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AZ 4, Braves 3 - Walk(off) This Way

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Record: 58-48. Change on last season: +4. Pace: 89-73
Playoff odds: 29.9%. Playoff Magic Number: 58

Quote of the day: "Asked if Jackson's hit gives him membership in the "Walk-off Club," Young, who has two walk-off homers this year, shook his head. "If anybody else would have done it..." he said. "But just 'cause it's Conor, I don't think we're going to let him in. That doesn't count yet." -- Ar izona Republic

Just another win on the final at-bat of the game. That's eight this year, in only 53 home games: we're already just one short of the franchise record of nine, set in 1999 [Including ones by the likes of Dante Powell, Hanley Frias and Andy Fox...] Mind you, I'm not sure my heart can stand much more of this: I think I preferred the comfortable blowouts seen early on in the Marlins series!

Doug Davis hit his mark again: he's 5-for-5 in quality starts this month, with an ERA of 3.58, and opponents are only hitting .212 off him. walks are still a bit high, at 18 in 32.2 innings, but he has been better there lately too, with only five over the last 13.2 innings. Last night was Exhibit A in why this is a good thing: all three walks came in the fourth frame, when all three Atlanta runs scored - the first two having reached base on balls. Outside that frame, Davis was excellent, giving us seven innings on a day when our bullpen really needed it, and throwing 122 pitches, the most by a non-Livan Diamondbacks in more than a year [since Batista threw 125 on July 1st last season]

Arizona got off to a good start, Young homering to lead off the bottom of the first. While it seems kinda wasteful to have our best home-run hitter this year batting at the top of the order, you can't argue with the results: as fjm235 pointed out in the GameDay thread, he's batting .293 there, compared to .198 everywhere else. That was his 18th long-ball, tying Ryan Braun for the most in the majors by a rookie. He's been incendiary this homestand too, going 10-for-24 with three homers.

Arizona tacked on two more in the third: our old friend, Mr. Sac. Fly, pushed the first across, courtesy of Eric Byrnes, while Conor Jackson thumped one to the outfield wall, for another RBI. CoJack is another one who seems to be finding his feet better, hitting .318 since the All-Star Break, with 9 RBI. However, that was it for the offense until the bottom of the tenth, when Jackson responded in the best possible way to the Braves intentionally-walking Byrnes ahead of him. He delivered the game-winning hit, that extended the winning streak to eight consecutive games.

At the risk of sounding like a scratched record [those under 30: ask your parents], the bullpen were again brilliant. Tony Peña struck out three in two scoreless innings, and has got his ERA down below two now. Opponents are now batting just .185 off him this season. And Juan Cruz pitched an immaculate tenth, striking out two, with the Braves only touching two of thirteen pitches - one foul, the other a groundout. That gave him his fifth win of the year, and I was pleased to see this one end after ten, as the other members of the pen got a much-needed rest.

The end result of this one was another mob pile-up at home-plate: while I can understand the enthusiasm, am I the only one to be a bit concerned by these? You don't have to go far to find examples of the potential for disaster there. Just ask Bill Gramatica, kicker for the Cardinals, who nailed a field-goal [not even a playoff game, a game-winning score, or even a long attempt - a first-half, 42-yarder, to put his team 3-0 up], jumped up in the air to celebrate...and tore his ACL on landing, missing the rest of the season. To add insult to injury, the Cardinals lost, 17-13. Also in Phoenix, I believe that after Kevin Johnson of the Suns got a game-winning basket, an over-exuberant hug from Charles Barkley dislocated his shoulder and benched him for two weeks.

Typically, you have to turn to football - oh, alright, dammit: soccer - for the most impressive cases. In 1993, Arsenal captain Tony Adams tried to pick up team-mate Steve Morrow (now head coach of FC Dallas in the MLS), but dropped him, breaking his shoulder. And in December 2004, Swiss football player Paulo Diogo of Servette, while celebrating a goal scored by someone else, climbed a fence round the pitch, got his wedding-ring caught, and ripped his finger off. Indeed, Turkish doctors made a study, and concluded that a surprisingly high 6% of game-related injuries came about as the result of celebrations. Specifically:

The injuries ranged from ligament and muscle strains as a result of 'Sliding' across the field to rib and clavicle fractures as a result of the players 'Piling Up' on each other. The most severe injury was an ankle fracture that required surgery. These injuries took place in 9 separate games where the field was natural turf and was dry in all but the incident requiring surgery. Although each patient was enrolled in an early rehabilitation program, the average playing time lost was 5 weeks. The researchers of this study conclude that exaggerated celebrations after making a goal, such as sliding, piling up, and tackling teammates, can result in serious injury. Not only should general guidelines be in place to prevent injuries, but coaches and team physicians should teach behavior-modification to minimize injury risks.

Mark Grace, both Thursday and today, commented disapprovingly on the mosh-pit seen at home-plate. While I can't condemn the obvious and genuine delight, especially during the winning-streak we've seen of late, I'd be happier if it didn't take the form of an accident waiting to happen. It would really suck, having fought our way back into the playoff picture, for the season to be derailed by, say, Eric Byrnes wrenching an ankle as he hurtled down the dugoff steps to escape a mauling by his team-mates. Heck, if I was on the roster, I'd almost rather ground out harmlessly to the second-baseman than get a walk-off hit: less painful that way!

LucaMaz3, johngordonma, VIII, fjm235, hotclaws, Ridster, the newly paternal andrewinnewyork, seton hall snake pit, MFAN, oklahomasooners, DiamondbacksWIn, Muu, icecoldmo, AZDarkKnight and azdb7 were present in an exuberant Gameday Thread. It was a good result, especially since the game was televised nationally: beating a team with a winning record like Braves, in front of a wide audience, will probably lift the D-backs' profice significantly. And the Dodgers and Padres both lost, giving us a 1.5 game lead in the wild-card, and tying us with LA for the division lead. With both teams losing key members of their pitching staff (Chris Young's loss could be devastating for the Padres - I'm glad we won't have to face him in the upcoming series), and Arizona playing the best baseball of anyone in the majors recently, the next week will be very interesting...

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Conor Jackson, +32.2%
God-emperor of suck: Stephen Drew, -12.3%
Honorary "Well done!": Tony Peña, +25.3%