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Diamondbacks 6, Dodgers 1 - And breathe...

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Record: 84-66. Change on last season: +13. Pace: 91-71
Playoff odds: 85.4%. Playoff Magic Number: 10

Quote of the day: "Was it must win? No. We could have lost this game and still been in first place. But to be able to take this from the Dodgers and finish the road trip .500 and go back home - this was a really big win for us." -- Eric Byrnes

We'll all sleep a little easier tonight, as Arizona pulled out the final win of the Dodgers series, avoided a sweep, and come back to Phoenix with a 3-3 split of the games on the road-trip. Twelve games to go, and I think six wins should be enough to see us enter the p...Promised Land. Best I dare not speak their very name for the next week or so, in case the Baseball Gods take affrontery at such reckless confidence. Be nice if they could clinch next Sunday, at the SnakePitFest, though that's going to take us pretty much sweeping our way through the Giants and Dodgers, with the Phillies chipping in some losses along the way.

All hail Edgar 'The Paramedic' Gonzalez, who once again came into a game when all seemed, if not perhaps lost, at least a bit wobbly, and righted the ship with a sturdy outing. He gave us five innings of one-run ball, the only damage a solo homer to Furcal, on six hits and a walk. EdGon's record is now 7-0 since his last loss, all the way back on April 21st. That undefeated streak now covers twenty-six games, six starts and 70.1 innings: however, overall, our record this season when he appears is only 11-19. And Edgar has eight of those eleven victories.

I'm wondering if he might be a better #4 option in the Promised Land, over Micah. As a starting point for discussion, here are their two lines:
E. Gonzalez: ERA 3.90, WHIP 1.21, Opp: .254/.302/.459
M. Owings: ERA 4.81, WHIP 1.38, Opp: .264/.341/.464

I should also point out that WHIP doesn't take into account Micah's tendency to let batters on by plunking them; he leads the NL with 14, better than one every ten innings, while EdGon has only four in 95.2 innings. However, further discussion of this topic will begin in a diary, once it's no longer tempting fate. :-)

Admittedly, this afternoon, the Paramedic was helped by Snyderman doing his job beautifully, and gunning-down two runners. Pierre was trying to steal, while Jeff Kent was just caught wandering too far from first. There was also a pair of double-plays, probably none bigger than Mike Lieberthal rolling into a twin-killing in the fifth. That came after the Dodgers had got their first two aboard, to put the tying run on first with no outs. Rather than bunting, Lieberthal was swinging; Ojeda, Drew and Jackson gobbled the result up.

That was huge, coming on the heels of our own blown opportunity. Walks to Jackson and Reynolds chased Loaiza with two out, and reliever Hull promptly walked Drew to load the bases. But Young couldn't do anything with the opportunity - he had a miserable day at the plate, going 0-for-5 with two K's, a GIDP, and eight men left on base. We got a valuable insurance run from a welcome source in the sixth; Chad Tracy, activated before the game, pinch-hit and singled Snyder home. And Stephen Drew made the margin comfortable with a two-run single in the top of the ninth: he reached base safely four times, on three walks and that hit.

Esteban Loaiza joined an elite club, allowing seven walks and only one hit in a start. That's something only six men have done since 2001: the last two such outings both belong to Oliver Perez, most recently on April 11th this year. The last to give up more than seven was Ted Lilly on June 17, 2001, who walked eight in 5.1 innings of one-hit ball. And, of course, A.J.Burnett walked nine in his no-hitter on May 12th of the same year. Arizona had difficulty talking advantage of these free passes: fortunately, the sole hit off Loaiza was Snyder's 13th homer of the year, a three-run shot, that was all the offense Arizona would need today. He had two hits, getting his OPS up to .782, almost the highest it's been since the first week of the season. [It cratered at .547 on May 19, since when he has hit .279, with an OPS above .850]

The Padres and Phillies both finished off their sweeps, so nothing much changes in the standings. That helps AZ, since we get to cross one more day off the calendar. Twelve left: six at home, six away. Six against teams below .500; six against winning teams. Hold tight, and keep telling yourself, "It's fun to be in a pennant race. It's fun to be in a pennant race." This team has been nothing but a roller-coaster this year. When they're hot...five winning streaks of six games or more. But the good news is, they've avoided long losing streaks since the All-Star break: three is the high in the second half, compared to three streaks of five losses in the first half. Today's win also means we haven't been swept in the second half either.

An, er, 'lively' Gameday Thread, in which unnamedDBacksfan, DbacksSkins and Dahlian got into a feisty but interesting debate over the relative merits of Justin Upton and Jeff Salazar. I lean towards Salazar, simply because you know what you'll get with him; okay at-bats and solid defense, and that reliability is very helpful right now. Upton, might go 3-for-4 or 0-for-5, but its his defense that probably concerns me more. Anyway. Also in the thread, just not quite as argumentative: snakecharmer, LucaMaz3, Dr Robert (welcome!), hotclaws, seton hall snake pit, singaporedbacksfan, soco, peeklay and VII.

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Chris Snyder, +20.4%
God-emperor of suck: Chris Young, -13.9%
Honorary quite goodness; Edgar Gonzalez, +18.5%

Finally, I liked this report from Rick Hummel in the St.Louis Post-Dispatch:

Arizona's current .248 team batting average would be the lowest for the winner of any division in the league since the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers captured the West and then went on to win the World Series over Tony La Russa's Oakland Athletics. There hasn't been a lower one since the 1973 New York Mets scruffed their way to a .246 average, yet won the National League championship and took the A's to seven games in the World Series.

The teams with the two lowest batting averages to win league championships are the 1906 Chicago White Sox (.230) and 1968 Detroit Tigers (.235). As encouragement to the Diamondbacks, both teams also won World Series titles. The "Hitless Wonders" White Sox took out the Cubs and the Tigers, as many will recall ruefully, beat the Cardinals in seven games in 1968.