Record: 32-25. Pace: 91-71. Change on last season: -1.
That was fun. It's always going to be a nice relaxed day at the ball-park when the Win Probability passes 80% before Nationals starter Shawn Hill retires any batters, and the opposition don't get any runners past second-base. That pretty much guarantees you can chill out, enjoy the atmosphere, make sotto voce comments about the dubious future of the young child sitting to your left [thank you, Mrs. SnakePit], and... ColdStone Creamery? Don't mind if we do. The Diamondbacks posted back-to-back shutouts for the seventh time in franchise history, and the first since Brandon Webb and Juan Cruz - yes, he used to be a starter, children - did it in Cincinnati back on May 26-27, 2006. If we can add three more innings to these eighteen tomorrow, it'll be the longest scoreless streak for us since 2002, when we posted 31 straight zeros, over four games against the Rockies and Padres, from July 24-27.
Three-run, first-inning homers for Arizona. I approve.
On the other hand, while the win was appreciated and the shutout very nice, I can hardly claim this counts as the offense firing on all cylinders. Once again, we seemed to rely almost entirely on the long-ball. Homers are nice, but as we've seen, they come and go. Hudson's three-run jack, before a single out had been made in the bottom of the first, was our last hit with a runner in scoring position: we had only four over the entire series. Our other runs scored on a solo shot by Chad Tracy, and a wild-pitch which allowed Chris Snyder to trot home from third base; he'd reached there on a ground-out by Haren. I don't feel confident about sitting back and waiting for the homer: I'd rather see us able to score in other ways, manufacturing runs and putting together good at-bats with men on base.
That said, you won't lose many games where the opposition doesn't score at all, and our pitchers shut out the Nationals for the second straight day. Dan Haren threw seven shutout innings, while Chad Qualls and Tony Pena finished things off by retiring all six hitters they faced. After some shaky appearances from our 1-2 pitchers, it was good to see both Webb and now Haren get back on track with solid performances. Okay, maybe the Washington lineup is not the strongest one they'll face, but these are major-league hitters, and they still have to be retired. Over the past couple of days, we've done that very well. Eighteen innings, ten hits, three walks, 13 K's, no runs, and the Nationals batted .196 in the series as a whole.
Seven frames of shutout ball from our starter: I approve of that too.
Haren was not quite as lights-out dominating as Webb the night before: he initially had a spot of trouble with his control, putting two men on in the first, but settled down nicely after that. He went seven shutout innings, with four hits, three walks and five strikeouts. It certainly helped when the offense went up there and posted a three-spot of run support in the first inning. Drew singled on the first pitch he say, and then stole second - it looked like Young was trying to bunt, but fortunately nothing came of that, and instead, he beat out an infield single off the glove of the pitcher. Hudson then launched a long bomb just to the right of the swimming-pool, and that was all the offense we'd need.
Good job too, as there wasn't much to be found the rest of the way: five hits scattered over the 27 outs which followed, with four walks. Chad Tracy did look good, crushing a homer and also rifling a single back up the middle; Drew and Young added walks to their opening-inning hits; Snyder doubled into the left-center gap, and Romero had a nice bit of slap hitting, poking a ball down the third-base line, virtually onto the line for his first ever extra-base hit in the majors. He also sent one right to the warning track in right - though I was off getting ColdStone at that point, so I'm relying on second-hand reports of that.
- They need to get some Rallybacks who can throw. The girls all appear to have arms like twigs, and if you are not in the front three rows, you haven't got a chance of any of the freebies they try to toss out. I'm sure some members of the ASU softball team would be happy to assist.
- It was Baxter's "birthday", and that meant his party, attended by all the mascots who had nothing better to do. This included a complete set of the local mascots (NHL, NFL, NBA and WNBA - yeah, the Phoenix Mercury have a mascot. Who knew?); the Suns gorilla got almost the biggest pop of the day. There were also a few MLB mascots, including the Swinging Friar and Billy the Marlin.
- Dinner was split between the catfish tenders from Ribbies, and the garlic fries from Gordon Biersch. The latter were particularly good, but I was disappointed to see that all they had as entrees was burgers and hot-dogs, not exactly imaginative offerings.
- Augie Ojeda almost got into a game, for the first time since May 25, being put up to pinch-hit for Qualls in the eighth, but was stranded in the on-deck circle when Salazar stuck out. Still, we're carrying enough walking wounded as is on our infield, so good to see he seems to be close to returning.
- On that note, Orlando Hudson was limping noticeably before the game as he warmed up. Not that it seemed to affect his performance, either at the plate or with the glove, but I still don't think he's 100%.
- Justin Upton not present in the lineup, due to the dreaded "flu-like symptoms." That meant Alex Romero, who has taken over the 'Forgotten Man' role on the roster from Robby Hammock, got to make his second start of the season and played more than six innings for the first ever time.
- I don't know if anyone else has seen this, but mlb.tv appear quietly to be posting entire games online, not long after they've been completed, for free viewing. I access them through the D-backs Mediacenter, then click on the 400 Kb or 800 Kb link there. You have to be registered at mlb.com, but there's no fee. Good way to catch up on games you missed.
A cheerful and upbeat Gameday Thread, for similar reasons to those discussed in the opening paragraph. It certainly sets things up nicely for the upcoming ten-game road-trip; while going 2-4 on this home-stand is nothing to brag about, I'm far happier to have the two wins at the end, rather than the four losses. Present in the Gameday Thread were hotclaws, soco, kishi, Muu, foulpole, Wimb, DbacksSkins, dahlian, njjohn, UofAZGrad, DiamondbacksWIn, Snakebitten, mrssoco, TwinnerA, emilylovesthedbacks, luckycc, unnamedDBacksfan and Zephon.
Looking good elsewhere in the division, as the Mets hold a five-run lead over the Dodgers at the end of five. If that holds up, it'd increase our lead over LA to 4.5 games, the best it's been in a couple of weeks, since it reached 5.5 on May 16 and 18. I'm not all that confident about these next ten contests: we've not done very well on the road or against other divisions, and we'll be doing both in the upcoming games. If we manage to do anything better than a split, I think I'll be happy; one win in Milwaukee, three of four in Pittsburgh [they get to face the front of the AZ rotation] and one in New York?