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Diamondbacks 2, Tigers 3 - Stupid Bunts

Record: 27-16. Pace: 102-60. Change on last season: +5

Poor Max Scherzer. For the second time in a row, he gave his team five or more innings, without allowing an earned run, and failed to get the decision. Indeed, this time, he was tagged with the loss, thanks to a pair of unearned runs in the fifth. However, he does bear some responsibility for the loss; there were really three obvious mistakes made by the Diamondbacks during this game, and so, to be honest, we didn't deserve to win.

Firstly, Scherzer walking the opposing pitcher with two outs in that fifth inning. Not just any pitcher, mind: an American League pitcher, whose bats probably had to be labeled "Hold this end." Armando Galarraga had never faced major-league pitching before this game. Indeed, his entire professional batting experience prior to yesterday afternoon, consisted of five plate-appearances at AA-ball, back in 2005. But he didn't even have to swing against Scherzer. Two called strikes and four balls later, he was trotting down to first-base. "I was trying to get after him, trying to get ahead, and I didn’t," said Scherzer.

The inning, which should have been over, rumbled on. Granderson singled, and then mistake #2 happened. An easy ground-ball down the first-base line was booted by Conor Jackson into foul territory, and everyone was safe, with the bases now loaded. Carlos Guillen then proceeded to hit a two-run single into center, the pitcher trotted home with the go-ahead run and Scherzer was on his way to a loss which he didn't particularly deserve. Control, as in his first start, was a problem, as he walked a season-high four in five innings, compared to only three hits.

The Tigers extended their lead to 3-0, on a solo homer off Brandon Medders in the seventh, but Arizona came back. We loaded the bases up with nobody out in the bottom half of that inning, on three straight walks, and a Snyder sacrifice fly and pinch-hit single by Montero made it a 3-2 game. However, Chris Young grounded into a double-play that ended the threat. We got Drew on-base to lead-off the eighth, but then came the third mistake - or, rather, two mistakes, one of management and one of execution.

It appears that Melvin had not learned from his mistake of the previous night, and called upon Orlando Hudson to bunt Drew from first to second. This forces me to repeat myself, once again using the Win Probability calculator to illustrate what effect his decisions and their execution had on the Diamondbacks' chances. The basic position is, bottom of the eighth, no outs, man on first and down by one run:

  • Before play = 39.7%
  • After successful bunt [man on second, one out] = 35.5%
  • After actual, god-awful cock-up by Hudson = 18.6%

Yes, you read that correctly. Even if the sacrifice had been executed impeccably and was successful in moving the base-runner along, it reduced our chances of winning by 4.2%. That's discounting the fact that you take the bat out of the hands of the guy who a) had the highest batting average on the entire team last year, and b) is also red-hot, having at that point gone 8-for-17 since coming back from his injury. The reality was even worse, since the double-play which actually resulted, led to more than 21% being wiped off the odds of victory.

For Orlando did, at least, succeed in making both Melvin and himself look like total idiots. He popped up the bunt-attempt in front of the plate, but didn't bother trying to run it out, instead turning and heading for the dugout. Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez made a brilliant choice, letting the ball drop, then picking it up and firing to second to start the double-play, wiping the bases clear. According to Melvin - Hudson did not appear to provide any quotes, which must rank as a first for O-Dawg - Orlando "just had a little bit of a brain cramp. He obviously thought he was going to catch it." It's far from the first mental error Hudson has made (remember his 'brain cramp' about the infield-fly rule?), and I'm forced to wonder if his mind is, perhaps, on free-agency.

However, if you wanted to point a finger for this defeat, it should generally go to the offense. Three hits, all singles, isn't going to get it done. In this series, the Diamondbacks are batting just .148 [8-for-54], against the pitching staff who have the worst ERA in the entire major-leagues, at 4.99. If it hadn't been for the Tigers' defensive incompetence, we'd be looking down the barrel of a sweep this morning, instead of having a chance to take the series. Mark Reynolds continued his recent slump, going 0-for-3, and is batting below the Uecker line for the past month, at just .191. His power-stroke has also vanished: since his last homer on April 25, he has 65 at-bats and only two extra-base hits.

Despite being the Master of his Domain on Friday, Eric Byrnes was left out of the starting lineup on Saturday, to give his hamstrings a bit of a break. He said, "I had better at-bats, and I was looking forward to building on that. I’m still dealing with a little tightness and soreness. It’s not a large issue. But the No. 1 thing is, we’re in this for the long haul." He did get into the game as a pinch-hitter - and, I note, received a warm reception from the crowd. He walked during the seventh-inning rally, but lined to left with one out in the ninth.

[Click to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Justin Upton, +11.5%
Honorary mention: Miguel Montero, +11.2%
God-emperor of suck: Chris Snyder, -19.3%
Dis-honorable mention: Orlando Hudson, -17.7%

A bit quieter in the Gameday Thread yesterday. Present were: unnamedDBacksfan, Azreous, dahlian, DbacksSkins, TwinnerA, Turambar, foulpole, Snakebitten, hotclaws, Wimb, kishi, Muu, OnlineHomeopath and srdmad. I saw most of the game down in Gilbert at the Grain Belt restaurant, after the play - I can certainly recommend their steaks. Maybe everyone was at the park, where there was a large crowd: 48,804. That's the most since Opening Day, and the biggest non-Opening Day crowd since the Red Sox came to town last June. Of course, this was likely fueled in part by the fact that a ticket could be obtained in exchange for buying a case of beer at Circle K, but overall, attendance this season is at 28,846 per game. That compares to 24,155 over the first 26 games of last year, so we're about 19.4% ahead of that. if that keeps up, we'll be looking at 2.7-2.8 million on the year.

Was talking to shoewizard yesterday, and he pointed out the incredible plate discipline being shown by our young players, in particular Justin Upton. He has 22 walks, which would put him on pace for 83 over the full season. That would be remarkable in a number of ways: straight-up, it's a number which only Troy Glaus and Luis Gonzalez has ever reached in the history of the franchise, most recently the latter with 84 in 2005. For someone his age, it's even more astonishing: no twenty-year old has had 85 walks since Ted Williams in 1939, and the only other one in baseball history was Mel Ott, back in 1929. Though Upton isn't even leading the team: Chris Young has 24 walks, and is on pace for 90, which hasn't been seen since Gonzo had 94 in 2003.