Record: 61-50. Change on last season: +5. Pace: 89-73
Playoff odds: 27.7%. Playoff Magic Number: 51
Quote of the day: "I threw a lot of junk out there. I tried to keep it down in the zone and keep them off balance. That's what pitching is, and I executed tonight." -- Doug Davis
Baseball and football share something: they are sports where a lack of scoring doesn't necessarily translate into a dull game. An NBA game that finished 20-18 would be atrocious, and it's hard to imagine a 3-0 NFL game being considered a classic. But there's nothing like a classic pitcher's duel: the two starters here combined for 15.2 innings of eight-hit ball, with 12 K's and only Snyder's homer to separate them. And it was utterly enthralling. I didn't intend to watch this game. Heck, we had Mustang Sally's Horror House all cued up and ready to go. But there was no way I could turn off a 0-0 game, with our possession of sole first place atop the division at stake. [And I'd like to thank Doug Davis and Chad Billingsley for their efforts, at least delaying our exposure to that particular inept piece of low-budget film-making.]
Davis was imperial out there, hitting his spots, and flummoxing the Dodger hitters. DbacksSkins waxed lyrical: "I do believe that Doug Davis' curveball, when thrown for a strike, is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in baseball." Hard to argue with that - though I love Hernandez 2.0's 59 mph junk curve too. Once again, the key to Davis was not walking people: last night, there was only one free pass, the least is an outing for Double-D since June 19. I've mentioned this before, but it's worth mentioning again: the less he walks, the better the results.
- When Davis wins: 2.80 walks per nine innings
- When Davis gets ND: 4.66
- When Davis loses: 6.63
The sole moment of concern was in the first, where Pierre stole second with one out, despite being picked off by Davis. Another pickoff throw by Davis, which Hudson clanked, let Pierre reach third with two outs, but Saenz flew out to right to end the threat. That was the only time either team got a runner into scoring position all night, though it was a game neither Hudson nor Jackson will want to remember for their defense, both botching plays in embarrassing fashion. Davis had another pickoff in the seventh, but Martin simply ran around Jackson back to the bag: fortunately, Davis repeated the exercise immediately, and this time we executed. [Davis's six pickoffs this year lead all major-leaguers] Eric Byrnes made an all-or-nothing grab of a Nomar liner in the 7th: though he might have been wiser not to risk it, and allow the single.
Meanwhile, we were struggling against Billingsley almost as much. getting only four hits through seven innings. But Chris Snyder continued his great hitting streak - he's batting .372 since the All-Star break) with his 9th home-run of the year, that just stayed fair enough down the left-field line. I liked his post-game comments: "I can tell you until I'm blue in the face that my main focus is on my defense, which it is. But come on, who wants to hit .200? Nobody wants to hit .200. I just want to go out there and swing it like everybody else. Don't get me wrong, I love putting up shutouts, but I'd also like to go 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs." I think last night we got the best of both worlds: a beautifully-called outing, and the game-winning hit.
Mrs. SnakePit will attest how clammy my hands were for the ninth inning though. Valverde entered, having blown the last two save attempts he'd faced. In a one-run game. And facing the top of the opposition order. All told, things could hardly have been tougher if his child had been kidnapped by Dodgers' management - but he mowed them down, on two strikeouts and a flyball to left. That locked down a crucial win, to keep us atop the division, and dropped the Dodgers back into third, with the Padres moving ahead of them. And don't look now, but the Rockies are still hanging around, 3.5 games back.
Our lead is now 1.5 games, as big as it has been all year, and at 11 games above .500, we're also closing on a season-high. Interesting comment by fjm235 on the graph posted yesterday, plotting our progress compared to previous season: "A major test of resistance level is looming. A successful thrust through previous highs would be very bullish, especially if accompanied by high volume (i.e., lots of runs)." I like the idea of applying stock-market analysis to baseball metrics. Currently, if we can get a split of the next two games, I really like our chances, as the schedule bends in our favor after that, with nine games in a row against teams well below .500.
That was our second 1-0 victory inside two months, following the June 6th one over the Giants - that's more of them than than we had in the three seasons from 2004-2006 combined. We've only had nine such wins in franchise history; three against San Francisco. On the other hand, we've lost eighteen of them. Arizona has never played a combined one-run game against Colorado, and the only such against the Padres was two weeks into franchise history, back in April 1998.
My tidy sensisibilities are slightly offended by the GameDay Thread stopping at 96 comments - four below the nice, round hundred managed the previous two days. I'm tempted to go and add some random ones myself, just to get it to three figures. ;-) Thanks to Wimb (who arrived, checked in, and apparently passed out!), hotclaws, DbacksSkins, johngordonma, Ben and AZDarkKnight for their contributions. Skins has beek kind enough to invite me to see the UofA/ASU gridiron game, and I've accepted. No idea when that is, though: hopefully when it's no longer 110 degrees or 100 humidity though! Beers are on me, Skins...
[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Doug Davis, +59.9%
God-emperor of suck: Eric Byrnes, -11.0%
Honorary "Well done!": Chris Snyder (+20.0%), Jose Valverde (+21.1)
A lot of moves yesterday by the Diamondbacks. As noted, they picked up Cirillo and Kim off the waiver wire, from Minnesota and Florida respectively. I think it's safe to say opinion, especially on the latter move, is "divided". But they basically costs us nothing more than their salaries for the balance of the season, which is only about 800K for Kim, and 500K for Cirillo. While everyone remembers Kim's World Series meltdowns, he was a very good pitcher for Arizona overall, with an ERA+ of 140 - third-best in franchise history, among players with 100 innings, trailing only Randy and Curt. And in thirteen starts for the Marlins this year, his ERA+ is 100. If he can reproduce that down the stretch, it'll be entirely acceptable.
The trade of Kim is particularly ironic, given the Marlins got him in a trade for former D-back Jorge Julio. Putting it all together, the sum of these deals means that we swapped Petit and Kim for Julio, and didn't have to pay a good chunk of salary in the process. Getting two starting pitchers plus cash for one washed-up reliever...got to tip your hat to the front-office staff for that piece of legerdemain. Petit has been optioned down to Tucson, but we'll see him again next season, there's little doubt of that. Let's hope that, rather than Owings, was the right choice, and that Micah's last outing is a sign of things to come: I'm much less certain of this.
To make room for Cirillo, we DFA'd DaVanon, so we got our wish there, and so I'll be ending the DFAVanon watch. Assuming that's the last of him, we paid DaVanon about $180,000 for each hit he got this year... Kinda odd to replace an outfielder with an infielder, which makes me suspect this isn't the end of it: I strongly agree with shoe, who predicted in the diary that Salazar will get called up, with the plummeting Reynolds sent back to experience life in Tucson. Otherwise, we'll be very thin in the outfield, with Quentin DL'd and Hairston now smacking homers for the Padres [he only has two hits so far, but both left the park, including a walk-off shot to end it last night]. On the 40-man roster, we DFA's Barden, and moved Randy Johnson to the 60-day DL.