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Diamondbacks 2, A's 1: J-Up 1-Ups Oakland

Record: 39-34. Pace: 87-75. Change on last season: -3

Pop quiz. Bottom of the seventh inning and it's a 1-1 game. However, you have runners on the corners, and only one man out. The pitcher's spot is up, and you have the following pinch-hitters available on your bench:
  Player A: .268/.308/.479, 16% strikeout rate
  Player B: .235/.356/.388, 33% strikeout rate
  Player C: .261/.333/.370, 41% strikeout rate

If you said, emphatically, "Player C," you are Bob Melvin. Because, with the game on the line in exactly the manner outlined above, he sent up the player with the worst OPS and highest K rate, pitcher Micah Owings, to hit [the other two were Drew and Salazar, the former rewarded for his three-hit night by getting dropped from the line-up]. The result, inevitably, rather than the go-ahead run, was a swinging K and the runner ended up stranded at third.

Much as we love Micah, and his ability to give us an extra hitter, it's time for him to be taken out of the pinch-hitter equation. That's four straight appearances in the role where he has struck out, and since his two-run homer back in April, he is 1-for-8 with five K's off the bench. We have better options - but not to Melvin's eye: he has used  Owings more as a PH in June than in any other month - more than Burke, Montero or Salazar. Is it just coincidence that his last four starts have also seen Micah go 0-3 with a 9.95 ERA? Or is the unnecessary and unproductive pinch-hitting proving a distraction to our young starter?

That wasn't the only poor decision made by Melvin in the late innings. He also used up his first out by getting Snyder to sacrifice Young from first to second - a move that dropped our Win Probability by 2.6%. And when Jackson walked after Upton's homer, he inexplicably put on the hit-and-run for CoJack, with Special K at the plate and a full count. Yes, Mark Reynolds, currently ranked second in the majors for strikeouts. To no-one's surprise - except, it would appear, Bob Melvin's - the result was a strike 'em out, throw 'em out double-play, which ended any chance of us adding an insurance run before sending Lyon out there. As mentioned in the Gameday Thread, this was a game we won in spite of the Mad Scientist, rather than because of him.

Fortunately, Justin Upton rescued us from the questionable decision of our manager, leading off the eighth with a what can only be described as a bomb into the pool area, on a full-count pitch from Foulke. He was the only Diamondback to touch home-plate from the right direction this afternoon, as he also scored our opening run, doubling to lead off the fourth, and eventually coming home on Chris Young's sacrifice fly. Could the recent discussion about sending Upton down to Tucson have concentrated his mind? Not according to Justin:

There’s no confidence issues. It’s just baseball. A lot of people who don’t play the game don’t know how tough it is mentally and how physically draining it is on the body. You can so quickly lose your swing and your mental approach at the plate, and you’ve just got to find it again... It has been pretty tough, but in the end, it’s a game where you’re going to fail a lot, and it’s something you have to live with. But to play the way I did today, hopefully it turns things around.

Doug Davis was stellar once again, and deserved better than yet another high quality no-decision. He has now allowed one earned run in the past thirteen innings of work - however, DD still hasn't won since May 23rd. The reason is simply a lack of run support: while he has been on the mound in his past four starts, now covering 22.2 innings, the Diamondbacks have scored just four runs. Today, he was a little less economical - it took him 103 pitches, ending with a very helpful double-play, to get through six innings. However, the only damage was a bloop RBI single down the line by Jack Cust in the sixth. Said Doug, "I had everything working out there for me once again. It was just like the last outing. I executed getting ahead and that was the big thing, getting ahead and getting strike one and being able to expand the zone from there."

After him, it was on to the bullpen, and the seven strong innings thrown by Haren in Wednesday's game meant that the A-group were fully rested. Qualls, Peña and Lyon responded impeccably, retiring all nine hitters they face, with the win going to Tony. I was somewhat concerned about Lyon, as the A's hitters had owned him when they first met on Tuesday; however, he was back to normal form this afternoon and picked up his fifteenth save with a 1-2-3 ninth to complete the three-hitter. Not that our offense was exactly on fire, managing only five hits themselves, with two each for Upton and Young. We did manage five walks though, with Reynolds getting a pair.

[Click to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Justin Upton, +27.7%
Honorable Mention: Davis, +20.9%; Lyon, +16.8%; Peña +11.0%
God-emperor of suck: Augie Ojeda, -15..8%
Dishonorable mention: Owings, -11.5%, Hudson, -11.0%, Snyder -10.2%

I hope you all failed miserably to get any work done this afternoon. I know I did. :-) Thanks to those who similarly tried to look busy: DbacksSkins, dbacksfan01, srdmad, kishi, emilylovesthedbacks, hotclaws, luckycc, dahlian, soco, TwinnerA, snakecharmer, Diamondhacks, seton hall snake pit, 4 Corners Fan, Wimb and bcloirao. It was great to take a series which felt a long, long way out of grasp after the nightmare which was the opening drubbing, and will hopefully give us some good momentum as we head off into the realm of the DH, to take on the Twins and Red Sox on their home turf.

Who do you think should DH for us? I am leaning towards Tracy at the moment, allowing everyone to get in the lineup without us having to play out of their normal positions [Conor, thank you for your efforts in left]. However, especially for the Twins series, before Byrnes comes back, I wouldn't be surprised to see Melvin exercise his man-crush and put Micah in the role for at least one of the games. I'll close with this interesting paragraph stolen from Athletics Nation and their recap of the game. I made some very minor changes: does this sound at all familiar?

Thanks to the Angels’ Dodgers' own troubles, we are still hanging in there in the AL NL West, 3.5 4.5 games out up, but it’s no secret that the A’s D-backs are still at least one key element away from being a competitive team; they have flashes of talent, and a couple of good, young players who will develop, but they are ETA: still too inconsistent to be a competitive team, and they are not the team you want in a close, low-scoring game. At some point, how many times can you excuse a poor offensive performance by crediting the pitching?