Record: 24-15. Pace: 100-62. Change on last season: +4
If any team is in the throes of an offensive slump, I recommend a dose of Jeff Francis v.2008. We've now taken him for 20 runs on 32 hits, with seven homers, in just 16 innings - few things kick-start anemic hitters better than an opposing starter who serves up 13 hits in just 4.2 innings. That's the most unproductive outing we've faced, since the Royals' Zach Greinke allowed 15 hits in 4.1 frames against us, back on June 10, 2005. It wasn't until the third inning that the number of batters Francis retired, finally exceeded the number of runs he'd allowed. Heck, Randy Johnson would have had his first extra-base hit since 2004, if he hadn't stumbled rounding first - though, to be honest, I think he was as surprised as anyone and probably needed directions on where to go from there.
Things started very nicely, with a 1-2-3 inning by Johnson, including a couple of K's, and the first four Arizona batters all got hits. We were three runs up by the time that inning finished, and though the Rockies pulled one back in the second, we restored the lead, and then some, on Drew's three-run homer. With the score 6-1, and Win Probability at 91.7% before we'd made the first out of the second inning, this one was over. I felt safe in retiring to the yard, to deal with the remains of a tree which had felt the wrath of Mrs. SnakePit and her electric saw over the weekend. [Let's just say, the flora did not go gently into the garbage can - I ended up having to take the step-ladder, climb into the can, and bounce enthusiastically, to stop its escape bids]
The Rockies, however, had other ideas, getting five straight hits of their own off Johnson to open the fourth [We may ask why, during this spell, our infield was positioned as if expecting the Rockies #8 to bunt?]. This meant the tying run was, disturbingly, now to be found standing at second with only one away. However, the Big Unit buckled down, struck out Taveras for a huge second out, and then got Barmes to ground-out. That was Colorado's last, best hope and they didn't manage to push another runner past second the rest of the way. Johnson got through the fifth inning, qualifying him for the win, and then hit the showers, having allowed nine hits and four earned runs. Not the most impressive of victories, though he didn't walk a better: still, it was W #287, tying him with Bert Blyleven for 26th all-time.
After the struggles over the weekend, it was good to see normal service resumed by our bullpen. Though the lead had been padded to four by the time that our relief corps were called into action, Melvin was not messing around with any B-relievers: this was clearly a game we wanted to win. Cruz, Qualls, Peña and Lyon were each brought out in turn, as if this was still a one-run game, and they responded beautifully, with four shutout innings, allowing three hits and a walk. Peña looked particularly good, with a rock-solid eighth inning.
This was one for the offense though, as they pounded out fourteen hits through the first five innings. The pace, understandably, slowed somewhat after that, with a leadoff triple by Upton in the seventh the only hit over the final three inning - J-Up ended up stranded there, as Byrnes, Reynolds and pinch-hitter Salazar were unable to bring him home the final ninety feet. Still, I can't remember the last time every one of our top five in the batting order had a multi-hit night; Young had three, with Drew, Hudson, Jackson and Upton each adding a pair. Particularly good to see O-Dawg back, and apparently moving without pain; great though Ojeda was, since Hudson suffered the injury during May 2nd's game, it's a fact that we had lost seven of ten, and looked lackluster doing it.
Eric Byrnes dropped to the #6 spot, the lowest he's started in the order since August 22nd, 2006, when he also batted there. Though not unprecedented [he hit 7th and 8th that season, in interleague play against Texas], it's a symptom of how far his stock has fallen recently. Melvin, however, refused to say this was the case, stating instead it was done because of Drew's career numbers against Francis. [Again with the tiny sample size: in this case, 14 at-bats]. "I wouldn't say to take any pressure off [Byrnes]. I don't think a lot of times moving someone in the lineup really takes pressure off, just maybe a little different look." The results, unfortunately, were the same: 0-for-4 with two K's, leaving Byrnes 6-for-58 with no walks and 14 K's since April 27. His BA has decreased for 14 straight games, and sits at .220: his reception from the crowd tonight showed that flips and headfirst slides are no longer enough.
Still, that was about the only down-note on a night when we succeeded in continuing our domination over the rest of the division, and with the Dodgers dropping their fourth straight, we extended our lead over them to 4.5 games. That's the most it's been since - hey - that game against the Mets where we lost Hudson. Also got to mention our generally solid defense, including some excellent plays by Drew, most notably a highlight-reel throw out of Torrealba from deep in the hole.
An enjoyable Gameday Thread - victory always makes these things more enjoyable, for some strange reason. ;-) Present were DbacksSkins, Russ, dstorm, foulpole, snakecharmer, IndyDBack, hotclaws, Augie's Army, singaporedbacksfan, LucaMaz3, unnamedDBacksfan, 4 Corners Fan, Wimb, frienetic, srdmad, TulsaDriller, dahlian, kishi, Zephon and soco - the last-named actually present at the game, so we look forward to a full eyewitness report from him in due course. And with that, I'm off to bed: Mrs. SnakePit has already headed that way, having apparently caught what I had over the weekend... Oh, well: marriage is about sharing, isn't it?