Record: 23-12. Pace: 106-56. Change on last season: +4.
Outside of a somewhat wobbly top of the first inning, where our defense again gifted the opposition a run, this was just what the doctor ordered. Brandon Webb gave the bullpen a much-needed day off, with his first complete game of the season, and the offense came through, providing plentiful run support - they've scored eighteen runs for their ace over his last two starts.
Webb was particularly dominant through the first eight innings, allowing only an unearned run. That came as the result of a passed ball by Chris Snyder, through Burke should also have made the play at first, and there could have been a twin-killing during the inning. However, Webb settled down and retired 16 of 17 Phillies, the only one to reach being Bruntlett, hit by a pitch. He had a three-hitter going, entering the ninth: while he did see to flag somewhat there, allowing two runs on three hits, he finished off by getting another double-play with his 104th pitch, to complete his 13th career complete-game.
His final line was six hits, no walks and four strikeouts over the nine innings, with three runs allowed, two earned: up until the final stretch, this was probably his best outing of the year so far. Even so, it still runs Webb's record to 8-0, a stunning achievement given that no-one else in the National League has more than five wins so far. That's also Brandon's tenth victory in a row, the longest run in the National League since John Smoltz won eleven consecutive games for Atlanta near the start of 1996. The only other NL pitcher to reach double-digits over the past 30 years, is Andy Hawkins, who matched Webb, with ten straight in 1985.
After the Phillies took the lead, Arizona jumped right back out there, on Young's two-run homer in the bottom of the first. his eighth of the year, giving him the team lead. But it was in the fourth where the D-backs really blew things open, scoring four times on three hits, two walks, an error and a sacrifice fly. Chris Snyder had the key knock, a two-run double, which meant he went 10-for-24 on the homestand, with six RBI. Over the twenty games he's played after his batting average sunk to .083 on April 11, Snyder has hit .357. It's time for him to be moved out of the eighth spot, and get more use out of his offense.
On the other hand, let us now speak of Eric Byrnes,, who went 0-for-5 this afternoon, and was saved by a Jenkins error from hitting into a double-play. That reduces his season average to .232 - startling, given that he was batting .293 on April 26, less than two weeks ago. Since then, he is 5-for-46, with no walks or extra-base hits, one RBI and ten strikeouts. He batted leadoff for the D-backs today, and was the only position player a) not to get a hit, and b) not to drive in or score a run. There are really only two possibilities left: he's injured, or he sucks. In neither case, should he be in the top third of the batting order any longer - yet as I mentioned in the Gameday Thread, the worse he gets, the higher up the order he moves. His OBP is now below .300, the worst of the regular eight starters. Much as I love Byrnes...he's killing us.
There were a couple of interesting changes in the lineup today, one of them enforced by the absence of Jackson and Hudson, but the other was more optional. Chris Young started out of the lead-off spot for the first time this season, and was in the three-hole instead, somewhere he was last seen late in 2006. And behind him, making his debut batting fourth, was Justin Upton: how many teams have a 20-year old in the clean-up slot? Seemed to work pretty well for both of them: they combined to go 3-for-7 with three runs scored and three driven in, and each had a homer.
Upton's line for the season is now .344/.407/.566: I know it's early, but if he sustains an OPS of .973 by the end of the year, it'll be the fourth-best ever by a player his age. He'll be trailing Ted Williams (1.045 in 1939), Alex Rodriguez (1.045 in 1996) and Mel Ott (1.084 in 1929). Even if he loses a hundred points of OPS the rest of the way, that'd still be second only to A-Rod since 1959, when Vada Pinson put up a .316/.371/.509 year for the Cincinnati Red. Today, however, Mark Reynolds was the star, getting his first three-hit game of the season; we'll even forgive Webb going 0-for-4 with five men left on base. Happy to take the complete game any time.
The afternoon game inevitably affected Gameday Thread attendance a bit, and perhaps there was a hangover from yesterday's fiasco too. I managed to sneak in for a bit at lunchtime, and also present were paqs, Bcawz, unnamedDBacksfan, soco, El Stuart, IndyDBack, kishi, dahlian, Craig from Az, Lisalisa8 [welcome!], 4 Corners Fan, hotclaws, SongBird, peeklay, Azreous, Smoltz's Beard, dstorm, DbacksSkins and singaporedbacksfan. And, hey, no irritating Dodgers fans to be found...and I so wanted to use the ban button for the first non-spamming time on SB Nation 2.0! We'll see what happens tomorrow, but bear in mind that it's another day-game: indeed, more of a morning game here in Arizona, so I will have to remember how to get something up before starting work!
Looks like there'll be no DL for Hudson, with Melvin saying before today's game, "At this point, I look to start [Hudson] Saturday, but he's in a pinch-hit role today and tomorrow." I hope that is indeed true, though I have heard an over-optimistic prognosis out of Melvin before in this case. Conor Jackson also looks to be ready to return, and could have been used as a pinch-hitter today had he been needed. "I'm surprised my arm is OK, to tell you the truth," he said. "I think that kind of took the brunt of it, but the helmet got me pretty good right below the temple, kind of in the orbit of the eye. I never lost consciousness, but I was definitely seeing stars." Remember, folks: please don't try those kind of moves at home, because Conor Jackson is a trained professional... :-)
Here's a reminder of something from last December by Nick Piecoro, which will probably have you gnawing off the odd limb in frustration. "Can you believe what Cliff Lee has been doing? The guy goes into