Diamondbacks 2, Braves 6 - A Petit Squeeze
Record: 71-54. Change on last season: +9. Pace: 92-70
Playoff odds: 71.5%. Playoff Magic Number: 34
Quote of the day: "I don't want him to give him a cookie right there. And if we walk him, we start over with the count and there's still two outs. I just wanted him to throw it off the plate for a ball." -- Miguel Montero
After the heroics of our starting pitchers the past couple of days, today was something of a damp squib in comparison, Yusmeiro Petit failing, say, to save orphans from a burning building on his way to Turner Field this morning. I dunno: some people just don't know what's expected of them. :-) The loss in the game was not particularly unexpected; this was always the contest where the pitching match-up skewed distinctly in Atlanta's favor, and so it turned out, with John Smoltz mowing down the D-backs, to the tune of 12 K's in eight innings. That's the most he's struck out in a game since April 2005.
He was, it must be said, helped by some dubious umpiring. The strike zone he got from home plate umpire Wally Bell was considerably more generous than the one Petit was getting, and matters were definitely not helped by an insane balk call on Petit from third-base umpire John Hirschbeck. Sure, Petit dropped the ball, but it happened when Bell didn't even have his face-mask down, which kinda indicates to me that time had been called. And you can't commit a balk during a time-out. It certainly rattled Petit who, even though there was now a base open, served up a hanging fattie to Big Tex, and it was gratefully deposited in the right-field bleachers on a line, for his second long-ball of the day off Petit.
Petit escaped the third inning without further issues, but another homer left the park in the fourth, and Melvin was forced to turn to the bullpen again. They produced 4.1 innings of two-hit, shutout ball: a little surprised to see Edgar Gonzalez pulled after one inning and twelve pitches, with Arizona still down by four. Melvin was apparently willing to use another member of the pen instead: while most members have had a good bit of rest over the past couple of days, Peña is probably the man in most danger of over-use recently, so it might have been nice to avoid using him again.
Offensively, not much to speak of. The highlight undoubtedly came in the third inning where, with runners on the corners and two out, Hudson (on first) and Young (on third) executed a perfect double-steal. Braves catcher McCann didn't even look at third as he fired the ball back towards second, and the instant he did so, Young came charging down the line to steal home. That tied the game at two, and for a brief while, we looked like we might still be in this one. Indeed, we had taken the lead 1-0, before Teixeira's first homer, on an RBI double by Hudson which drove in Young.
Otherwise, little to speak of; Upton joined the KKK when facing Smoltz, and Reynolds looked equally poor against the veteran. Still, give them...fifty or sixty more at-bats, and it might be a more equal battle. We had our chances - leadoff double in the second, and got the tying run to the plate in the ninth - and had a startling seventeen at bats with runners in scoring position. However, we managed only two hits and, unlike Friday, the long-ball was all on Atlanta's side, so couldn't come to our rescue.
The question does have to be asked, whether the Petit Unit is going to be a credible option in the fifth spot of the rotation. Today was definitely not promising, though as it was his first outing up, some slack perhaps needs to be given. The problem is, it's just hard to think who else is a decent alternative. Nippert? Edgar Gonzalez? Someone up from Tucson? Really, all you can expect from a fifth starter is an ERA around 5.50, who might keep you in a game on a good day. We've got a bunch of those rattling around, both with the Sidewinders and at the back end of the bullpen, so probably not worth losing sleep over which one actually gets the starts.
The series was already in the bag, and the Padres won, so the lead comes back down to four games. Still, can't knock a road trip where you win both series, and we come back to Phoenix with a larger lead in the division than when we left. That, and a week crossed off the calendar, is entirely satisfactory; we're now getting to the point in the season where time becomes the best friend of the division leader, with every day where ground is not lost, almost as good as another victory. It is worth noting that we have seven games left against the Padres, but with a four-game lead, they would need to take six of those seven to wipe that out.
The GameDay Thread cruised past a hundred again; it's getting to the stage where I am almost expecting that, at least for as long as we are leading the division! Of course, maybe posting it eight hours before first pitch helped. ;-) DbacksSkins, hotclaws, Englishdback, LucaMaz3, andrewinnewyork, singaporedbacksfan, RJZ1977 [welcome!], seton hall snake pit, Ben, johngordonma, DBACKS KICK ARSE, Peachy, AZDarkKnight and the hob-nobbing with the President soco, were all enjoying the Sunday morning game. Shame we couldn't get a win: can't win 'em all. Winning two out of three, is more than acceptable.
[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Orlando Hudson, +17.8%
God-emperor of suck: Yusmeiro Petit, -39.8%
Honorary "Well done!": no award, since the next highest was +3.4%
Looks like Owings is indeed working on a new pitch. Well, according to pitching coach Bryan Price, he developed it last night in the middle of the game: "He did, I'm not lying. I'm sure he's thrown it before in his lifetime, but it's not a pitch we've been working on in the bullpen. He said he just pushed it back further in his hand and it took an extra six to eight mph off his changeup. He had command and he had arm speed and the delivery was the same. It's a useable pitch, if he can show that he can continue to command it." That could prove the key to Owings remaining a starter, since his armory has often proved deficient going through the order for the third time.
Congratulation to AZDarkKnight who won the drawing - well, to be honest, it was more of a coin toss - and will be joining me at the Cubs game on Saturday. I'll have to see if I can get an AZ SnakePit sign made up in time for that! soco has posted another diary on the "official" SnakePit get-together, so post thoughts and comments there. It should be fun.