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Diamondbacks 9, Braves 3: Atlanta suffers from serious Byrnes

Record: 30-20. Pace: 97-65. Change on last season: +3.

Redemption comes in various packages, both small and large. But today's game certainly counts among the latter for Eric Byrnes. He'd already failed once with the bases-loaded for the Diamondbacks, coming up in the top of the third inning after they'd walked Chris Snyder to get to him. There, Eric popped out to second, leaving him 0-for-2 on the day, with five men left on base. Little wonder then that Snyder received an 'unintentional intentional' walk with two men on in the fifth, so that Tom Glavine could pitch to Byrnes. After all, what harm could it do? This was Byrnes' 857th career game and he'd never hit a grand-slam; indeed, after the pop-out, he was batting only .224 with the bases-loaded, as well as .135 during May. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, on a 2-2 pitch from Glavine, Byrnes struck, sending the ball into the crowd in left-field to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 6-3 lead with one swing of his bat. It was not perhaps the longest homer of Eric's career: indeed, it bounced off the top of the wall and into the seats. But for importance, particularly to our struggling left-fielder, it can hardly be rivaled. It was the first grand-slam for Arizona in over a year, since Tony Clark against Pittsburgh on May 20, 2007, tying that game at seven. Here's the full list of Diamondbacks' slams.

  • 1998-04-14 Matt Williams vs. St. Louis
    1998-05-20 Matt Williams vs. Florida
    1998-06-09 Yamil Benitez vs. Anaheim
    1998-06-26 Devon White vs. Seattle
    1998-09-23 Karim Garcia vs. Colorado
  • 1999-04-12 Travis Lee vs. Los Angeles
    1999-04-23 Matt Williams vs. San Diego
    1999-05-10 Steve Finley vs. Montreal
    1999-05-18 Travis Lee vs. San Francisco
    1999-07-11 Jay Bell vs. Oakland
    1999-07-21 Tony Womack vs. Houston [inside the park slam]
    1999-08-26 Damian Miller vs. Florida
    1999-09-07 Matt Williams vs. Milwaukee
  • 2000-04-05 Lenny Harris vs. Philadelphia
    2000-05-09 Damian Miller vs. Dodgers [walkoff slam in bottom of 12th]  
    2000-09-24 Matt Williams vs. San Francisco
  • 2001-04-21 Reggie Sanders vs. Colorado
    2001-05-13 Mark Grace vs. Philadelphia
    2001-06-17 Tony Womack vs. Detroit
    2001-06-21 Luis Gonzalez vs. Colorado
    2001-06-27 Jay Bell vs. Houston
    2001-07-03 Luis Gonzalez vs. Houston
    2001-07-21 David Dellucci vs. San Francisco
    2001-09-21 Matt Williams vs Los Angeles
    2001-09-26 Steve Finley vs. Milwaukee
  • 2002-04-02 Damian Miller vs. San Diego
    2002-08-17 Erubiel Durazo vs. Chicago Cubs
  • 2003-04-17 Carlos Baerga vs. Colorado
    2003-05-05 Matt Williams vs. Philadelphia
  • 2004-05-11 Steve Finley vs. New York Mets
    2004-07-01 Roberto Alomar vs. San Diego
  • 2005-07-31 Chris Snyder vs. Chicago Cubs
    2005-08-28 Shawn Green vs. Philadelphia
  • 2006-05-02 Chad Tracy vs. Los Angeles
    2006-07-08 Chad Tracy vs. Colorado
    2006-07-31 Orlando Hudson vs. Chicago Cubs
  • 2007-05-20 Tony Clark vs. Pittsburgh
  • 2008-05-28 Eric Byrnes vs. Atlanta

It's interesting to see how the rate of grand slams has really dropped off for the Diamondbacks in the past few years. The 2001 team had no less than nine, which matches the total posted by us in the past five years. Matt Williams has seven, easily the most for us: he had twelve in his career overall. Perhaps a surprising name is next: Damian Miller has three, as does Steve Finley, while Chad Tracy, Tony Womack and Luis Gonzalez all have two apiece.

The home-run was more than slightly reminiscent - except for that whole bases-loaded thing, admittedly - of the one by Chris Young which led off the game, giving us a quick 1-0 lead. Similarly to the Byrnes slam, this one barely crept out of Turner Field and, indeed, might well have received a valuable assist from the Braves' left-fielder. Still, after the misery which was our offense yesterday, we'll take matching that production by the second pitch of the game. Snyder added a sacrifice fly before the inning was out, giving us a 2-0 cushion. However, Owings handed it back in the second on four straight hits and a two-out walk with the bases-loaded.

