Record: 20-8. Pace: 116-46. Change on last season: +4
Coming into this game, Micah's prowess as a hitter had largely not translated to games where he came off the bench. He had just one career pinch-hit - a single - in seven at-bats, with two walks. And this season, his aggressiveness at the plate had become something of a running sore: the majority of his appearances in 2008 had been decided in two pitches or less [7 of 19 on the very first ball he saw]. So, the combination of Owings as a pinch-hitter, and him swinging at the opening pitch, was surely a match made in hell?
Think again. Pwnings instead blasted the ball the opposite way, for a two-run homer that tied the game at seven and set the scene for an improbable victory. Our Win Probability was already reduced to 18.7%, by the time Randy Johnson got his second out of the game, and sank as low as 13.5%, immediately before Conor Jackson's third-inning homer, when the score was 6-2 to Houston. Last season's tean would probably have folded. This year's model chipped away, scoring a run here and a run there, then sent up one of their starting rotation, who promptly hit the first pinch-hit homer by a pitcher since April 22, 2004, when MBrooks Kieschnick of Milwaukee did it...against Arizona [Matt Mantei, to be specific].
Obviously, small sample-size is the key here, but the homer results in one stunning statistic. Owings now has the fifth-highest all-time OPS among hitters with 75 or more plate-appearances:
After that, the Astros might as well have packed up and gone home. You can't stop the run from rising, the tide from coming in, or the 2008 Arizona Diamondbacks from winning. The Byrnes RBI single which followed was a mere formality, as were the zeroes posted to maintain the one-run lead, by Qualls, Peña and Lyon. It was, in some way, a mirror-image of last night's game, where the loss was largely over-shadowed by the debut of Max Scherzer. Here, the win largely overshadows a very disappointing outing by Randy Johnson, who dug his team-mates a 4-0 hole in the first inning, on three singles and a homer, and lasted only four innings, allowing six earned runs on nine hits. After a series of outings where he showed improvement almost each time, this was definitely a step backwards. I was not able to find any post-game quotes from the Big Unit...
Good to see the offense come through. Montero had three hits, with two each for Jackson and Young, as every starter bar Johnson reached base safely. There were six doubles from six different players, and as well as Micah's blast, Jackson added his fifth of the year. And today's trivia is about Shaun Chacon - Pwning's homer got him stuck with his sixth consecutive no-decision. Only a couple of pitchers have had longer streaks this millennium: Darrell May had eight NDs in a row for the 2003 Royals, and the 2005 Brewers saw seven straight by... Doug Davis. The Arizona record, incidentally, is six by Armando Reynoso, from June 22 to July 21, 1999.
Another very impressive Gameday Thread turnout, especially given it was a day game. An overflow thread was required down the stretch, and now contains almost 300 comments: present today were DbacksSkins, hotclaws, seton hall snake pit, TwinnerA, mrssoco, Wimb, dstorm, soco, kishi, Turambar, unnamedDBacksfan, dahlian, 4 Corners Fan, Stile4aly, Azreous, Captain D Bag, Elway4Prez [welcome!], TexSkins, Muu, peeklay, singaporedbacksfan, paqs and SongBird. Again, much credit to the visiting Astros fans, who were gracious in defeat and victory: you're welcome here, any time - and all the best for the remainder of the season [except when we come to Houston, naturally...]
We finish April with a brilliant 20-8 record, far beyond what I hoped for coming in. The next few games will be interesting, as we get to test our mettle against some fo the best that the NL East can offer, including a challenge on Sunday, when our hitters get to face Johan Santana, who will likely be among the Cy Young contenders at the end of the season. A new poll is up, asking you to choose the MVP for the team over the first month: there have been some really great performances for us to enjoy, and it proved something of a challenge to narrow the field down to just four individuals.
Max Scherzer will be starting on Monday against the Phillies, Bob Melvin announced. In related news, the sun is slated to rise in the East tomorrow morning - I think the news of Scherzer's promotion to the rotation definitely counts as among the "Well, duh!" pieces of information to come out of Chase Field recently. It appears he will be there until Doug Davis returns from his surgery - he just began his radiation treatment on Tuesday, and it's not known what effect that will have on his strength and stamina. This is likely the deciding factor on how long he remains out, and so how long Scherzer remains with the team. I have to say, a rotation of Webb, Haren, Johnson, Owings and Scherzer seems pretty fine to me.
Off-day tomorrow. I'll be closing the World Series contest in the morning, so it's your last chance to enter. Will then be going through the stories, to pick a winner: though I've a sneaking feeling I will probably bail out of that responsibility and let Mrs. SnakePit be the judge, since there are far too many good ones there for me to pick just two. I wish I had twenty box-sets so I could let everybody have one! But more on that tomorrow, along with Lolback of the Week, of course.