-inning double-play ball, when he'd allowed the first two hitters to reach, Hernandez never seemed in serious difficulty.

Of course, what Hernandez appearance would be complete without a home-run? And Dan "He could have been ours" Uggla duly smacked his twentieth of the year off Livan: that's now 11 games in a row where someone has gone deep. This ties the franchise record for consecutive appearances with a home-run allowed, set by Brian Anderson (April 13-June 7, 1998). Though Edgar Gonzalez deserves mention, having given up a long-ball for thirteen straight starts, over four seasons from August 2004 to April this year, albeit interrupted by relief appearances. The modern era record is twenty consecutive games, by Bert Blyleven in 1986-87, so Livan still has some way to go to match that.

The offense clicked too, giving us our highest total during a nine-inning game since May 29. It started early, with Chris Young manufacturing a run in the first inning, on a single, a stolen-base and two groundouts. A Montero sacrifice fly doubled the lead in the second, but it was the fourth where we exploded. It started with a somewhat lucky homer awarded to Hudson, as a fan appeared to lean into the field of play and catch the ball: however, the umpires saw it otherwise.

That was just the start, as the next five D-backs all reached safely on three more hits, a HBP and a bases-loaded walk to Hairston. Montero added his second sacrifice fly in consecutive innings to make it 6-0, before Livan grounded out to end it. Curiously, Chris Young led off three of the first four innings. A Byrnes double-play added a seventh run in the fourth, and a Hudson RBI single and another bases-loaded walk, to Byrnes, completed the rout. Okay, "comfortable victory", but in the light of recent weeks, it felt like a win of Yankees over Devil Rays magnitude.

A slow start to the Gameday Thread, with nobody showing up until the third inning, but things were brisk and entertaining thereafter. peeklay broke the ice, and was followed by LucaMaz3, dahlian, AZDarkKnight, DbacksSkins (who found out what life was like in pre-electric days), Frank, ASUJon, singaporedbacksfan and icecoldmo followed up. The Dodgers lost, so we pulled another game back there: we're 2.5 back, still 1.5 on the wild-card, and the Baseball Prospectus put our playoff chances at 7.9%.

Just to answer a question on that figure, they basically replay the remainder of the season a million times. The expected winning percentage is based on runs scored/allowed, which is why we suck, as we are only a .460 team by this method. Then, they pit those percentages against each other according to the schedule, shake the dice and play out the remaining games. Rinse. Repeat. One million times.

Here's another interesting page to look at; slightly different method, but the same basic idea, gives us a 9.7% of playoff baseball. It includes a breakdown of our remaining schedule, showing that our average opponents down the stretch are playing .500 ball. That's skewed a bit by 12 games against the Pirates and Giants who are further below .500 than anyone is above .500. We have 23 games against losing teams, 31 against winning ones, and six facing the .500 Rockies. In our favor, we have 32 games at home, where we've the second-best record in the NL.

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Livan Hernandez [pitching], +19.2%
God-emperor of suck: Livan Hernandex [batting], -3.7%

We almost got everyone into positive territory last night. Outside of Livan, the only other negative was Edgar Gonzalez, who gave up two runs, though that merited only a -0.1% score. Otherwise, a great, all-round performance: Scott Hairston was the only starter without a hit, and even he drove in a run with his bases-loaded walk. Husdon got three hits, and Chris Young added on a couple.

I've junked the current poll on whether our season is over, because the answer is obvious at the moment. I might resurrect it the next time we slump. :-) It's been replaced with a question on Randy Johnson, as his latest pronouncement (see the top for the link and more details) was considerably more gloomy than of late. There seem to be three options as far as his status goes, and I can see a credible case being made for each of them. Vote away, and comments, as ever, welcome.