Record: 74-57. Change on last season: +10. Pace: 92-70
Playoff odds: 73.9%. Playoff Magic Number: 27
Quote of the day: "I finally actually hit a home run with some people on base. It was a good day to come through offensively... It's been like that all year. We don't win our games by eight, nine runs every time. We have to battle; we have to grind. That's the way we've been getting our wins. We've been doing it all year, and we've got to continue doing it." -- Chris Young
To flip a quote from Dickens, "It was the worst of times. It was the best of times." The top of that first inning was such an appalling display of incompetence, on the mound and in defense, that it quite put me off my garlic fries - I refused to touch them until Chris Young his his 27th homer to lead off the bottom of the first. But from then on, this was a game that just got better and better. Except for the ninth, however: I was entirely convinced that was a disaster of epic proportions unfolding, until that beautiful strike-out (of a hitter who has only 10 K's in 31 games), throw-out double-play. High-fives were exchanged with complete strangers after that. And Clark then sprawled to block Jones' ground-ball, and secure the win.
That looked pretty unlikely in the middle of the first, as Chicago leaped out to a three-run lead. Petit walked the lead-off man, an attempted pickoff clanked off Jackson's glove for an error, Jones singled and the run scored, with Jones ending up at third as Drew threw wildly into the dugout. A ground-out brought Jones home and Floyd homered to make it 3-0 Cubs, with two outs in the first. Way to secure your spot in the rotation, Petit Unit. I fear he must be missing his friends down in Tucson, because that's the way he's pitching of late. Thankfully, you only need four starters in the playoffs.
However, by the end of the second, Arizona was back on top, 5-3. Young homered to lead-off the bottom of the first - homer #27 - and after Cirillo singled Drew home in the second, Young added #28, with two men aboard. Yes: you read that right. With men aboard. That's the first one this month, and he's now hit nine in August. It's the first one with two on base since April 6, his very first of the year. It put him in the top ten on the all-time franchise single-season list (alongside Gonzalez v.2002), and he's on pace to hit 35. That would be equal fourth, trailing only Gonzo v.2001, Jay Bell (1999) and Troy Glaus. And did I mention Young is only 23? Those Mike Cameron comparisons now seem a ridiculous under-estimate: Cameron only passed twenty-five homers once in his career, and in his age 23 season, managed exactly one hit.
Lee's inside-the-park homer made the score 5-4, and it's a play that's always fun to watch, even when it goes against you. BCB tells me that apparently, it's the first for a Cub since 2001 - and the last time Lee had one, it was off...Jason Marquis. Oh, the irony. The responsibility for the one today probably needs to be laid at the door of Byrnes, who was basically standing and watching things unfold, and was utterly unprepared for the ricochet that took both Young and Salazar out of the picture. He should definitely have been backing up the play.
Petit was yanked for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the fourth, having allowed four runs on five hits and two walks in four innings. Ick. Not so good. The pinch-hitter was Micah Owings, which got everyone in the crowd abuzz: unfortunately, he was actually sent up to bunt. Even more unfortunately, his bunt attempt went about eighteen inches, and Blanco gunned down the lead-runner at third. Petit could have done that. Actually he did, when he batted in the bottom of the second, with runners on first and second, and one out. Owings should have swung away. ;-)
To replace Petit, we saw Edgar Gonzalez. The last time we saw him in a close game was bailing out Kim's start at Chase: coincidentally, we were at that game too, and EdGon got the win in both games. He pitched 2.2 scoreless innings that evening, and added another two, priceless zeroes today, Given his other four outings in August have seen him come in with Arizona down by a combined 23 runs, I think he has probably earned his way to pitching in some higher-leverage situations. Maybe even a start next Friday? His August ERA is 4.73, which would certainly an improvement over the two-headed PetitKimZilla monster we've thrown out there of late.
On the other hand, Pestileñce's stock continues to fall. His velocity is there, but either he's not locating or he's coming down with a case of Daigleitis, whose fastball was once memorably described (I forget by who) as, "straighter than a moose's dick in mating season." Peña is just not fooling anyone. I was surprised to see him in a one-run game, and three of the four batters he faced in the eighth crushed the ball. One bounced the ball into the pool area for a ground-rule double, and it took a miraculous catch by Salazar - one of the plays of the season - to retire Jones and preserve the one-run lead. Turnabout is fair play though: Jones robbed Snyder of an RBI with a phenomenal diving grab in the third.
