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Braves 3, Diamondbacks 1 – 80% of the Time, They Don’t Hit Every Time

Record: 29-20. Pace: 96-66. Change on last season: +3

Quote: "He might not throw the ball 95, 96 [mph], but his slider, when you think it's going to get over the plate, it comes in and bites you. He's phenomenal." - Jeff Franceour.

Delusions of grandeur? I doubt we had any such problems. But at the very least, yesterday’s 11-run output gave us hope that the offense was breaking free of the struggles that had plagued them for most of the month. Instead, we were treated to much more of the same.

For the fourth time in five games, the offense all but disappeared. Just three hits – all singles – one of them by pinch-hitting Augie Ojeda. This was despite a number of extra opportunities, such as an error in the 6th that let Drew reach with one out. Hudson walked to load the bases, but Jackson grounded feebly into a double play to end the inning. Or the generous call on the Byrnes FC in the seventh where Upton was A) probably beaten by the throw on the force play and B) certainly off the bag and tagged after being called safe on said force play. That left runners on first and second with nobody out, but Montero and Reynolds couldn’t advance/score them, and it took the two-out hit from Ojeda to get the one run we managed.

The baseball gods, having given the offense their chance and watching it go to waste, decided to try their luck on defense, and really the final score was closer than it could have been. Of particular note was Yunel Escobar’s baserunning gaffe in the eighth inning (on a rule the umpires correctly enforced, even if the rule is ridiculous). After a leadoff single by Kotsay, Escobar laid down a perfect bunt, and Montero’s throw ended up in foul ground past first, which would have ended up first and third with nobody out. But Escobar was running on the infield grass, which caused him to be called out and sent Kotsay back to first. Infante GIDP’d to end the inning, and that was that. Things finally collapsed in the bottom of the ninth, when Slaten gave up a single to the hot-hitting Chipper Jones, and one groundout later Francouer ended it with a shot to left off of Qualls.

Bottom line, though, was that no amount of pitching or defense could save this game, as has been the case recently. CoJack and Reynolds were the others in the lineup who managed to not suck royally, with a hit apiece. In the meantime, we had other less-than-stellar performances. Of particular note:

  • Upton: 0 for 3 (.223 in May, 30 K/17 BB in 81 PA)
  • Byrnes: 0 for 4 (.139 in May, 17 K/2 BB in 74 PA)

Even with his 1-for-4, Reynolds hasn’t fared much better this month: .209, 21 K/7 BB, 75 PA. Really, given the individual struggles through most of the lineup, we may be fortunate to be 9-12 in the month of May. Most of the credit for that goes to the pitchers, in particular the starting rotation.

Speaking of which, Randy Johnson certainly wasn’t part of the problem in today’s game. He looked as good as he has in any of his Sedona Red appearances, getting double digit strikeouts for the 210th time in his career (which is just absurd, really). Unfortunately, due to the lack of run support, he had to be pulled for a pinch hitter in the seventh despite throwing just 82 pitches to that point. Ojeda’s RBI single got Johnson off the hook as the pitcher of record, and he departed with the following impressive line:

6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 10 K.

He had command of all of his pitches and decent velocity on the fastball, mostly above 90 and topping out at 93. The slider was perhaps most impressive, with the biting, late movement we’ve come to expect from watching Johnson over the course of his career. He also struck out the side in the second and the fourth.

[Click to enlarge, in new window]
God-emperor of his domain: Tony Peña, +20.0%
Honorary mention: Randy Johnson, +18.4%
God-emperor of suck: Chad Qualls, -29.8%
Measurably costly double play: Conor Jackson, -27.2%

A little more on Johnson before we look ahead. He was denied his 289th victory, but the 10 strikeouts moved him within striking distance (in his next start?) of Roger Clemens for second place on the all-time list. His previous high this season was seven. His 210th double-digit strikeout game leaves him just five behind Nolan Ryan for that record as well.

Nolan Ryan 5,714
Roger Clemens 4,672
Randy Johnson 4,663

In lieu of snakecharmer’s script (what’s she been up to, anyway?), I have meticulously combed/quickly scanned the Gameday Thread for the brave souls who sat through the offensive majesty: Wimb, DBacksSkins, unnamedDBacksfan, Jim, UofAZGrad, dahlian, acidtongue, Zephon (along with his TMI), kishi, Muu, TwinnerA and srdmad. At least some Anchorman lines found their way in among the 400+ comments.

Micah Owings against Tom Glavine tomorrow in the third game of a four-game set. For a slumping young lineup struggling with plate discipline, this is probably not the time to be facing old man Glavine. Glavine’s 10-3 with a 2.49 ERA against Arizona in his career, although he was average (6 IP, 4 ER) in his only start against them last season. Jim will have more on that tomorrow. Ideally, we’ll find some kind of happy medium between yesterday’s offensive explosion and the four games that surrounded it.