That was a great deal of fun. We packed up the car around 10:15 am, picked up Mrs. SnakePit's mother [who had been recruited to join us at the last moment], then drove over to Maryvale, where the sundry individuals there were already well under way with the grilling process. Beers were consumed, dead animals in various stages of incineration were consumed, and were were even graced with a quick visit by Doug Davis's father, Mike, who swung by on his way to the stadium. It was, of course, something of a return to old haunts for Davis, who pitched for the Brewers from July 2003 through the end of 2006, compiling a 37-36 record in 111 starts for them.
Pre-game autograph action
In today's game, Davis was basically a carbon-copy of the version we saw in the 2007 season: control problems [three walks in four innings], far too many runners on base [six hits as well], yet somehow he managed to minimize the damage [only two earned runs]. He wasn't helped by a dreadful clank of a pickoff throw off Trot Nixon's glove at first-base, but he was almost at his ninety-pitch limit for the day, by the time he was pulled for a pinch-hitter. Apart from Nixon's muff, he was definitely bailed out by the defence, with the infield turning a couple of solid double-plays, and Justin Upton making a fine diving catch in the outfield.
Said Davis after the game, "I didn't really have the fastball command that I want. Luckily, I had two other pitches that I was able to throw for strikes with my changeup and my cutter. My curveball was pretty good today. It was pretty sharp. I felt pretty good with it. I got my work in and I believe I'm ready for the season." He'll likely have one more start - I imagine Friday at Chase against the Rockies - but overall, his stats this spring have been adequate. Indeed, 11 hits in 13 innings is not a bad rate; the ten walks he's allowed are the main object of concern, but if he can manage to maintain his 4.15 Cactus League ERA for the whole season, I think we'll be happy.
The bullpen which followed to the mound was a mix of the good, the bad [in a Michael Jackson sense] and the ugly. Jailen Peguero looked pretty good, bringing the heat with a 1-2-3 fifth inning, and Juan Cruz was downright nasty in the sixth, also retiring all three hitters he faced, two of them on strikeouts. However, my first look at Leo Rosales - the broken-handed pitcher we got in the trade for Scott Hairston - was far from impressive. He allowed a hit, tagged another batter, then allowed a three-run homer, and not even to someone impressive like Prince Fielder. It was instead to Rickie Weeks, who hadn't played for a week because of an injury, and the general opinion afterwards was that we should ask for Hairston back. Goocher finished off the game for Arizona, using his side-arm action for a scoreless inning.
These we have loved
It was also a return of sorts for former Diamondbacks favorite, Craig Counsell (above) - this will be his ninth consecutive season playing for either Milwaukee or Arizona. He received a warm ovation from both teams' fans, both when his name was announced and when he went up for his first at-bat. Despite the love-in, and the run he drove in early on, this is probably not a game he will want to remember, as he made three errors in the middle innings, none of them on particularly difficult plays. Interestingly, I note that the Brewers also batted their pitcher, Jeff Suppan, eighth: this might have thrown Doug Davis off, as he walked Suppan on four straight balls first time up. "Okay, I'll give their #8 guy a free pass so I can go after their pitc... Hey! Hang on!" :-)
Captions are invited for this picture, for future lolbacking...
It was pretty warm in the stadium. We weren't out in the bleachers this time - that was a relief - and I had remembered to bring a cap too [Mrs. SnakePit and her mother had their fetching Easter bonnets on], but it was still definitely tough until the sun went down behind the stand. The crowd was a few hundred short of ten thousand, but there did seem to be plenty of empty seats; our row was about eight to ten behind the Diamondbacks dugout, and was less than half-full. There also looked to be a good bit of room on the grass beyond the outfield walls. As we had already eaten and drunk our fill before entering the park, we didn't get much chance to check out the concessions, but they didn't look too bad. However, for some bizarre reason, the bottles of water were sold at room temperature, which was definitely not what we wanted.
Three guesses what the result of this Byrnes at-bat was...
At the plate, it was a good day for our shortstops. First, Stephen Drew had two hits, then his replacement, Augie Ojeda, added two more - Ojeda did make an error, however. Mark Reynolds reached safely twice, on a walk and a hit, and Geraldo Parra had a ninth-inning, two-out double that briefly gave us hope. However, it was not to be, even though we had Jesus on our side, appropriately enough for this Easter Sunday. Jesus Mercham that is, who grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning. The RBIs went to Byrnes, Nixon and Upton, with our other run scoring on a double-play which Byrnes hit into. Not the cleanest of games, with the Brewers making a total of four errors, and Arizona chipping in with two of their own.
Naturally, this being the Brewers game, things wouldn't be complete without a sausage race. I notice that they seem to have added a chorizo sausage this year. At first, I thought that was a sop to Arizona's Hispanic population in some way, but apparently it joined the race in Milwaukee this year. Today, it was to be the Polish that sped to victory. I was hoping to see Bernie Brewer too, but I could find no sign of him at the game. After Take Me Out to the Ballgame, we then swept on to Roll Out the Barrel...which would probably have been more enjoyable had we known more of the lyrics than the title. Hence our rendition was along the lines of "Roll out the barrel! [Humming and la-la-la-ing] Roll out the barrel! [Uncomfortable silence. Pretend to reach for soda]"
Still, despite the loss and the heat, It was one of those long, delightful spring afternoons in Arizona, that you want to see never end. Inevitably, it did, but it was a fine way to wrap up the 2007 Spring Training season, as far as we're concerned - thank to shoe, TAP, Tom, Mike, and the others who made it so. After the game it was back to the parking lot, for more tail-gating, grilling, drinking and chatting until we finally peeled out, almost the last cars to leave the stadium. And we came back to the house, just in time to watch the Fox Sports replay of the night we clinched the NL West last year. An omen? We can only hope...