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Diamondbacks 4, Braves 0 - Life, the Universe and Brandon Webb

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Record: 70-53. Change on last season: +8. Pace: 92-70
Playoff odds: 67.2%. Playoff Magic Number: 37

Quote of the day: "Where was I in '88? I was in Little League. I was 9 years old. I was probably sitting out there in right field, because I was awful." -- Brandon Webb

42 is, as fans of Douglas Adams know, the Ultimate Answer. However, after last night's performance by Webb, we certainly hope that 42 innings of shutout ball will not be the end of this streak - Brandon Webb continued his assault on what was described, less than a month ago as one of baseball's unbreaKable records. He pitched his third consecutive complete-game without allowing a run, the first pitcher to do so since Roger Clemens in August 1998. He allowed only two hits, neither of them hard, walked one and struck out six, reducing his earned run average for the season to 2.63. Oh, and he got a hit, as well.

Sure, he's got two more shutouts to go, but according to Webb - albeit tongue-in-cheek - he "should have that, no problem." Is it churlish to point out the scoreless streak is actually 42.1 innings? Because Pagan was caught stealing to end the sixth inning against the Cubs on July 20th. Does Webb get credit for that? I guess he should. Assuming so, here's his line in that time:
Webb: 42.1 IP, 24 H, 7 BB, 35 K, 0 R, 0 ER
In the last five games, opponents have a .160/.199/.215 line against him: that's an OPS of just .414. I think it is perhaps no coincidence that all the games in the streak have been, more or less, in humid conditions. The Padres and Dodgers are by the ocean, then there were two games at home in the monsoon season, and yesterday, you could have cut the air in Atlanta with a rusty butter-knife. Perfect for Webb's sinker.

Even more amazingly, he has now improved his Game Score in six consecutive outings, each better than the one before: 60, 70, 76, 77, 86 and 88. Last night's was the second-highest of Webb's career, trailing only last season's one-hitter of the Cardinals. I was joking early in the comments yesterday, about him following in Randy's footsteps at Turner Field, but the roll he is on right now, a perfect game is far from implausible. Be really good if he could do it next Wednesday, at home against the Brewers: I feel that an unscheduled attendance at that one may be in order. Let's hope the monsoon hasn't broken by then - that may be the first time anyone in the state has wanted it to stick around!

Looking at the Cy Young award, here are the four real contenders (I debated about including Hudson, but his ERA+ is only 141, so I've left him out), ordered by ERA+:

  1. Chris Young: 213
  2. Jake Peavy: 188
  3. Brandon Webb: 176
  4. Brad Penny: 170

Young has the obvious edge (there's something appropriate about C.Young winning the Cy Young), but he has only nine victories thus far, and faces a challenge to reach even the 13 Webb managed last year - and that was pretty much a low-water mark for a Cy-winning starter. His ERA being below two does give him a clear distinction. If it rises above 2.00 however, that will be lost. You can't argue against Peavy, but he should have more than 13 wins, since the Padres have given him more than five runs of support per game [Webb only gets 3.82]. Look no further than the April 19 game against us, where he allowed ten hits and five runs in 5.1 innings, but still got the W. Brad Penny is tied (with Hudson) for the league-lead in wins, but his chances are hurt by the fact the Dodgers are dead in the water. It's all looking a lot closer than it was a month ago, when Webb's ERA was 3.42.

Our offense went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, but that didn't really matter, as we scored four runs on three homers by Young and Reynolds. Young had three hits, with Reynolds getting two - that keeps his batting average for the month up, at a robust .457. Of course, he's still striking out as much (K:BB ratio of 42:6 since the All-Star break!), but that's now less an issue. Especially if he's hitting titanic blasts like the one yesterday, which the Braves estimated at 453 feet, the sixth-longest in the history of the park. I'm waiting to see what has to say about that one.

That's Young's fourth multi-homer game of the season: he's now hit 24 'taters, and in on pace for 32. In the past twenty years, I believe only one other rookie has had that many: Albert Pujols, who hit 37 in his first season, during 2001. Of course the homer, and his double, both came with nobody on base. Since the All-Star break, he's had 92 at-bats with the bases empty. In that time, Young has had 27 hits (.293) with three doubles, a triple and nine homers. He has had 41 at-bats with men on base. Young has seven hits (.171), with two doubles and two homers. As noted elsewhere, it's like he is batting from the stretch or something. But I'll happily settle for home-runs, regardless of the situation.

Another record-setting Gameday Thread, a monstrous 278-comment beast. Kudos to everyone who is helping this site blossom beyond my wildest dreams, both in these threads, as well as posting diaries and commenting like possessed fiends. :-) Yesterday, we saw DbacksSkins, andrewinnewyork, hotclaws, TwinnerA, snakecharmer, johngordonma, Peachy, VIII, Muu, dahlian, LucaMaz3, icecoldmo, npineda, soco, TheMainMan, DBACKS KICK ARSE, 4CornersFan, Wimb, seton hall snake pit, oklahomasooners and DiamondbacksWIn. Which I think is probably a record as well.

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: go on, take a wild stab in the dark. +58.0%
God-emperor of suck: Orlando Hudson, -9.8%
Honorary "Well done!": Mark Reynolds, +12.3%

It's been confirmed: Petit starts Sunday. Looks like one of the relievers in the pen will be bumped down to make way for him. Be ironic if it's Nippert, since he hasn't actually been used in a game since getting called up: maybe they'll give him some work today, by way of a "Thanks for coming!" gift. Also put up a new poll: the current one has ended, with the Padres being voted the biggest threat to us. UFO's came in second, which seems a little cruel, but is probably accurate. The new one is a re-run of one we've done a couple of times this year, most recently at the end of June. At that point, the vast majority of respondents (71%) couldn't see us getting past, or even as as far as, the Division series. Be interesting to see how the past two months have changed things.

I find myself with a spare ticket to next Saturday's Cubs game. They're not our usual seats, since Mrs. SnakePit got them through work, but it turns out she can't go. I don't actually know what section they're in. Could be nosebleed alley. Could be dugout. Okay, probably not dugout. ;-) Anyone care to join me? Should be fun, and conceivably a battle of two first-placed teams. Replies by midnight tonight, in the comments below or by email to the address in the sidebar, and I'll draw a lucky recipient from the waste-paper basket tomorrow. Just as soon as I take our Kim jerseys out of it...