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Diamondbacks 4, Cubs 6 - Cruz for concern...

Record: 23-15. Pace 98-64. Change on last season: +3

Maybe I should just run out yesterday's report again, and see if anyone notices the difference. Because, as there, a sterling effort from a starting pitcher is wasted by a dismal bullpen performance, who cough up the Diamondbacks' lead and allow the Cubs to walk away with a win in the late innings. This time, the unlucky loser for Arizona was Edgar Gonzalez: he was a late replacement for Randy Johnson, whom the D-backs opted not to start on a cold (48 degrees), windy (24 mph!) day in Chicago. Said manager Bob Melvin:

I think it's pretty obvious. With a guy that's had the problems he's had with his back, to send him out there in those conditions, not only with what certainly would be a wet field, but windy conditions which play on the back. There are a lot of reasons not to pitch him today.

Can't really argue with that, though Johnson seemed fairly unimpressed: "It was Bob Melvin's decision," he said. "What are you going to do? I was prepared to pitch, but with so much uncertainty, I think that's why... I'm not going to make a big deal about it. I'm not pitching, I'm going to go out and play some catch because I don't want to go this long without playing catch." There's an off-day tomorrow, so the plan is to push everyone back: Johnson will start on Tuesday at Chase Field against the Rockies, and will be followed in that series by Owings and Webb.

And, as we've seen a number of times before, when called upon to be a spot starter, Edgar Gonzalez delivered, even despite an hour-long rain-delay before the first pitch. He gave us five innings, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks, and it's a bit surprising that he was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the sixth, as Gonzalez had only thrown 87 pitches [He hadn't taken the mound since relieving Max Scherzer on May 5th, so was not on short rest, or anything like that]. I imagine Melvin had no problems about using his bullpen with a day off, though the events of yesterday forced him to diverge from the usual pattern.

And that's where thing got nasty. Cruz was perfectly fine in the sixth, but got into trouble in the seventh. After fanning the first hitter, he walked the next one, and then allowing Reed Johnson to hit his first homer of the season, Cruz supplying enough power to counter the strong wind blowing in at Wrigley. Combined with his outing yesterday, Cruz presents us with the following line against the Cubs this series:
    Juan Cruz: 2.1 IP, 3 H, 5 BB, 6 K, 2 HR, 3 ER
Like I said, there's rarely a dull moment when Famine takes the mound: he is a real "three true outcomes" pitcher. Of the 15 batters he faced this series, 13 walked, homered or struck out.

Tony Peña rescued him, and got the final two outs to keep the game tied at the end of the seventh. However, the eighth proved just as unpleasant, the Cubs scoring twice on a double to the wall in center-field, after an intentional walk had been issued to Soriano to load the bases. [Today was not a good one for the intentional walk: both teams used it, and it turned round and bit them in both cases] Our defense cost us in that inning too, as a half-decent throw from Montero would have nailed Ramirez as he stole second; instead, it sailed off-line, and Fukudome followed with a perfect bunt.

Again, the offense was quiet, with only five hits and AZ were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position. The team had a great chance to bust the game open in the fifth, but couldn't take advantage. Bases-loaded walks to Jackson and Upton, after an RBI single by Ojeda tied the game, had given the Diamondbacks a two-run lead, and they still had the bases full with only one down. However, Drew popped out to the shortstop and Reynolds flied out - the failure to add on runs there proved costly down the stretch, especially as the Chicago bullpen faced the minimum 14 hitters over the last 4 2/3 innings, thanks to Burke getting picked off and Ojeda grounding into a double-play.

[Click to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Conor Jackson, +18.2%
God-Emperor of suck: Juan Cruz, -29.0%

Slightly better Gameday Thread attendance today, though we were still well short of overflow level. Present were: TwinnerA, foulpole, hotclaws, unnamedDBacksfan, kishi, csktech, peachy rex, luckycc, seton hall snake pit, 4 Corners Fan, snakecharmer, IndyDBack, srdmad, OnlineHomeopath [welcome!], dahlian, Wimb, DbacksSkins, RAMJB, likeavirgin and TexSkins. Certainly a disappointing loss; I was hoping for better, especially once I heard we wouldn't be facing Zambrano. If our bullpen had held up, we could have come away from Chicago with two victories: it's therefore infuriating to get nothing at all.

On the plus side, getting swept by the Cubs is probably not as bad as getting swept by the Astros - and that's what happened to the Dodgers over the weekend, so our lead in the division stayed rock-solid, at 3.5 games. Makes me feel a lot better about taking two of three at home from the Astros. But thus far, the NL West is back to being the NL Worst, having a cumulative record of 16-20 against the East and 20-31 against the Central. [For completion, the Central is 28-32 facing the East]

Ours was not the only bullpen to suffer, LA's Jonathan Broxton coughing up six runs in 1/3 of an inning this afternoon. This not only got the loss, it also took Shawn Chacon off the hook, and gave him his eighth consecutive no-decision. It's not as if he has been pulled that early, throwing 51 innings in those eight starts, but he's just never been involved in the outcome. You have to go back to 1977 to find a longer streak of no-decisions; John D'Acquisto and Randy Lerch each went ten straight starts that season, though the former was a spot starter who only twice pitched past the third. Chacon's streak is more remarkable, in that having reached five innings every time, he would have qualified for the win.

Off-day tomorrow, as noted already. Glad it comes on a Monday, as I am usually scurrying around like a mad fool then anyway! Good to regroup and get ready to face the Rockies once more - I think we'll be happy to get back to taking our our divisional rivals after the last few games!