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Diamondbacks 8, Pirates 0 - That's the way (uh-huh, uh-huh) I like it

Record: 89-70. Change on last season: +14. Pace: 91-71
Playoff odds: 84.4%. Playoff Magic Number: 2. Or maybe 3.

Quote of the day: "A lot went through my mind. I kinda went back to the fact that I have to do the best I can for the team. Any time I am given the opportunity I'm going to jump at it. It just ended up a day earlier than I expected this time" -- Micah Owings

We rolled the dice today, opting to start Owings instead of ace Brandon Webb. And, so far at least, the decision has come up double-six. Pwnings pitched shutout ball into the seventh, before a rain delay, backing up his complete game shutout in his previous outing. He allowed only four hits, walked none and the Pirates only got one runner into scoring position while he was on the mound. In his past two starts, he has now thrown 15.2 shutout innings, and allowed only six hits and no walks. Admittedly, the Giants and Pirates are hardly playoff contenders, but if serious consideration isn't being given to starting him ahead of Hernandez, should we reach the Promised Land, I'll want to know why.

Oh, and did I mention he also went 4-for-4? In the past 37 seasons, only ten pitchers have had four hit games. Micah Owings has now had two in six weeks. Unless he does any pinch-hitting in Colorado - and I really wouldn't bet against that - he'll finish batting .339 on the season. Just three pitchers with 60-plus plate appearances have done any better than that since 1958: Mike Hampton (.344 in 2002); Orel Hershiser (.356 in 1993); and Catfish Hunter (.350 in 1971). Most remarkably of all, Micah's OPS of 1.050 is the best by a full-time pitcher since Charlie Hickman for the 1899 Boston Beaneaters.To put that into context, it's heading towards the same ballpark as Ruth's 1919: the Babe had an OPS of 1.113, and an ERA under three in fifteen starts.

There were actually other players taking part - not that we really needed them, with our pitcher driving in three runs. Stephen Drew got the game off on the right foot, homering in the top of the first, and ended with three hits and three RBI. With any luck, Drew might finally be getting that hot streak we've been anticipating all season. Augie Ojeda also reached safely three times, on two hits and a walk. He has hit safely in twelve of the last thirteen games, and is batting .381 (16-for-42, with a BB:K ratio of 8:1) in that time. Less impressive was Chris Young who will be glad to get out of Pittsburgh, having gone 1-for-13 with four K's. Pestileñce, Bigfoot and the Petit Unit tidied up after the rain delay, leaving most of our A-bullpen rested and ready for action over the weekend.

Thanks to the Gameday Threaders, who kept things rolling on deep into the night, mulling over results elsewher (basically, all our rivals won) and the possibilities to come. Present were Ben, britdback, johngordonma, Adam, unnamedDBacksfan, Devin, DBACKS KICK ARSE, peeklay, TwinnerA, kalum, andrewinnewyork, Englishdback, singaporedbacksfan, soco, Stile4aly, DbacksSkins, Wimb, azdb7, Peachy, Diamondhacks, snakecharmer, icecoldmo, cj060896, Red Army, seton hall snake pit and batster. That may be the most people in a thread ever.

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Micah Owings (pitching), +22.2%
God-emperor of suck: Chris Snyder, -7.4%
Honorary goodness: Stephen Drew, +15.8% and Micah Owings (batting), +15.4%

With that win under our belt, the team moves on to Colorado (pausing only for some rookie hazing, though I've yet to see any pics of Upton in a baby outfit). The re-arrangement means the match-ups are as follows:

  • Webb (ERA+ 156) vs. Francis (114)
  • EdGon (100) vs. Redman (111)
  • Davis (111) vs. Jimenez (105)

Initially, it seems that today strongly favors us, but Webb's struggles against the Rockies (a 6.47 ERA in five starts this season) have been well documented. At first, I think that might be because the high altitude in Colorado diminished the effectiveness of breaking pitches like his sinker: overall in his career, he has a 4.40 ERA, the highest of any venue with more than three career starts. However, his three starts at Chase this year facing Colorado haven't gone well either: 21 IP, 14 ER on 21 hits and ten walks.

I like our chances on Saturday better. Redman's ERA+ above is based just on his four games this month for the Rockies. If you include his stint at the start of the year with the Braves, where he sucked totally, his ERA+ slumpts to 52. He has admittedly been a lot better with Colorado, but that's less than 15 innings, and he's pitching on short rest. He's probably also among the worst players ever to earn the label 'All-Star', getting into the 2006 game for Kansas, despite an ERA at the time of 5.27.

Sunday...well, hopefully we will have a playoff spot wrapped up by that stage, at the very least. But if not, Davis will be called upon to pitch the most important game of his career. According to Steve Gilbert, Davis think he figured out what caused the struggles early in September: his shoulder flew open, dragging his arm, which let hitters see the ball better. And he did pitch five innings last time, looking fairly good and settling down after a rocky first. Let's just hope he doesn't have a Rockie first on Sunday.

One more win. That's virtually all we need for the playoffs. Just one in the series at Colorado, and we should be good to go. Given that sole victory, here's how the math breaks down on that. One win gives us 90, and two keeps the Rockies at 89, so they're no longer relevant. The Padres would all but have to sweep Milwaukee over the weekend to take the title. Two wins ties them with us on 90, but in that scenario, we would probably be NL West champions because of the season series victory over them. There's one exception, which I'll get to in a moment: otherwise, they must sweep.

Then, there's the East. The good thing there is, whichever of the Mets and Phillies does best over the weekend will be the NL East champions. This eliminates them from the wild-card race, and they are no longer of interest to Arizona. Both are on 87 wins, so if both teams sweep, there would be a tie with Arizona (and possibly the Padres, if they end up on 90 wins too - the exception referred to above) for the wild-card, and also a tie for the NL East and perhaps NL West too. God knows how MLB would sort that one out, but it would seem to require delaying the Division Series until next Friday. At least the Rockies win eliminated the possibility of a five-way tie.

So, to sum up. If Arizona takes one game over the weekend, then one Mets or Phillies loss guarantees us playoff baseball. At least, I think that's the case. We were chewing over all this in the Gameday Thread yesterday, if anyone is interested in more details. Tylenol sold separately, shall we say: the possibilities are quite mind-bending. But it's great that, 98% of the way through the season, seven teams, almost half the National League, have a playoff spot possible, but nobody has one guaranteed. Is this the closest finish ever in the National League? It certainly promises to be one hell of a final weekend: you might want to stock up on all the soothing medication you can find.