Record: 7-2. Pace: 126-36. Change on last season: 0
The Arizona Diamondbacks: inhabiting Joe Torre's nightmares since 2001. He may have moved from one coast to the other, but he can't escape the torment caused by the Diamondbacks. We completed the sweep over the Dodgers, racking up our sixth win in a row - and, in sharp contrast to the offensive blowouts of the first two games, this was an old-school nailbiter, where there was never more than one run separating the two teams from the first pitch to the last. Kept homerless for the first time all year, this was much more like the 2007 version of the team, scratching out hits and grinding out a one-run win, as they did 32 times last year.
Micah Owings was just good enough: three runs on seven hits and a walk, but the key was that he pitched seven innings, thereby giving the besieged bullpen a much-needed breather. "There were times when he might not have the command that he did in Colorado, but boy, to give seven innings there when our bullpen was not full up down there, those guys know it," said Melvin after the game. Owings also made an opening statement, plunking Rafael Furcal to lead off the first inning - I have to think that was retaliation for the hit-fest inflicted on Arizona the night before.
Not that it stopped the Dodgers, with Conor Jackson forced to leave the game in the top of the sixth with a bruised left hand after being hit again, this time by Kuroda - CoJack's third HBP in two games. Fortunately, X-rays proved negative, and hopefully he'll be back in the lineup for the weekend series against the Rockies, after tomorrow's off-day. Chris Burke came in as a replacement, and went 1-for-2, though could be the recipient of some blame for Furcal's double down the line, on the first batter after he entered the game. Still, you take your impromptu corner infielders where you can get them, I suppose.
This was back and forth all game. The Dodgers took the lead in the second on a double by Pierre. The Diamondbacks returned, taking advantage of an error by Loney to score twice, on a groundout by Mark Reynolds and a Justin Upton single, in the fourth. The Dodgers tied it up again in the fifth, and a Loney homer made it 3-2 to them in the sixth. However, a crafty bunt single from Augie Ojeda, a more normal hit by Robby Hammock and a very-disciplined base on balls worked by Micah Owings, loaded the bases with one out. However, to much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, our newest multi-millionaire popped out [Young is 1-for-11 with 6 K's since signing the contract!].
But Eric Byrnes delivered his most important contribution of the season so far, with a two-run single that gave us the lead, this time for good. Byrnes enjoyed his first three-hit game since September 11, and was joined there by Augie Ojeda. The Littlest Ballplayer was making his first start of the year, playing shortstop in place of Drew [sitting this one out due to a sore right quad] and got his first three-hit game since August 28. Er, that's August 2004. Upton added two, his fourth multi-hit contest of the season, while Hammock, starting in place of Snyder after last night's lengthy contest, reached base twice on a hit and a walk.
After Owings completed the seventh inning, it was over to what was left of the bullpen. I can imagine them all looking nervously at each other when the phone rang, and going "Well, it's clearly not for me..." Juan Cruz was the lucky recipient of another outing and got around a one-out walk with the aid of a double-play. Then it was Lyon time, and though he gave up a deep fly to the first batter he faced, got the next man to ground out and then finished with a flourish, sending Andruw Jones down swinging, to notch his second save and seal the season sweep. Despite some qualms, the bullpen has been getting it done, posting a 2.36 ERA thus far, with seven earned runs in 26.2 innings.
Props over the past 24 hours to Azreous, for writing a kickass report after Tuesday's game - I'm hoping to get him doing regular recaps - and for watching over things in today's Gameday Thread, starting an overspill when the molasses crept in to the first one, around the 500 post mark. We have a double-dose of 'Charmer roll-call goodness, starting with yesterday, where present in the comments w peachy rex, AZDarkKnight, dstorm, soco, foulpole, 4 Corners Fan, snakecharmer, Azreous, DbacksSkins, singaporedbacksfan, Wimb, TwinnerA, Turambar, jsk6788, kishi, hotclaws, Captain D Bag, DisplacedAZfan, Mr. Philosophical, Frank Squishy, peeklay, DiamondbacksWIn, seton hall snake pit, oklahomasooners and calltyriu.
Today was even more of a monster: 935 comments in total, which is not just a regular season best, it surpasses the all-time record of 932 in Game 2 of the NLDS last October. And this was for a weekday afternoon game, without much contribution from me. I think four figures is definitely within reach. jsk6788, 4 Corners Fan, hotclaws, AZDarkKnight, DbacksSkins, snakecharmer, soco, dstorm, seton hall snake pit, foulpole, jweech, TwinnerA, smartsnake [welcome!], Azreous, bcloirao, AZSEAfan, kishi, Craig from Az, Wimb, leemellon, batster, Captain D Bag, frienetic, Huxtable Reunion, TuLoRocks2008 [welcome, though you might get comments about your username!] and peachy rex were present this afternoon.
Another sweep against a divisional rival, and I find myself in the unusual position of cheering for the Giants, as they're battling the Padres to a 0-0 tie in the bottom of the eighth at the moment. Be nice if they came out on top, as that'd give us a 2.5 game cushion on top of the the division, as we welcome Colorado into the Shire, ready to administer some further strict discipline to those naughty Orckies. Actually, the imagery that sentence conjures up in my mind, is probably something I could have done without.
Randy Johnson made his second - and probably final - rehab start down in Tucson. This one seemed to go a good deal better than his first, as the Big Unit struck out seven in six innings, allowing three hits and a walk and throwing a total of 85 pitches. According to Nick Piecoro, "Working off a fastball that sat in the 89-92 mph range, Johnson also was effective with a slider, splitter and change-up," and all being well, should be ready to slot into fellow left-hander Doug Davis's spot in the rotation, when it comes up next on Monday, in San Franciso. Worth repeating at some length Randy's comments after the game:
It's a lot easier to say, 'You know what? I can pitch a major-league start and feel comfortable because I had a game like today. I'll wait and see what they (coaches) say. But I do feel a lot more positive about this start... I was pitching ahead in the count, and that makes all the difference. All three (off-speed) pitches were working. I was pitching both sides of the plate. Now, if you take those pitches and equate them to what would happen if a major-league batter is up? I don't know. But I would take my chances, because I was pitching where I want to pitch.
With the signing of Young, that appears to end the contract discussions for the foreseeable future. The question of Hudson remains lurking on the horizon, and the Tribune thinks O-Dawg is not going be cheap: "Hudson, a three-time Gold Glove winner who will become a free agent after this season, is said to be seeking a yearly salary similar to the $15 million Philadelphia’s Chase Utley will receive." Regrettably, I think this means that we will be playing Where in the World is Orlando Hudson? this off-season. I just do not see the Diamondbacks being prepared to commit to a long-term deal at those rates, especially as he turns 31 before the end of the year.
Finally, an interesting tidbit at Fangraphs.com who point out that Mark Reynolds has "cut down on swinging at pitches outside the strike zone by 6%." Whatever he's doing, it's clearly having the right effect. And, hooray, the Giants prevailed over the Padres, 1-0, with a ninth-inning run. Surprisingly, Trevor Hoffman was not involved in that loss. But it leaves us with the hoped-for comfortable lead, and a very satisfactory off-day tomorrow. Lolback and random stuff to follow, no doubt.