Lyon gave us a merciful 1-2-3 eighth, before Valverde came in and allowed back-to-back singles, putting the tying run at second with no outs. Cue chaos, carnage, anarchy, cats and dogs living together, and one of the most memorable, delightful final three outs I've ever experienced. While yesterday's game was probably a tenser affair, this was truly a game that reminded me why I love the game of baseball, which pulls on your emotions like a vindictive mistress. I'm normally a fairly phlegmatic person, but I think I experienced more mood-swings in that ninth inning than in the rest of my life over the past ten years. I went from being prepared to kill Valverde to wanting to bear his children. Just another JV save situation, basically.
I think there were indeed some "issues" at Friday night's game. Both Saturday and Sunday, I was asked to turn out my pockets on the way into Chase for inspection: something that has never happened to me ever before, even during the post-9/11 playoffs. So I suspect orders had come down to tighten up security.
If Valverde has blown the save, I know exactly the cause: the idiotic wave which started during the seventh inning. I was certain that was going to bring down the wrath of the baseball gods, and it took loud internal prayers of apology, and the pledging of several other internal organs (see yesterday) to avoid such a fate.
You know I thought it was loud yesterday? It was even louder today: you couldn't even hear Kendall being announced in the ninth, fans of both teams were cheering so loudly. I'm willing to admit, our supporters could do with being more vocal in support of the team, but this weekend was definitely a step forward in that direction. They got loud when necessary, not when the Jumbotron said to. Go, us.
On the other hand, it all proved a little too much for at least one spectator
I really don't think I've seen anyone over the age of five actually fall dead asleep during a game before!
Today was the big "Grace's Place" event up on the third level. Not sure how much coverage there was on TV, but it didn't get mentioned that much during the game: they had the hot-dog race and Intensely Different Fan feature from up there; save that, and some banners hung over the edge. Otherwise, not much made of it.
The National Anthem was sung by a little girl, Payton Stanley, I think? I got utter goosebumps, and I'm not sure why: her voice was not perfect, but certainly good enough, and you could still hear the crowd singing quietly along in the background. Very, very cool.
Monumental effort in the Gameday Thread, smashing all records as we roared past three hundred comments for the first time ever. LucaMaz3, DbacksSkins, soco, johngordonma, britdback (welcome - we survived your bad omenness!), hotclaws, Peachy, DBACKS KICK ARSE, batster, TwinnerA, icecoldmo, DbacksSkins (who invoked St. Penelope - and see, five shutout innings from the 'pen), Englishdback, Muu and VIII. Padres lose. Lead back up to three. That pesky #5 spot out of the way for the San Diego series. Mets lost, so we're back to the best record in the NL. If the playoffs began tomorrow, we'd be playing the Cubs. That'd be fun. :-)
[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Chris Young: +30.3%
God-emperor of suck: Yusmeiro Petit: -16.7%
Honorary "Well done!": Edgar Gonzalez: +15.3%
As noted by DbacksSkins, another winning series, despite Arizona being out-scored 10-11. Even BCB Al said, "Frankly, except for their bullpen, which is outstanding, I don't see how they are 17 games over .500 with a -32 run differential. Sooner or later that's going to come back and bite them in the butt." I think we've given up analyzing it; it's been happening, basically since the start of the year (April, only scored seven more runs than the opposition, but went 16-11). Indeed, it's become something of a badge of honor that we're slaughtering the sabermetric sacred cow with such enthusiasm.
Micah Owings to play the field? Possibly. Melvin "could move Owings into the field for a tough left-handed batter and then bring him back to pitch. 'If that's something that next year we feel like [doing] ... there's no doubt in my mind he could probably play a position. We just don't need him to do that right now,' said Melvin". It would certainly be an interesting approach, give us more flexibility: it'd be rare in the modern era.
Rare, but not unheard of. There have been cases where pitchers have come in, and then moved to the outfield, such as Chuck McElroy for the Mets on August 8, 1999, who pitched, then moved to LF in a blowout game. Todd Worrell did something similar a few times for the Cardinals in the late '80's too. The masterpiece of such things, however, is the Mets/Reds game of July 22, 1986, where Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell swapped P and RF positions several times, based on what batter was up.
Oh, yeah: Kim is back with the Marlins. Mrs. SnakePit texted me during last night's game with the news. God knows who's responsible for his salary now. :-) Doesn't look like anyone bit on Joe Kennedy, though I see Jeff DaVanon is now with the A's, and batting .300. After today, both with the bat (two hits) and that miraculous save in the field, I think I'd rather have Salazar.
Finally, someone was asking for the info on the poster who was wanting photos from this weekend's games: stumbled across it in an earlier post: the email is email@example.com, with the website lifeislikebaseball.blogspot.com. And on to San Diego it is!