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AZ 7, Marlins 4 - Eric Sends the Marlins Reeling

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Record: 56-48. Change on last season: +3. Pace: 87-75
Playoff odds: 22.7%. Playoff Magic Number: 60

Quote of the day: I really believe this is a playoff team. I think every day there are more and more guys in here who are starting to believe that." -- Eric Byrnes

What a strange, glorious game that was. Our starter is gone after three frames; we manage one hit until after the seventh-inning stretch, that coming from said starter; our top five hitters are a combined 0-for-16 until the final pitch of the game. And we still won. I'm not really sure how. I've a feeling I'm going to wake up and find this was actually an offshoot of the very strange dream I had Wednesday, that involved Jennifer Jason Leigh, a hotel on the edge of Trafalgar Square and a late drinking session with some American tourists. Yesterday's game would have fit right in there.

It's the 243rd time in franchise history we've been restricted to five hits or less, and we'd never scored more than five runs. Until last night. Through seven innings, we had scored four runs, despite having only had two hits. It helped that we'd been given six walks and two hit batters in that time. Mind you, we hit three Marlins of our own, including two by Owings - the second one of which got him his marching orders, coming as it did on the heels of a walk to the opposing pitcher with the bases loaded. At that point - Florida 4-2 up, with the bases still loaded and no outs in the fourth - the sweep looked pretty improbable.

Enter The Bullpen, rolling its collective sleeves up and making a mildly-displeased, "tut-tutting" sound, like Mary Poppins dealing with a reluctant child. A 1-2-3 double-play and a groundout later, Dustin Nippert was back in the dugout, and went on to deliver 3.1 innings of one-hit ball. Doug Slaten polished off the seventh, and Tony Peña retired all six hitters he faced. Just another six innings, two-hit, shutout outing for our relief corps. Here's their line during the current winning streak:
Bullpen: 20.1 IP, 8 H, 6 BB, 16 K, 2 ER, 0.89 ERA
Yes: it's too heavy a work-load, not helped by Owings lasting seven innings in total over his last two starts. But since the All-Star Break, Famine, Death, Pestileñce and Sinister have thrown 25 combined innings, and allowed one earned run.

Micah Owings. It should have been a triumphant and memorable night, as he smacked his first home-run in the majors. But, instead, it turned into another early exit: his record in five starts this month is 0-3, with a 9.55 ERA and an OBA of .330. He wasn't so terrible through the first three innings, but fell apart in the fourth, facing five hitters and retiring none of them. That included walking Byung-Hung Kim with the bases loaded to drive in one run, then plunking the leadoff hitter to drive in another. His status in the rotation must be in doubt, but I've opened a diary for further discussion of that topic.

All seven runs scored on three homers. Micah's tied the game at two, then Conor Jackson provided another dose of the same medicine, to level things at four. And then, of course, Byrnes cranked a ball down the left-field line to win it, after it looked like Hudson had blown it, fanning with the winning run at third and one out. [Hudson not doing so well of late: .232 since the All-Star break] No-one had more than one hit, with as many walks in total (seven of each).

Other weirdness. Three hit batters after a warning was issued by the umpires, yet no ejections. Stephen Drew getting called out for running in a straight line. A pitch invasion - steadfastly not shown on TV, though the security staff sprinting across the infield gave that one away. And a fountain with a hundred spouts, did run pure blood: and many lusty Romans came smiling, and did bathe their hands in it. Oh, sorry: that's Act II, Scene 2 of Julius Caesar. Probably starring Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Nice to get to take in a full game - first time in a while, with the most comments in some time. The overnight push took us past the 'St. Penelope of the Cross' thread from June 14, with the final tally of 124 the most since the June 7th thread against the Giants. LucaMaz3, Frank and DbacksSkins were the engine room, with help from AZDarkKnight, batster (Welcome!) and Muu also chipping in. We leapfrog the Padres and take over the wild-card lead: if the season ended today, we'd be playing the Mets!

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Eric Byrnes, +31.5%
God-emperor of suck: Micah Owings, -39.4%

All over the place, win probability-wise. Four at more than +25% - as well as Byrnes, there was Nippert (+25.9%), Peña (+25.3%) and Jackson (+29.7%). Heck, Owings' homer got him a +16.1%. But four were in double-digits negatively: Young (-12.5%), Hudson (-16.4%) and Drew (-17.1%) - plus Owings when not wielding a bat.

Meanwhile, can you hear the whining sound coming from Kansas City, Missouri? It's Kevin Seitzer, still compaining:

I thought some of the guys on the team were just starting to get it, and I was looking forward to them having a great second half. [Because, of course, they had such a great first half under your care...] Judging by the phone calls and messages I’ve been getting, I’d say about 95 percent of the guys liked what I was doing with them and the teaching they were getting.

I know there were probably a couple of guys who threw me under the bus. That’s OK, I’m a big boy and can take it. [Apparently not, going by your ongoing wee-ooo-wee-ooo-ing] But I can tell you this: When I was playing, and I was struggling, I didn’t immediately look to blame the hitting coach. And when I was doing well, I wasn’t about to donate half of my salary to the hitting coach. You take certain responsibility.

Yes, Kevin: you take certain responsibility - when all our young hitters struggle under your tutelage, the responsibility become yours. You failed at your appointed task: the clue is in the words "hitting coach" in your job description. You coached us to equal 14th in BA over the first-half, and there's no doubt that we are a better team than that. And we're up to ninth since the break, so there's evidence of improvement already.