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Diamondbacks 9, Cardinals 8 - Where to find the Arizona Wild Life

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Record: 80-63. Change on last season: +12. Pace: 91-71
Playoff odds: 79.0%. Playoff Magic Number: 15

Quote of the day: "This is the way our year's been. It's not like it's surprising. We get down. We come back. We win by one run. How many times have you seen that this year? We're used to it. It's not like it's a new situation for us." -- Conor Jackson

Of all the games for me to take a sabbatical, this was probably the... Well, either the worst or the best, depending on whether you're talking about excitement and action, or my stress levels. The first few innings were a roller-coaster - the Fangraph below is a fairly accurate assessment of things. And then the second half was yet another of those one-run games that we have come to know and, if not quite love, embrace as part and parcel of supporting the team. We are now 31-17 in them this year, and are on pace for 35. That'd be tied for the record in this field, since baseball went to a three-division format - most recently matched by the Chicago White Sox in 2005. They seemed to do pretty well in the post-season, as I recall.

Truly a game of two halves. It was as if the baseball gods turned the tap off in the middle of the fourth inning, to prevent any more base-runners:
First half: 17 hits, 6 walks, 2 HBP, 3 errors, 17 runs
Second half: 2 hits, 2 walks, 0 HBP, 0 errors, 0 runs

Not, of course, not that it meant this became dull in any way, as the Cardinals had the tying run at the plate for fifteen consecutive plate-appearances. Two evenings ago, Lyon probably had the tougher job, pitching the eighth, but last night, you can't argue with Valverde retiring Pujols, Edmonds and a pinch-hitter in order to nail down the ninth and claim his 44th save of the year.

In general, an excellent job by the pen, who allowed five hits, two walks and one run in 6.1 innings of work. However, we did use seven of their arms, which I believe ties a franchise record, in a nine-inning game. Dana Eveland was the pitcher of record, getting the final out of the fourth, before our comeback, and picks up the win for his two pitches of work. That isn't a franchise record: at least two (maybe three - records are not complete) D-backs hurlers have got the win for one pitch, most recently Scott Service on June 6th, 2004. However, none of them came into a game in the fourth inning. Technically, a pitcher could get the win without throwing a pitch, like Eveland recording one out, but on a pick-off - I can't find an example of that.

Much less impressive was Micah Owings, who failed to pitch past the third inning for a second start in a row. After a fine August, where he had an ERA of 3.03 in six starts, he has already allowed twelve runs in only 5.2 innings of work. Admittedly, five of those last night were unearned, but a) the error which caused them was his own, and b) good pitchers work around that, rather than allowing a three-run homer and a double to follow. He's going to need to shape up, because it doesn't matter how good a hitter you are, if you can't give the team more than three innings of work.

A lot of credit to the offense, for not going home after that nightmarish third inning, where the Cardinals posted a seven-spot on the board. An error by the catcher let Byrnes come home in the bottom half, and we then tied the game on Drew's three-run homer - the second such of the game, following one in the first by Jackson, which gave us an early 3-0 lead. Both men reached fifty RBIs for the season with their blasts. A by Montero, and pinch-hit single by Quentin completed our own big inning, putting us 9-7 up. Contributions came from all over, with every starter bar Montero getting a hit; Byrnes was the only one with two, and also reached on a walk.

Pretty quiet around here; seems like on Saturday night, it has become the fashion for runs to outnumber commentators. :-) Though as I sat this one out, I am in absolutely no position to criticize [Jet Li's Fearless is, in case you were wondering, a parade of martial-arts cliches, linked by really good fights, courtesy of Yuen Wo Ping, who also did The Matrix]. Thanks to those who did pop in: DiamondbacksWIn, Zephon, hotclaws, VIII, snakecharmer, andrewinnewyork, azdb7, batster, seton hall snake pit, Peachy, npineda (say hello to Satan!), soco, unnamedDBacksfan, carahan (Welcome, and thanks for the eyewitness news!) and TwinnerA.

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Conor Jackson, +32.3%
God-emperor of suck: Micah Owings, -47.9%
Honorary "Well done!": Jose Valverde, +16.9%

Now, that's a graph. With two gone in the St. Louis half of the third inning, we had a 79.2% chance of victory. By the next out, we'd lost 57% and were down at 21.9%. But before the end of the fourth inning, we were back up at 78.3% - almost as if nothing had happened at all. Miles' single to make it 9-8 brought the win percentage down to 58.2%, from where it steadily, if somewhat nervously, climbed towards the finish at 100%. If we don't see another graph like this the rest of the year, i doubt anyone will complain.

Almost 46,000 at the game last night, which takes the average for home games since the All-Star break up to 29,540 - that's 12.4% up on the 26,289 during the first half of the season. I think the cynical Phoenix population are finally beginning to be convinced that this team is really going to contend, and are scurrying to get on the bandwagon. Of course, bobbleheads, fireworks and cheap seats are probably doing no harm at all on this front, but it would be nice to have a genuine home-field advantage during the playoffs. Though that might be tough if we play the Cubs.

It's been confirmed, Edgar Gonzalez will start Tuesday game against the Giants in San Francisco. He's expected to be on a fairly-low pitch count, but now the rosters have expanded, that's probably less of a problem than it might be. Said EdGon, "The last three times when I started for (Randy Johnson), I was limited to 75 pitches. If they let me go, I could go 100 pitches. I wouldn't have any problem with that, but it depends on what they want." I wouldn't be surprised if Bill Murphy was the designated backup, as he hasn't pitched since last Monday, even in last night's "Bring me everyone!" scenario.

The same article linked above confirms what we already know, that O-Dawg will have season-ending surgery. Melvin said, "It is the type of surgery where the sooner you do it the better off you are and the better chance you have to rehabilitate it and get it healthy in a quicker period of time. He's distraught about the whole situation. He understands what he means to us, both in a leadership role and in a production role. He's one of our key guys. He understands what it means. But we have to move forward." Alberto Callaspo is scheduled to become the full-time starter; he's been held out because of a hamstring issue, and may get his first chance today.