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Diamondbacks 6, Cards 5 - Normal service has been resumed

Record: 81-63. Change on last season: +13. Pace: 91-71
Playoff odds: 85.1%. Playoff Magic Number: 14

Quote of the day: "I said a few weeks ago that the Cubs had the "destiny factor" going for them this year. Well scratch that.. these damn Snakes have it. When I look at their line-up I just don't see how this team keeps coming back game after game and winning all the time... and it hasn't just been against us this weekend. They just have that luck, magic whatever you want to call it all this year. Trust me, Arizona will be a dangerous team if they make the playoffs, especially in a short series." -- KY Cards, on Viva El Birdos

Winning by more than one run? It's vastly over-rated. Rack up our 32nd victory by the narrowest of margins this year, Arizona coming from behind with a four-run seventh inning, and then holding on as Jose Valverde walked in one run and put the tying man at third, before getting Molina to fly out for the final out. One of these days, we're going to sweep a series yet still get out-scored by the opposition, y'know. If any team is capable of performing a mathematical impossibility, it's this one.

It was looking plain sailing in the third. Young's 29th homer of the year had given us a 2-0 lead, and we'd succeeded in chasing their starter from the game, with a pinch-hitter in the on-deck circle. Davis, meanwhile had retired the Cardinals in order, both times he'd faced them, and had even legged out a fifty-foot infield single. Looking good, Arizona. That was, however, before the walk, double, triple, K, single, double, single and wild pitch. Seven batters faced: five hits, a walk and four runs scored. Men on second and third, one out, and a tentacle from last night's seven-run nightmare, languidly broke the surface.

Davis escaped that one, and also escaped the fourth, despite allowing more hits to the first two hitters there and leaving a man on third. He was then gone from the game, though the Cardinals also left men on third in both the fifth (Wickman getting his debut in a high-leverage, albeit definitely non-save situation) and sixth, against the Petit Unit. I was surprised to see Yusmeiro left in there for the seventh, but he got Pujols to fly out, and K'd Ludwick and Taguchi, though only after some significantly hard-hit foul balls. And we came back: Snyder doubled, Upton homered, Salazar doubled, Byrnes worked a good at-bat for a walk, and Clark connected for a two-run double down the right-field line to give us the lead. Pestileñce pitched a perfect eighth, and after we went down in order...

That ninth inning was a lot more fun to look back on, than to actually experience. Initially, it was "get a 1-2-3 inning, so we don't have to face Pujols as the tying run." And that's nearly the way it was, as Valverde got the first two batters, and went 0-2 on Edmonds. However, he doubled; no way we were going to let Pujols beat us, so the old "unintentional intentional walk" came into play, much to the disgust of the Cardinals fans behind us. Ludwick then managed to con the umpire into giving him a HBP call, though it was, by all accounts, a strike. Melvin came out to argue that one, to no avail - and even the Viva El Birdos commentors tended to agree.

Just to make things really interesting, Death got ahead 1-2 of 'pesky infielder' (TM, Craig Counsell Enterprises, 2001) David Eckstein, yet still ended up walking him with the bases loaded, making it a 6-5 game, and putting Pujols at third, as the tying run. Fortunately, he got Molina to fly out to Salazar near the right-field line, to end it. Pujols apparently gave Valverde the evil eye as he left the field, though that could have been for a number of reasons: walking Pujols, hitting Ludwick, or Papa Grande's usual post-save celebration. Me, I was too busy high-fiving complete strangers to notice whether Valverde did much or not.

Game Notes

  • Eric Byrnes looked very unimpressive in left-field, badly botching a couple of balls down the left-field line and allowing the runners to take extra bases. "Too busy counting his money," snorted Mrs. SnakePit, who has a low opinion of paying any player large sums of money. Except Albert Pujols. Who seems worth it.

  • Similarly, the route Justin Upton took to the ball in right, where he ended up slamming his knee, was...interesting. I think there's little doubt Jeff Salazar is the best defensive option there, though the two-run homer obviously scores a large number of brownie points.

