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AZ 5, Cubs 4 - Max Headroom

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This one probably counts as daylight robbery, since we were one-hit by the Chicago trio of Carlos Zambrano, Rich Hill and Michael Wuertz through the first seven innings of today's game. We were at least on the board, thanks to Justin Upton managing to just avoid an inning-ending double-play in the bottom of the fourth, but that still left us trailing 4-1 in the eighth. Max Scherzer's outing had been nothing to write home about - four strikeouts over two innings is good, but this was countered by four hits, including two which left Tucson Electric Park. Somewhat embarrassingly, one of those was by Zambrano - though he is by no means a rabbit, having smacked six homers in 2006.

The eighth inning proved significantly better, however. It was the B-prospects that did the damage: Jesus Merchan, fresh from homering off Johnson, started the run with an RBI single, right-fielder Rahl repeated the medicine and Alex Romero went one better with a two-run single. Somehow, we managed to score five runs on, not just four hits, but only four total bases - that's the same output as the opposing starting pitcher. If we can manage that level of offensive efficiency for the rest of the season, we should be okay. That's probably about the most optimistic thing I can take out of our performance at the plate today.

The focus may have been on Scherzer today, but as far as performance goes, he was overshadowed by Gutierrez, who started the game for the Diamondbacks. He pitched two very nice innings, retiring all six hitters he faced, including three strikeouts. Certainly, a huge improvement on the five hits, one walk and a hit batter he delivered in his first outing for us. After Scherzer's wobbly session, Rosales allowed a run on two hits over the fifth and sixth inning; Brown then got the win for two innings of one-hit ball, and Bill Murphy vultured up the save with the scoreless ninth. Drew and his "flulike" symptoms were out for the second day, and Bonifacio also missed the game, after his beaning on Tuesday.

shoe points out an interesting piece in the Republic: "Johnson and the team are in agreement that his starts and innings may have to be limited this season to get the maximum out of the pitcher without overtaxing him and risk losing him early to a setback. That means instead of making 32 or so starts, Johnson could conceivably make anywhere from 22 to 25 starts." It's difficult to say how much of this is mind-games - and also how much of it is simply McManaman speculating. The figures lack any kind of attribution, so at the moment do not seem to have come from anyone with direct knowledge of the plans for the season. If Melvin or Johnson had actually said the Big Unit was going to miss one start in three, I think it would have made a bigger splash.

Otherwise, though, not too much to report in the world of the Diamondbacks. Personally, I tend to feel that the initial thrill of Spring Training - look! It's baseball! - has now somewhat worn off. These games are already beginning to feel like meaningless exercises, empty of all truth, and almost a mocking parody of reality; the sporting equivalent of a Cinemax late-night skin flick, perhaps. I have, however, now booked Opening Day, March 31st off work. It's the first time I've done that, but I was told today that my vacation bank has now maxed out at 15 days; probably related to not having missed a day since I started there.

With no imminent long break in sight, I'll therefore be taking about a day per month off, just to keep my vacation bank from overflowing: I checked, and my employers won't pay me out for it, so I am therefore forced (forced!) to take time off. This actually starts tomorrow with a half-day, but I figured that Monday 31st March would be a good one to miss. The D-backs play their first game of the 2008 regular season in Cincinnati that afternoon, which makes it an 11:05 am start here in Arizona. That means the odds of me being able to follow the game or comment to any significant degree are pretty close to zero. And did I mention that Mondays also suck in general?

The April day off is scheduled for the 25th; we'll be in Los Angeles that weekend for the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors, a convention where the special guests will include such luminaries as George Romero and Clive Barker. Somewhat irritatingly, we'll just miss the Diamondbacks, who will just have left town after finishing a series against the Dodgers the day before, and will be in San Diego. Hmmm, can I talk Mrs. SnakePit into tacking an additional day on to the trip and getting us to Chavez Ravine in time for Thursday night's game in LA? That'd be fun; I have been to the park before, but not to see Arizona, as I recall. Not that Dodger Stadium is up to much, to be honest: it has all the problems of an elderly stadium, with none of the Fenwayesque charm, in my opinion. But if the Diamondbacks are there, it takes on a whole new mystique...

Comment starter: what are your plans for Opening Day?