Record: 28-16. Pace: 103-59. Change on last season: +5.
On the fourth anniversary of his perfect game in Atlanta, Randy Johnson was not perfect, but was plenty good enough. Seven shutout innings from Randy Johnson is something we've not seen from the Big Unit since he came back to the desert - the last time he did that, was back in his Yankee days. September 6, 2006, to be correct, against the Royals as they headed towards 100 losses. That's about the pace the Tigers are on right now, to be honest; still, we'll take seven innings of six-hit ball, with just one walk and five strikeouts where we can find it. It's likely his best outing of the season, and moves him one step closer to the 300-win mark. #288 moves him alongside Tommy John for 25th on the all-time list. With four victories in seven starts to date, it's not inconceivable he could get those twelve W's in what could be about 24 more outings this season.
The key thing here was going deeper into games, something we have seen precious little of from the back end of our rotation lately. Here are the figures for innings/start that we've received to date:
Overall, that works out at 5.93 innings/start, compared to a National League average of 5.70 innings. That doesn't seem too bad, but it's the uneven distribution that is probably troublesome. When we have Johnson and Scherzer going back-to-back, the bullpen can look forward to about eight innings of work over those two nights. The problem should be alleviated by the return of Davis, who has a career figure of 6.00 IP/start, but stamina could still be an issue for him, we really don't know. If so, I think we may want to shuffle the rotation, and perhaps put an innings-eater like Webb or Haren between Johnson and Davis. This'd also split up the two lefties.
Another possibility, though it probably won't be considered, might be to go with an extra arm in the bullpen. Being blunt, can anyone explain Robby Hammock's presence on the roster? Yes, I've heard the claims that he gives flexibility by allowing us to use Montero as a pinch-hitter, and still have a backup catcher on the bench in case of injury. Only one other National League team currently adopts the three catcher approach: the Reds, and they have got the same issue as the D-backs, in that Dave Ross has only 21 at-bats this year. Of course, Hammock likely will be gone with the return of Chad Tracy, but I can't help wondering if we wouldn't be better dropping Hammock and Burke, say, and adding Scherzer to the pen.
Anyway, back to today's game. Early on, the Tigers threatened on a regular basis, getting runners into scoring position each of the first five innings. However, they couldn't get the hits which would bring the men home, and Johnson seemed to get better as he went on. He ended by retiring the final eight Tigers that he faced, and it was suggested that he might go out there for one more inning, having thrown 98 pitches. However, it was probably wise to stop him there, given his season high count was 104. Qualls and Lyon completed the victory, and the shutout - Lyon looked particularly good, fanning two of the three hitters he faced in a perfect ninth.
Meanwhile, the offense labored: first time through the order, the only base-runner was Eric Byrnes, who walked, then was promptly erased trying to steal second. He has now been caught in three of his seven attempts (I'd take his greenlight away until those pesky hammies have healed), and was passed in the stolen-base department this afternoon by Mark Reynolds, who is a perfect 5-0. Speaking of Special K, good to see him climb out of his recent rut and put together a three-hit afternoon in addition to that SB. They were all singles, but we'll take those, and in particular the two runs that he scored. The biggest hit was, however, likely Chris Young's double with one out in the bottom of the fifth, that broke the scoreless deadlock by plating two runs.
Arizona added two more runs in the sixth, benefiting from some wildness by the Detroit pitchers. With one run in, making it 3-0, and a runner on third, Miguel Montero was intentionally walked to get to Johnson. However, starter Nate Robertson then walked the Big Unit to load the bases, and his replacement fared no better, walking Chris Young to force in a run. Five straight Diamondbacks reached safely with two outs in the inning, doubling the advantage; Johnson has now been walked twice, in only 14 plate-appearances this year. His career-high, incidentally, is four, set during the 2004 season.
Two out of three is what I hoped for before the series, so I will settle for that; with the Dodgers dropping the series against their LA neighbors, it increases our margin overall to 5.5 games. A "brisk" Gameday Thread today, though I do feel the need to remind all posters to treat each other with respect, no matter how much you may disagree with their views. 'Nuff said, I trust. Present and accounted for were foulpole, unnamedDBacksfan, kishi, Augie's Army, hotclaws, DbacksSkins, Wimb, singaporedbacksfan, TwinnerA, dahlian, IndyDBack, 4 Corners Fan, peachy rex, UofAZGrad, Muu, azshadowwalker, paqs, njjohn and Azreous.
Doug Davis got his second rehab start in today for Tucson up in Tacoma, and got the win. He threw 92 pitches in five innings of work, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks, striking out three batters. Looks like he is ready to return to the Diamondbacks on schedule; that'll be on the upcoming road-trip against the Marlins and Braves, which starts on Tuesday after tomorrow's off-day. That promises to be challenging, since both teams are above .500, and the Marlins are leading the division, to the surprise of most. Should be fun.