Record: 47-43. Change on last season: +2. Pace: 85-77
Quote of the day: "It's not the despair, Laura. I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand." -- John Cleese, Clockwise
There ends the first half of the season; not with a bang, but a whimper, as the Diamondbacks roll over to their fifth defeat in a row and their eighth in nine games, handing Cincinnati their first sweep of any kind in almost a year. Since they beat Baltimore 8-3 to go a game clear at the top of the National League West, Arizona have now lost eleven of their last fourteen and are now 3.5 games back. Not the finest two weeks in franchise history, to say the least.
Today was particularly gut-wrenching. It looked like just another defeat through the front 8 2/3 innings. The Petit Unit had some issues with the long-ball, giving up homers in the first two homers, but they were only solo shots. Overall, he pitched well enough, allowing three runs in five innings, while striking out eight Reds hitters. Should be good enough to keep him in the fifth rotation spot after the break, should it be needed, though Melvin was refusing to be drawn on that point when he announced the rotation for the Padres series. [That's Davis, Hernandez and Webb; which if my math is right means we'll get to see our ace as we're going to the Sunday game]
No. The problem was - and stop me if you've heard this one before - our lack of offense, and hitting with runners in scoring position. I should have realised it wasn't going to be our day, when we loaded the bases with one out in the first, only for Drew to pop out weakly into shallow-right, and Young to ground out. That was it as far as getting runners in scoring position went until Young trotted round all the bases in the seventh to make it a 3-1 Reds lead. Nothing in the eighth, and after Drew and Young made the first two outs in the ninth, this one's obituary was ready to print.
But wait! Salazar singles! Then Montero drives him in with a double to the left-center wall! And, miracle of miracles, Orlando Hudson split the outfielders perfectly with an RBI single to tie the game. The much-discussed "momentum" was in the D'backs dugout, and Mark Reynolds took his second HBP of the day, this one off his finger, to put two men on with one out in the tenth. A heroic double-play started by Augie Ojeda to end the Reds in tenth was more momentum, and after pinch-hitter Owings - yes, you read that right - singled and Snyder walked, surely Eric Byrnes would drive home the run, and mobs of Phoenixites with torches would storm Chase Field, demanding he be given a lifetime contract extension.
Er, no. How about, instead, he grounds into his first double-play since September last year (as shoe mentioned), completing a terrible day: 0-for-6, only the second time in his career he'd come to the plate six times, and failed to reach safely in any of them. [The slump is on, folks...] Momentum, after consulting its GPS, realised it had made a terrible mistake, and headed straight for the opposite dugout. Valverde walked Encarnacion and Ross, then Scott 'D-back Killer' Hatteberg slapped the ball into left field and, mercifully, put this one out of our misery. Probably for the best, as Melvin had micro-managed us out of pitchers, using Nippert to get two outs, and Slaten one.
Said Melvin, "It seems like we battle back a little too late. Our at-bats early in the game aren't good. It's almost like Groundhog Day. We don't do anything early in the game, then we come back late -- in the eighth and ninth innings -- before losing late. We've got to find ways to get more competitive at-bats early in the game. We see it a lot. Whether it's getting a hit or a productive out, we're struggling big-time." Let's see if that's really the case, Bob. Here's a list of our results with RISP, by inning, as well as the average across all situations.
- 1st: .151 (14-for-93) vs. overall .257
- 2nd: .202 (13-for-64) - .239
- 3rd: .246 (16-for-87) - .237
1st-3rd: .194 (43-for-222) - .245
- 4th: .226 (21-for-93) - .265
- 5th: .274 (20-for-73) - .221
- 6th: .284 (23-for-81) - .285
4th-6th: .259 (64-for-247) - .258
- 7th: .264 (19-for-72) - .246
- 8th: .242 (24-for-99) - .269
- 9th: .204 (10-for-49) - .198
- 10th+: .300 (3-for-10) - .260
7th-end: .243 (56-for-230) - .239
Certainly, we totally suck in the first couple of frame. But we're only hitting .204 in the ninth, though this is perhaps partly because we'll often be facing the opposition closer, and this explains why the team overall is below the Uecker line in the ninth. Truth be told, it's the 5th-7th innings we do well; again, that does kinda make sense, as we'll be facing a mix of tiring starters and entry-level relievers. That's reflected in the sixth innings being easily our best inning overall. Why we hit over a hundred points less in the 1st inning with runners in scoring position...beats me.
Thanks to oklahomasooners, Wimb, 4CornersFan, icecoldmo, seton hall snake pit, suitsmetoATnT and shoewizard for their comments. It is worth pointing out that since June 6, when we were 17-5 in one-run games, the Diamondbacks record is only 1-7 in one-run games. Regression to the mean with a vengeance? Or has Melvin lost the knack of managing in those situations?
All-Star break, so taking a couple of days off, bar the Fantasy report as usual. Should have a half-way report up on Wednesday, then probably take another day's break, at least as far as major reportage goes. Back in full effect on Friday for the Padres series, and will lob up some stuff if anything of significance happens.