  • Completing the survey of our outfielders, no complaints about Chris Young, who not only hit a two-run shot of his own, but played great defense, covering a lot of ground. His grab of Branyan's fly-ball at the deepest part of the park, subsequently doubling-off Taguchi, was fabulous. A rookie mistake by Taguchi to take off without waiting to see whether the ball was caught, showing ignorance about the park.

  • That HBP of Byrnes was clear payback by La Russa. I was thinking about that last night, after Eckstein got plunked, twice, and remembering the chapter in Three Nights in August, where La Russa talked about an incident where Luis Gonzalez was the target for retaliatory justice. [I've yet to read the whole book, though I want to do so, but you can see the relevant extract here] Eric Byrnes was the obvious target for today, and that's exactly what happened.

  • Kip Wells appears to be Micah Owings-esque as a hitter, singling nicely to left, and then flying out to very deep center field - he's a career .203 hitter. Add that to four innings of two hit, no walk ball, and I have to wonder why La Russa started Thompson at all. If he was a leftie, it would have made sense - juke us into stacking our lineup - but they're both right-handed. Oh, and the pitcher batted eighth, which I've never seen before "live".

  • Random thoughts on our relief corps. Wickman a little wild, but effective enough. The Petit Unit not fooling anyone, with a lot of long outs, but two innings of one-hit ball. Pestileñce as good as I've seen him in a good while. And despite his struggles, Valverde threw strike one to six of the seven hitters faced - the exception being to start the four-pitch walk to Pujols.

  • Clark now has 14 homers in his 46 hits - 30.4% of his knocks have left the yard. The only other players with more than ten homers, who're above 30% are Barry Bonds (31.1%), Carlos Pena (31.9%), Ryan Howard (30.6%) and A-Rod (31.3%). Oh, and when he hit the game-winning runs today, there were two on, two out, two men in, and it was a 2-2 count. So what did he do? Smack a two-run, two-bagger, of course!

  • Definitely a much more relaxed atmosphere at Chase Field. Unlike the last time - when the Cubs were in town - I was not made to turn out my pockets before getting into the park, and was even waved to my seat by the usher without having to show my ticket.

  • 35,136 on hand, bringing the post-All Star attendance up to 29,671. Good to see them learning when to cheer, without being prompted, and the entire crowd was on its feet for all of the last out of the ninth inning. Which, of course, only took Valverde five batters to get. :-)

  • That may be the first time I've seen the wave bring the team good luck, just before Upton's homer in the seventh, and the resulting four-run charge. Mind you, it reached its peak during one of La Russa's interminable mid-inning pitching changes, so that's probably safe enough, since the baseball gods probably hate those too.

  • Go spend $3, get this month's Diamondback Insider and turn to page 69, where there's a full-page interview with yours truly about the SnakePit. I may have mentioned this before, but it's the first time I've seen it, so sue me! Mrs. SnakePit liked the fact she was mentioned. Twice. Okay, you can just sneak into the Team Shop and read a copy there...

So where was everyone today? Last Sunday, 320 comments; today, 37. Wow. I know some of us were at the game, and others have already offered their excuses, you want me to get Grace and Sutton to go on a rant about attendance? :-) Still, thanks for those who did pop in: johngordonma, unnamedDBacksfan, hotclaws, snakecharmer, VIII, Wimb, britdback, seton hall snake pit, DbacksSkins, andrewinnewyork (oh, snap!), singaporedbacksfan and soco. No excuses tomorrow night. We face the mild challenge of the Giants and Lincecum, and I'll be expecting doctor's notes from anyone not present. Myself, included.

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Justin Upton, +26.1%
God-emperor of suck: Doug Davis, -23.5%
Honorary "Well done!": Tony Clark, +20.2%

We sweep the Cardinals, run our streak to five wins in a row, and see our two closest rivals in the division go down. At one point, I looked at the board, and all the top three teams in the NL West, ourselves, the Dodgers and Padres, were losing by the same score, 4-2. Fortunately, in one of those cases, that's not how the game ended. Atlanta also lost, though the Phillies won, and close up on the Padres and Dodgers in the wild-card race. The important thing is, however, we now lead our division by three games, with San Diego shrinking in the rear-view mirror. That's the biggest edge since the end of the Cubs series, and we've crossed twelve games off the calendar since then. So, fingers crossed...