Record: 30-21. Pace: 95-67. Change on last season: +2
I think, coming into this series against one of the hottest teams in baseball, with close to the best record at home, we'd have been happy to settle for a split of the four games. However, I can't help feeling disappointed: having taken two of the first three, and with our ace Brandon Webb on the mound, we seemed to have a chance at three of four. Instead, Webb - with a little help from the defense - takes his second consecutive loss, and we complete the road-trip going a pretty-wobbly 2-5.
As big a part as Mark Reynolds' error, and the three unearned runs which it spawned, played in today's defeat, I think Brandon Webb would be more than willing to admit that he did not have his best stuff today, on a number of levels. He allowed ten hits in only 4.1 innings of work; that's only the second time in 114 appearances since September 2004, where Webb has failed to get through at least 5 innings. Reaching double-digits in hits is also a rarity: that happened just once all of last season and only nine times in Webb's entire career [today was his 174th start].
He seemed to have problems with his location; particularly early on, his sinker, while sinking, was starting off too high, and so descended nicely into the middle of the plate. The net result was five hits and two walks for the Braves in the first two innings. The hot and humid conditions [around 80 degrees with 50% humidity] also sapped Webb's stamina, and he four of the five hitters he faced in the fifth to reach safely, before being pulled by Melvin, having thrown exactly one hundred pitches. In an interesting twist, Max Scherzer came in for long relief, going 2.2 scoreless innings, allowing two hits and a walk, while striking out four. Edgar Gonzalez pitched a scoreless ninth.
Mention has to be made of Mark Reynolds error in the second, which help take a one-run game and blow it open for the Braves. With two on and no out, the pitcher laid down a bunt, upon which Reynolds and Webb convened. Rather than going for the sure out at first, Special K tried to get the lead man at third, but threw the ball away. Everyone was not only safe, but they got to advance an extra 90 feet. Webb responded by striking out the next two hitters, but Teixeira delivered his second two-run hit of the day to give the Braves a 5-1 lead, all three runs being unearned. [I did enjoy Mark Grace's commentary on the inning, as he explained Webb's pitch selection - more often than not, getting it spot-on].
Truth be told though, this was a game where the offense didn't do much to help out cause either. We had runners in scoring position every inning from the second through the fifth, and although Hudson had his fourth homer of the year, otherwise, there was very little to cheer about. After the fifth, we sent just one batter over the minimum to the plate the rest of the way. Drew, Snyder and Salazar [the last-named starting in right, giving Upton a mental-health day] had two hits apiece, with Salazar adding a walk. Hudson had two RBIs, and reached safely twice, with a walk in addition to the home-run. Sympathetic mention must be made of poor Chris Young who went 0-for-5 with what seemed like an endless procession of balls hit hard, just straight at Braves' fielders.
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Master of his domain: Jeff Salazar, +10.6%
God-emperor of suck: Brandon Webb, -44.8%
Dishonorable mention: Chris Young, -10.2%
At least we got an overflow thread, which is the first time we've needed one in quite a while. We ended up with a total of 555 comments: DbacksSkins and soco were responsible for almost half of those, both reaching three figures. Also present were Azreous, seton hall snake pit, mrssoco, TwinnerA, 4 Corners Fan, hotclaws, Muu, dahlian, acidtongue, Wactivist, srdmad and kishi. And at least the Dodgers lost (to the Cubs), so our division lead remains at 3.5 games. Curious to only have five National League games going on what is generally regarded as a major holiday: well, Mrs. SnakePit and I are certainly not working!
Perhaps the best thing to come out of the game was the return of Chad Tracy, who got to pull on a Diamondbacks jersey for the first time, bar a single plate-appearance, since August last year. Good to have him back. However, was a little surprised to see him replacing Jackson at first: they may simply be easing him back into the swing of things, though dropping Tracy directly into the clean-up spot seems to argue otherwise! At the moment, however, I think it's the opposite corner of the infield where we have more need of his bat - Reynolds today did get a hit, and also avoided striking-out, bringing his projected total for the season down to 194... Tracy got a solid knock on his second time up, rifling a single straight back up the middle. According to Nick Piecoro, but with emphasis added:
Just from listening to Tracy and the tone in his voice, it sounds like his knee isn’t great, isn’t all the way back to pre-injury levels, but is passable. Sounds like he thinks it is good enough -- or at least that he’s trying to tell himself that it’s good enough... Melvin wasn’t specific -- wouldn’t set anything in stone -- about how he’s going to handle the Tracy/Jackson/Mark Reynolds situation, but from reading between the lines it sounded to me like Tracy is going to have a much better chance getting into the lineup at third base than at first. And, well, Reynolds is hitting .225, is 17 for his last 100 (.170) and is known to be a bit streaky. We’ll see how Tracy does at third base, if there’s any limitations with his knee. From what they’re saying, there haven’t been any issues with him defensively.
However, Tracy also says it will be 18 months - the start of the 2009 season before he is entirely recovered. "It gets a little sore after a game, but once I get it going the next day it's OK. It's just something I have to deal with for a while. I still can do what I need to do on the baseball field. I'm just going to play, I'm sure there are going to be obstacles that I'm going to face, but I think I'm ready for it." That necessitated a roster move. At first, it seemed like there was a chance that Robbie "The Invisible Man" Hammock would dodge another bullet, thanks to the groin injury suffered by Augie Ojeda, running out a ground-ball yesterday. However, he's only expected to miss a day or two, so Hammock was optioned off down to Tucson.
Okay, including the Gameday Thread, that's no less than four things I've posted to the site today, so I think i deserve to take the rest of the day off. Back to Phoenix tomorrow, and more divisional foes, in the shape of the Giants. Is this where I mention that the three worst records in the National League are now all in the NL West?