Record: 67-52. Change on last season: +7. Pace: 91-71
Playoff odds: 55.6%. Playoff Magic Number: 41
Quote of the day: "It's weird because we're so used to winning lately, and we come back here and the music's not playing and everybody's kind of down. But we're young guys. We're not going to harp on this too long, forget about it on the plane ride and have a good road trip." -- Mark Reynolds
Valverde, preparing to leave the clubhouse without speaking to reporters.
That was remarkably disappointing. By the end of the third, we were 5-0 up, already had eight hits and Micah Owings had swept through the opposing order without allowing a base-runner. I sat back and looked forward to a nice, relaxing afternoon at the ball-park. Four innings later, the forecast was little changed: sure, we'd managed only base-runner in that time, but we were six out away and still 5-1 up. A 96.8% chance of victory, according to FanGraphs.
"Send me another reliever. This one is broken."
Unfortunately, nobody mentioned that to Pestileñce, Sinister and Death - between them, they faced eleven batters, and allowed five of them to score. A walk, a triple and a single off Peña made it 5-3; enter Slaten. Five pitches, one batter and a home-run later, exit Slaten, with a tied game. And even after a Drew sac. fly had given us the lead again in the bottom half, Valverde allowed a homer and a triple before retiring a batter, to blow the save and give the Nationals the lead for the first time. They, unlike us, held on.
However, Dave Burns made some good points on the post-game radio show that bear repeating, basically pointing out how rare occasions like this are. We are 45-7 when leading after six innings; 51-5 when leading after seven. Sure, there have been bad moments for our bullpen before, but it's been rare that they have led to a loss. Games like Sunday will, inevitably, happen. But they don't count any more in the standings, and we have still won seven series in a row, and are 17-4 since July 21st. Say that again: 17-4.
Pwnings fouls one off
Owings deserved a better fate. He retired the first fourteen Nationals hitters, and was consistently ahead in count. In the fourth inning, he threw ten pitches - nine of which were strikes, and overall, 70% of his pitches were in the zone. He struck out eight, and allowed only one earned run in 6.1 innings, on four hits and two walks. After a shaky spell, he seems back on track, with his position in the rotation apparently now assured again.
Reynolds and Jackson finish trotting round the bases
Reynolds had a good day, getting three hits, including his ninth homer, and driving in three runs. Jackson and Byrnes both had two hits and an RBI. Less impressive was Chris Young wearing a size 5 collar, and it may be time to move him out of the lead-off spot. He's just not getting it done there, batting just .111 (5-for-45) in August, with an OBP of only .200. He needs to be getting on base a lot more, in order to justify the spot.
If not him, then who should it be? Eric Byrnes maybe? He did bat leadoff early on in the year, and hit .320 in the role. His OBP since the break is also the best on the team, at .373. Hudson, Upton and Jackson are all also above .350, and I think the first two are definitely credible options. Upton's speed would wreak havoc on the base-paths though, like Young, it might take a little bit of time for him to find his wheels. Certainly, seeing Young fly out on the very first pitch he saw on Sunday, made my thoughts go in the direction of possible replacements.
Mrs. SnakePit pointed out something on the way to the park: "They don't do very well in day games, do they?" And she may be on to something: perhaps we should nickname them, "The Children of the Night", since our record during the hours of daylight is now only 17-18. After dusk, however, we're 50-34.
Amused to see Tony Batista get hit by a pitch, then start heading toward the pitcher's mound, before thinking better of it, and resuming his journey to first. As npineda noted, he has done that before, but this time he may have been dissuaded by Chris Snyder trailing him: Snyder's training involves a lot of martial arts, which I think he was hoping to use...
While Eric Byrnes deserves credit for reaching second on a ball bobbled badly by the shortstop, scoring that as a hit has to go down as among the most laughably home-biased decisions I've ever seen.
In my absence, a lively set of comments, though inevitably, peppered with a lot of "WTF!"-type comments. hotclaws, DbacksSkins, snakecharmer (welcome!), VIII, seton hall snake pit, Wimb, singaporedbacksfan, npineda, dahlian, soco, Ben, DbacksSkins, andrewinnewyork, G Dub and icecoldmo were the attendees.
Finally, the cult of Snyderman continues to spread. Nick Piecoro picked up on our little ditty, and mentioned it in his blog. One step nearer to getting Grace and Sutton to sing it on air. :-)