Atlanta then took the lead, thanks to a two-base error by Upton in the third inning. That's his sixth error of the year, and adding on the five made in 38 games during 2007, means that, in little more than half a season (87 games), J-Up has now made eleven errors. As a comparison, the most error-prone outfielder in the majors last season, the Phillies Pat Burrell, only made 10 errors in 138 games. And yet, he also nailed another runner unwisely trying to advance to second base, for his fourth outfield assist of the season, good for =4th in the majors among right-fielders. I know neither statistic is a perfect mark of defense, but in this case, most of his errors have been obvious and most of the assists equally astounding.

Once we'd taken the lead back, we cruised, more or less, from there. The Braves got the tying run to the plate in the seventh: Owings was, somewhat surprisingly, sent out there and then yanked after he walked the first batter. Cruz added another walk, but struck out the side - that now gives him an insane 30 K's in 20.1 innings [as well as 17 walks, of course...]. Cruz still fractionally trails Octavio Dotel of the White Sox, who has 31 strikeouts in 19 innings of work coming into today.Chad Qualls and the recently-absent Brandon Lyon completed things with perfect eighth and ninth inning, though the margin had been increased by the end, thanks to late RBIs from Hudson, Upton and Young.

Micah Owings delivered the seventh straight quality start by a member of the Arizona rotation, which is good to see, even if we have lost the majority of those games. He struggled with his location early on, particularly in the second, where the only way he seemed able to throw strikes was right over the middle of the plate. However, there is no arguing with the final line: six innings, two earned runs on six hits and two walks, with 104 pitches. As noted, it was something of a shock to see him sent out for the seventh, since he was already at 100 pitches and we had a fairly-well rested bullpen, but no permanent damage resulted and Owings ran his record to 6-2.

i was particularly impressed by Arizona's plate discipline today. We took no less than eleven walks, a figure not surpassed since a 13-walk game against the Astros on June 5th, 2002. Conor Jackson was a perfect 5-for-5 at getting on base for the second time this year. He also did it against the Dodgers on April 8, but in that case it was with two hits, a pair of plunkings and an error: today was more impressive, and also a good deal less painful, as he had two hits and three walks. Young (two hits and a walk), Orlando Hudson (three hits) and Byrnes (the slam and two walks) were the other top performers at the plate.

On the downside, Mark Reynolds was 0-for-4 with another K, giving him 61 strikeouts on the year. This would put him on pace for 198 in the season, which is precariously close to Ryan Howard's all-time mark of 199, set in 2007. Justin Upton wouldn't be far behind, with 57 so far, which extrapolates to 185 by the end of the regular games. Upton does, at least, have 28 walks too, now tied for the lead with Chris Young, and J-Up did lead the team regulars in OBP coming into today's game - though has since been surpassed by Jackson, who is now at .395 compared to Upton at .379. Jackson also nailed his fifth triple, tying him for the major-league lead with Jose Reyes and Stephen Drew, among others.

[Click to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Eric Byrnes, +29.9%
Honorary mention, Conor Jackson, +11.2%
God-emperors of suck: Drew and Reynolds, each -7.6%

if it hadn't been for his first couple of at-bats [-11.9% for ending the first and third innings and leaving five men on base], Eric Byrnes would have been even more of a runaway victor here. The home-run was worth a massive +43.1% in Win Probability, which has got to be among the best possible for any at-bat as early as in the fifth inning. We came close to an overflow thread today, for the first time in a while, ending at 430 comments. Present were hotclaws, likeavirgin, Wimb, dahlian, Azreous [thanks for last night's recap], kishi, Muu, unnamedDBacksfan, srdmad, isoldout, njjohn, bcloirao, friendly visiting fan RAMJB [sorry about "that" remark!], shoewizard, UofAZGrad, TwinnerA, DbacksSkins and soco. None of whom apparently noticed the huge typo in the Gameday Thread title. Which I now apparently am unable to correct. :-(

This bit is for Sutton and Grace, who were wondering during the game about the origins of the "Augie! Augie! Augie! Oi! Oi! Oi!" chants, sometimes heard of late during contests at Chase. The chant became popular in Australia in the 1970's at cricket matches, but really took off after the 2000 Sydney Olympics: there, the chant was "Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!". However, the original version was "Oggie! Oggie! Oggie! Oi! Oi! Oi" - which, amusingly, while the usage at Chase is a corruption of a corruption, actually makes it closer to the original! It's that original chant which was first heard in British football stadia during the seventies [Welsh comedian Max Boyce played a significant part in spreading it]. According to Wikipedia, the word "Oggie" refers to a kind of pie, and the chant is thought to have started in Cornwall or Scotland where it was used by the local women to call men from the mines for meals. So, now you know. And, hopefully, so Daron and Mark!

Early start tomorrow morning. I think we're looking to have a long lie ourselves, so may not be about, but I'll try to remember to get the Gameday Thread scheduled in advance.