Record: 19-8. Pace: 114-48. Change on last season: +3
Tonight may be one of those games we look back on in twenty years and say, "Yes, I remember seeing Scherzer make his major-league debut." For our uber-prospect retired all 13 hitters faced, fanning seven, and sending everybody scurrying to the record books. We'll have to wait, however: Baseball-Reference.com's stats in this area only go back as far as 1956, and there has been no-one since who started their career with one outing of four perfect innings. We can speculate what might have happened if Scherzer had started the game: probably only his pitch-count would have stopped this from being truly monumental. Perhaps we might even have seen something like Juan Marichal's first appearance in 1960, a complete game one-hitter with one walk and twelve K's, that's possibly the finest debut of all-time.
Instead, we'll just look forward to seeing how far Scherzer can go. Contrary to what Steve Gilbert says, Max is not the only relief pitcher to have retired the first 13 batters seen in a career: Jeremy Fikac also did that for the Padres in 2001. Who? Exactly... Fikac was plagued by injuries, and his career was over in 2004 - let's hope better things await Scherzer down the road But in case you're wondering, the best recent no-hit streak at the very start of a career belongs to the Giants' Jonathan Sanchez with 7.1 innings during 2006. The longest recent scoreless opening streak is Matt Smith's 18.2 innings, in 22 appearances, which took place the same year. Smith was even traded from the Yankees to the Phillies in the middle of the run; again, a fate we trust will not befall our rookie.
Lost in all the excitement is...well, the loss. Scherzer, Slaten and Medders combined to retire eighteen consecutive Astros before Erstad singled with two outs in the ninth. But the damage had already been done, Houston having scored six runs at that point. Edgar Gonzalez was flat, listless and got cuffed around; the batters he faced went 8-for-15 with two walks. It took him 72 pitches to get through 2.2 innings - Scherzer's 4.1 required only 47. While Edgar was the victim of some poor defense [the four-run fourth should have ended with a double-play that never got turned, and he wasn't helped by Salazar misplaying a ball down the line the same inning], I wouldn't be surprised if his and Scherzer's roles are flip-flopped next Monday.
I was a bit surprised to learn we only left five men on base: somehow, it seemed a lot more than that. However, the bases were cleared through the front four, thanks to a double-play by Salazar, and Jackson's two run homer. Drew left two on in the fifth, but a CoJack twin-killing ended the sixth. Our best chance to come back was likely the seventh, where we had the tying run aboard, thanks to an RBI single from Montero, with only one out. However, Young flied out and Drew popped out, to leave us stranded. In the ninth, we got to face old friend Jose Valverde, now the Astros closer. Much like Lyon, a rocky start has since been corrected, and Papa Grande was firing on all cylinders, his fastball touching 99 mph, and he struck out Upton, Burke and Byrnes round Salazar's double.
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Master of his domain: Max Scherzer, +11.5%
Honorary mention: Miguel Montero, +11.1%
God-emperor of suck: Edgar Gonzalez, -44.1%
Dishonorable mention: Stephen Drew, -14.9%
Plenty of activity and once again, good to see some friendly visitors from Houston, in the shape of TexSkins and lnewcomer. They contributed to the final tally of 888, at time of writing, assisted by: foulpole, snakecharmer, Turambar, DbacksSkins, kishi, britdback, soco, hotclaws, dahlian, singaporedbacksfan, dstorm, unnamedDBacksfan, Philip from LA, LucaMaz3, 4 Corners Fan, mrssoco, srdmad, seton hall snake pit, isoldout, Augie's Army, Captain D Bag, Craig from Az and kkenney.
Elsewhere in the NL West, the Dodgers pipped the Marlins by a single run, the Padres lost in Philadelphia and the Rockies beat the Giants 3-2. The last contained some irony - the day after Colorado manager Clint Hurdle was ejected for arguing a balk call, his team scored the go-ahead run in the seventh, on a balk call. This time, Giants manager, Bruce Bochy, took the early shower. Our lead in the division is cut to 5.5 games.
The good news is that Micah Owings has been cleared to make his scheduled next start, versus the Mets on Friday. He pitched a bullpen session today, with some tape wrapped round the ankle he rolled during his last appearance, and experienced no problems. He still has three days left, so while the tape did make things somewhat unusual today, he may not even need it by the time Friday comes around. We're looking forward to that, as we'll be at Chase for the game. I will, however, be keeping Mrs. SnakePit well away from the camera, after she erased all the photographs taken at Dodger Stadium on Friday, to make room for pics from the Fangoria show... :-(
As 4 Corners Fan reminded me us, it's a day-game tomorrow. That will likely mean a Gameday Thread a little closer to game-time than usual, as I'll be trying to use my morning break to post that, then schedule my lunch for the first couple of innings, so I can see how Randy does. Ah, such are the perils of wage-slavery: can't we just win the Powerball and get it over with?