Record: 13-5. Pace: 117-45. Change on last season: +2
The Arizona Diamondbacks have conceded a total of twelve unearned runs in the eighteen games thus far. Remarkably, no less than eight of them have come in the two games started by Randy Johnson, compared to a mere four in the sixteen started by everyone else. Is this just bad luck? Or does the pressure of playing behind a sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Famer take it's toll on the defense?
The sixth inning is one which Randy will want to forget. Coming in, things were looking pretty solid: he'd allowed only one hit through the first five, and had retired eight batters in a row, since allowing a double to Adrian Gonzalez [even if Upton booted it around long enough in the right-field corner, that the runner got to score all the way from first]. As in his first outing, the Big Unit had fought past early control problems, and had settled down, retiring the Padres in order for the fourth and fifth inning, striking out four during the process.
However, because of the lengthy first couple of frames, Johnson was at 82 pitches and, after getting Gonzalez to foul out, things went to hell in a hand-basket with remarkable speed. Double, RBI error, single, 3-RBI homer, double, groundout, RBI single, all in the space of just 21 pitches: seven batters, five hits and five runs. The play was likely the error by Chris Burke, getting the start because Melvin decided to give Drew a day off against a tough leftie [here would be where I point out Drew has hit LHP 13 points better in his career than righties]. He couldn't handle a simple ground-ball, the Padres scored the go-ahead run on the play, and by the time the offense got to take the field, they had just too big a hole to climb out of.
They did make it a bit interesting in the bottom of the seventh. Our first four hitters all reached, and we had the tying run at the plate with nobody out. However, pinch-hitter Owings struck out and, though Augie Ojeda made it 6-4 with a ground-out, an at bat by Byrnes only his mother could love, ended with a weak grounder, and the threat was extinguished. Eric's hitting streak ended too; he was 0-for-4, though was robbed of a fifth plate-appearance when Ojeda was called out at first, the final play of the game. On the plus side, I trust this means we have seen the last of the...thing which has been growing on Byrnes' top lip during the streak. :-)
The other errors were also chalked up on the infield. Burke moved to left and was replaced by Augie Ojeda, who made the second error for Arizona in the eighth. And Mark Reynolds was charged with the third, throwing from his knees after a good stop, but sending the ball into the dugout instead. [Conor Jackson likely deserved an assist on that one, since the throw wasn't that far off line]. There was also nearly a disaster in the outfield when Byrnes [playing CF after a double-switch] banged into Upton. The latter caught the ball and went down, but fortunately, there was no damage done. Still, every time that kind of thing happens, I recall the September 2002 Womack-Gonzalez collision, which left us Luis-less, and relying on David Dellucci and Mark Little (who?) to play LF in the playoffs...
The only hitter to have any real success against Padres' starter Randy Wolf was Conor Jackson, who went 3-for-4 and finished off a monstrous week, in which he hit 12-for-25 with three homers and ten RBI. Reynolds had a pair of hits, but we managed only one walks, against eight K's. Out of the bullpen, Medders retired all four batters he faced, and it looks, thus far (and with the usual small sample-size warnings), that we made the right decision in letting Dustin Nippert go to Texas, and keeping Brandon:
Medders: 8.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 2.08 ERA
Nippert: 6.3 IP, 10 H, 8 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 11.37 ERA
Slaten and Peña followed; each allowed an earned run, and neither looked exactly comfortable and reliable out there. Instinct tells me, we may be seeing more of Qualls in the set-up role for Lyon, as he did on Saturday.
Still, our fifth series win in a row, and with the Rockies getting closed out by Valverde in Houston [though not without putting the tying run on base first, naturally!], our lead still remains at four games. The Dodgers, of all people, are now dead-last in the division, with a dismal 7-11 record. Andruw Jones is hitting a dismal .169, with 21 K's in 59 at-bats. That contract is looking like a real albatross around their necks. It would certainly be very helpful if they could continue to struggle, since they still seem to pose the biggest potential threat to the Diamondbacks' repeating as division champions, according to the poll.
An active, but somewhat sparsely-attended Gameday Thread; one of these days, I will have to do a graph to plot day of the week and start time against number of comments and see if anything shows up. That day is, however, not today... Thanks to unnamedDBacksfan, hotclaws, foulpole, soco, kishi, azshadowwalker, dahlian, snakecharmer, seton hall snake pit, Wimb and DbacksSkins for their contributions.
AZ Minor League director AJ Hinch has a interesting blog, which I've now added to the side-bar; an especially good entry today, talking about the salaries paid to minor-leaguers. It's quite sobering, especially in contrast to the majors. He writes, "For non 40 man players, the salary begins at $1100/month in Short Season/Class A. Salaries in AA increase to $1500/month while AAA gets a jump to $2150/month. We pay those salaries only during the 5 month season, so the paychecks for the players begin in April and end in the first week of September. The only players that may differ from this scale are minor league free agents signed for AA/AAA or players on the 40-man roster but playing in the minor leagues." Emphasis added: it means a 'full-time' player for the Sidewinders, gets less than $11K this year. Wow.