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Diamondbacks 5, Giants 8 - Foul Pestileñce

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Record: 84-67. Change on last season: +12. Pace: 90-72
Playoff odds: 76.1%. Playoff Magic Number: 10

Quote of the day: "Tony was the guy who was hot and ready to go. We've used both of those guys [in that situation]. Tony's numbers are a little bit better against some of [the Giants]. He's been so good for us all year, and it just didn't work out this time -- Bob Melvin

If - and I stress that, if - the Arizona Diamondbacks do not make the post-season, then we may well look back on the eighth inning of tonight's encounter as a crucial turning point. The team had done what they do best, clawing their way back into the game after going 3-1 down, to take a 5-3 lead into the eighth. Enter Tony Peña:

  • Frandsen was hit by a pitch.
  • Roberts walked on four pitches, Frandsen to second.
  • Davis struck out.
  • Winn homered to center on a 0-2 count, Frandsen scored, Roberts scored.
  • Molina grounded out, shortstop Drew to first baseman Cirillo.
  • Schierholtz doubled to center.
  • Feliz homered to left on the first pitch, Schierholtz scored.

In just 17 pitches, a 5-3 lead that would have kept us two games clear of the Padres, became an 8-5 loss that leaves us only one game ahead, and losing our heads - four defeats in the past six games - when all about us are keeping theirs (Philles have won five in a row, Padres four). Sure, we are still ahead, and the Postseason Odds still like us. But...if it all goes belly-up, I am prepared. I'm just sayin'.

Got to question Melvin's pitcher management again in this one. Two particular aspects come to mind: leaving Peña in there too long, and putting him in there to begin with. Juan Cruz had just mown the Giants down on eleven pitches in the seventh, and was on three days' rest. He hadn't been batted for in our half of the inning - his spot was due up next when it ended - so, as far as I can see, no reason he shouldn't have been rolled out there again for the eighth.

And after Peña's first five pitches were all wide of the zone, hitting one batter and walking the next, Melvin should have been doing all he could to stall, up to and including faking cardiac arrest in the dugout. Because it was painfully clear to everyone in Chase Field, that Pestileñce be illin'. Maybe Lyon couldn't have got ready in time for Winn, but what part of the 0-2 pitch leaving the yard was in any way unclear? Leaving Peña in there to turn a one-run game into a three-run deficit is not Manager of the Year material. Bruce Bochy, I notice, managed to have a steady stream of relievers ready when needed, using six to get through only 55 pitches. To quote Desmond Llewellyn's final line as Q, "Always have an escape plan."

It would be wrong to blame Peña and Melvin entirely for the defeat. Our batters didn't seem to show up for the first five innings, with the only hit off Correia to that point, an RBI single by the Littlest Ballplayer, Augie Ojeda. Despite that, we still had our chances: after Ojeda's hit, Correia then walked Webb, Brandon's first free pass in 101 plate appearances, dating back to August 12th last year. But Stephen Drew could do nothing with the bases-loaded opportunity - not for the only time that night, as he also popped up weakly in the same situation to end the sixth. He went 0-for-5 with six men left on base, and the top third of the order, including pinch-hitters, was 1-for-15, with the only hit an infield single for Byrnes.

A quality start from Webb, but he was gone after 83 pitches, the third sub-ninety outing in a row [this time, he was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the sixth, Montero walking with the bases-loaded]. He wasn't helped by some shaky defense: looked like Clark should have got to Roberts' triple down the line opening the game, and a bobble by Drew in the Giants two-run fourth turned a double-play into a force-out. Six hits, one walk and three earned run in six innings: not a bad outing, even if not ace-like.

The only time this felt like the D-backs team I've grown to know and love this year was in the seventh. Byrnes beat out an infield single, Clark got his fifth walk in four games [worthy of note, since he only had thirteen in the first 101 - fewer walks than homers!], Reynolds tied the game with a single down the line, and Young followed with a two-run triple. That's the kind of gutsy performance, coming back from a deficit, we wanted to see but it just wasn't going to be our day. And for the first time in a while, I am seriously wondering whether it's going to be our season...

Game Notes

  • We were there courtesy of Ray, the husband of one of Mrs. Snakepit's workmates. He was wearing a Giants shirt: not that he's really a D-backs fan, but he has vowed to cheer against the D-backs. When I've got more time, I'll tell that story, which dates back to the 2001 playoffs, and involves - surprise, surprise! - a very poor experience at the hands of stadium staff.

  • The seats were down the left-field line, in row 11; pretty good for $20. However, we discovered that one row in front of us, the seats cost $60. The only advantages: slightly wider seats with more legroom and waitress service. Though I'm not sure about the latter being a genuine advantage, with its $11.90 beers - including compulsory 19% "service charge", but excluding optional gratuity.

  • Truly bad rendition of the National Anthem. Memo to singer (Jessica Schall, I think): this is not an audition for American Idol, in which you must show off your vocal range and warbling capacities. It is not about you.. Pick a note, and stick with it.

  • When our ace notched his first K, they played a graphic on the Jumbotron of three balls getting caught in a web...accompanied by a snipped of the theme from Spiderman. Hang on: shurely shome mishtake there?

  • They played the new D-backs song. Meh. Not really my cup of tea, and I can't say I'm too impressed with "I back, you back, we all back the D-backs." Lerner and Loewe, it is not.

  • Roof was open, which was a surprise, but it was a very pleasant night for baseball. Since temperatures are not expected to break 100, we might see a lot more of that this week, with the possible exception of Sunday's afternoon game.

Thanks to those who occupied the Gameday Thread in my absence. Ended up almost reaching three hundred, which is particularly credible after a slow start. snakecharmer, LucaMaz3, singaporedbacksfan, Devin, Stile4aly, hotclaws, unnamedDBacksfan, DbacksSkins, cj060896, dahlian, VIII, suitsmetoATnT, venomous1987 (welcome!), soco, nargel and TwinnerA were present, so thanks to them - even if the conversation drifted to Monday Night Football a little too often for my tastes...

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Chris Young, +24.0
God-emperor of suck: Tony Peña, with what appears to be an all-time record:
Honorary suckage: Stephen Drew, -27.6%

Yes, between the two of them, Drew and Pestileñce combined for -104.9% of Win Probability. Well done. You must get up very early.

I thought a pennant race was supposed to be fun. This doesn't feel very "fun" at the moment, perhaps because of this nagging doubt that we're not supposed to be here. It feels like we've stowed away on the good ship S.S. Postseason, but word has reached the captain, and he's doing a security sweep to weed out any interlopers before leaving port. Will we get caught and dumped overboard? Or end up sipping margaritas on deck, and dancing till dawn? Paolo Boivin has a nice article on the topic, summing up the situation. We're still in first. We still are 2.5 games up on the Phillies, with only 11 games to play. But can anyone put their hand on their hard and say this feels like a playoff team?

Still, stay strong, and stay firm. That applies to both the players and the fans. If we can simply return to our form of the first two weeks of September, we should be fine: the Padres and Phillies won't win out the rest of the way. But last night's defeat throws us back to where we were before Sunday's game: while tonight may not be a "must win", victory would certainly be really, really helpful.