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Diamondbacks 2, Mets 5 - Infield Issues

Record: 21-10. Pace: 110-52. Change on last season: +5.

This was a particularly infuriating loss. To put it into gaming terms, it was like defeating the big boss, and then falling off the final platform just before you get to rescue the princess. Dan Haren held his own against Johan Santana, getting the Mets ace out of the game with only a one-run deficit, and then a broken-bat blooper from Mark Reynolds tied the game up [kudos there should go to Justin Upton, for the walk immediately beforehand, that pushed Conor Jackson into scoring position].

The turning point was probably the at-bat leading off the bottom of the eighth. Chris Burke laid down a bunt, and the throw to first was wide. However, rather than stop at second, Burke opted to try for third, and was nailed there, admittedly by a perfect throw from Church in right. This violated the Unwritten Rules of Baseball #5, "Never make the first or third out at third" - a subsequent wild-pitch and Owings' infield single would probably have scored Burke from second, giving Arizona a 3-2 lead, going into the ninth inning.

Instead, the score was tied, but some defensive mis-cues cost Arizona dearly. First, there was a single to right that Jackson might have gloved. Then, there was a double-play ball that wasn't, due to the big defensive shift from Alou. And, worst of all, there was a third groundball, this time to Jackson, which he promptly threw into left-field while trying to start the double-play. The go-ahead run scored, and a sacrifice, pinch-hit single and a sac. fly gave the Mets a three-run lead, which was about two more than Billy Wagner needed to nail down the save, with a 1-2-3 ninth. One day after our final three outs exploded against the New York bullpen, the boot was firmly on the other foot this time.

Arizona left twelve men on base, the most in a nine-inning loss since stranding thirteen against Atlanta, back in July 2005. We piled up ten hits and five walks, beating the Mets in both areas, but just couldn't seem to get the breakthrough hit. Santana showed why he will be one of the Cy Young candidates at the end of the year, striking out eight D-backs in six innings, and continually getting the big outs when he needed them. We had men on base in every inning until the ninth, and had men in scoring position in the first, second and fourth (each with one out), as well as the sixth + seventh (both with two outs) and eighth (no outs).

But all we could muster was Snyder's first career triple - I'm still trying to work out how that stayed in the park, somehow ricocheting back into play off the padding next to our bullpen in left - and Reynolds RBI single. Ojeda, Reynolds and Snyder had two hits each: good to see our catcher begin to put things together, having improved his average from a low of .178 on April 20th, and is now batting .243 on the season. That same day also marked Special K's last multi-hit game before today, so we hope he can now turn it around and go on one of his much-loved hot streaks.

Eric Byrnes, however... I don't know if it's his hamstrings or what, but it was painful to watch him struggle at the plate this afternoon. He was 0-for-5 with three more K's, to drop his average down to .242. It makes him 2-for-28 going back to last Sunday's game, with no walks, no extra-base hits, and eight K's. I know Byrnes is a gamer, who wants to be in the lineup every day, but there is a certain point where personal considerations need to be put aside. If it takes a couple of weeks on the DL to get him back to being right, then that's what it takes. We can play Salazar for a bit, and call Alex Romero back up. The production can hardly be any worse than we've got out of Byrnes recently. And until that takes place, take him out of the #3 spot. It has got to the stage where there is a collective wince when Byrnes come to the plate.

Dan Haren provided a quality start, allowing two runs on only three hits and a walk over six innings. He struck out seven Mets, and the duel between him and Santana was as advertised - if Ojeda has managed to turn an admittedly-difficult double-play, there'd have been one run less for the Mets. Haren could likely have continued, throwing only 85 pitches through those six innings, but his spot came up in the order during the bottom of the sixth, with men in scoring position. I think Melvin's decision to pinch-hit for him at that stage was appropriate, as runs were proving so hard to come by. Hudson was the replacement, and he walked, but it was apparent from the way he moved, that his hamstrings are not entirely healed either. I wouldn't be surprised to see him sitting tomorrow for the opener of the Phillies series.

[Click to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Mark Reynolds, +19.2%
God-emperor of suck: Chad Qualls, -45.6% -
but with a major contribution from Conor Jackson

Certainly made for a lively Gameday Thread, which came back up to overflow levels, with almost 800 comments in total. Thanks to: unnamedDBacksfan, snakecharmer, foulpole, seton hall snake pit, El Stuart, luckycc, 4 Corners Fan, Augie's Army, LucaMaz3, hotclaws, DbacksSkins, Muu, Snakebitten, soco, mrssoco, TwinnerA, dahlian, friendly visiting fan RAMJB and Azreous for their contributions. Just a shame it couldn't have been in a more victorious cause.

Still, worth pointing out that it's the first time we have lost a series since the opening one in Cincinnati, more than a month ago. I guess it had to happen eventually, but Chase continues to be a happy hunting ground for the Mets. There no doubting the strength of that lineup; Church is probably the one who impressed me most over the series, not just for his bat, but also the cannon of an arm he showcased on a couple of occasions. The good news is, the Dodgers lost in Colorado today, so there was nothing further taken off our lead: the Dodgers and Mets now face each other, though Los Angeles will manage to dodge Santana.

We, meanwhile, welcome the Phillies to town, and we'll be eagerly anticipating the debut as a starter of Max Scherzer. He was aged two, when opposing starter Jamie Moyer made his major-league debut, back in. 1986. I think this might be a lot of fun. But if Arizona can avoid the horrific defense that cost them dearly in the first and last games of this series, I'd be a lot happier.