Record: 28-19. Pace: 97-65. Change on last season: +2
In the light of our first shutout loss of the season, some historical perspective may be comforting. Looking only at the four years where we won the division [thereby discounting years like 2004, where we blew chunks], we have had no less than seven separate streaks, consisting of three games or more where we scored two runs or less in each contest. Perhaps the most spectacular was the one around the All-Star break in 2001, mentioned in one of the Fanposts, where we lost five consecutive games, scoring one run or less. Much as here, the pitching was fine; they had an ERA of 3.35 over that time, as Arizona went down by the scores of 1-5, 0-3, 1-5, 1-2 and 1-4. We batted .174, with a K:BB ratio over those five games of 39:6. Yet, as you probably recall, that 2001 team worked out pretty well in the end.
Remember that streak right at the start of the season where we won eight games in a row, scoring 61 runs in the process? Yeah, it seems a long time ago. But my point is, that was almost exactly the same roster which was just swept by the Marlins, scoring a miserly three runs in the series and batting .179 in the process. The "real" Diamondbacks are not the team which averaged almost eight runs per game over the course of a week in April - nor are they the ones which have crossed home-plate only thirteen times in the past week. The truth, as with most things, lies somewhere in the middle. We're just not that good - and folks, we're not that bad either.
Not that I'm making excuses for the way our hitters have, basically, failed to show up at the park for any of the games this series. However, every team goes through these spells in the course of a season: I think we may have been spoiled by starting off so brilliantly. You could slice up the 28 wins and 19 losses we've had so far in a host of other ways and the results would be much more palatable. But put three low-scoring losses next to each other and they magnify each other. A couple of other thoughts come to mind. We were the third-last franchise to be shutout this year: only Texas and, of all teams, Pittsburgh remain in a state of zerolessness. Detroit have failed to score seven times. It's also the latest in the season we've experienced our first shutout: only once (back in 2000, when we lasted till May 16) have we even got through April intact. And it'll happen again, I guarantee it, since the franchise record low for scoring nothing is still six times, in 1999.
To the specifics of today's defeat. It was a close game until the seventh, when the Marlins scored three off Dan Haren to open up what was, at that point, a 1-0 game. Up until then, he'd performed extremely well: he allowed a leadoff triple in the first, which scored one out later, but he then retired 18 of the next 22 batters faced, to get through six innings without any more damage. He ended with four runs in 6.1 innings, on eight hits, but walked none and fanned a season-high eight. Qualls and Gonzalez completed the game, with 1.2 innings of shutout ball, though you can't expect many wins when you don't score any runs. That was today's lesson in stating the bleedin' obvious, in case you hadn't noticed it.
I must confess, I was somewhat startled to see Haren allowed to bat for himself in the top half of the inning, with two outs and the tying run on base. Sure, he had pitched very well through the front six frames, but pitching was not the issue. It's not as if we needed to save the bullpen either, since they had pitched a total of just two innings of work over the previous three days. Reynolds, Byrnes and Montero were all available on the bench, and - at least theoretically - capable of giving us the lead with one swing of the bat. I think it says a great deal about the struggles of the first two that not only were the left out of the starting lineup today, but that Melvin chose to leave Haren up there.
He had, at least, got a hit in the game. That's more than can be said for our #1, 2, 4 and 5 hitters, who combined to go 0-for-14 with seven K's, making Florida the latest stop on our 2008 'Make unknown pitchers look like Bob Gibson" national tour. Hudson and Ojeda are exempt from the sarcasm today, having each managed two hits, but the slumps of Jackson and Upton continued. Since May 7, J-Up has climbed aboard the Reynolds-Byrnes, and is hitting .159 [7-for-44] with 20 K's - CoJack over the same period is at .179 [7-for-39], though does still have a credible K:BB ratio of 3:7 during that time. We were hitless with runners in scoring position again today, making us 1-for-18 in the series. That would certainly explain why we scored three runs.
Not a happy Gameday Thread today, for obvious reasons - a few F-bombs were dropped, which is understandable given the circumstances, but people should generally try to avoid them if possible. There are many interesting alternatives in the English language. :-) Present were TwinnerA, foulpole, unnamedDBacksfan, Augie's Army, Muu, UofAZGrad, DbacksSkins, LucaMaz3, hotclaws, srdmad, dahlian, Wimb, luckycc, peeklay, Zephon, IndyDBack and Tulowitzki Rox. Hey, at least the Dodgers didn't win tonight. Okay, they weren't actually playing, but on a day like today, you've got to take your consolation where you can find it.
Brandon Medders, however, will not be finding much consolation anywhere today, having been designated for assignment by the Diamondbacks. He won't make it through waivers: 28-year old pitchers with a career ERA+ of 132, don't - we now have ten days to work out a trade with someone, though in these circumstances, it's rare to get anything significant in return. The move frees up a roster spot for Doug Davis, who'll be starting in Atlanta tomorrow, and lets Max Scherzer slot into the bullpen, replacing Medders. Said Melvin, "We didn't want to just look at Scherzer as a long guy. We feel he can be a significant piece there. We wanted to get Scherzer in what could potentially be a prominent role."
Elsewhere, Melvin was also asked whether putting Byrnes on the DL was an option. His reply: "I don't know. Every time that we think about that it seems like he gets over a hurdle and gets progressively better. It just hasn't gotten to that point yet. He's not running like he normally does, but it just doesn't feel like, at least right now, it's significant enough to put him on the DL." Emphasis added there, in case you were wondering. Gets progressively better? This is a player who has had one multi-hit game since April 26, and is batting .117 since that point, with an OPS of .319. Yes, you read that correctly: three-hundred and nineteen. Must be some new definitions of 'progressively' and 'better', I wasn't previously aware of.
On to Atlanta and, I state with confidence, better things. Because they sure couldn't get much worse. The return of Doug Davis is certainly welcome.