Record: 39-37. Pace: 83-79. Change on last season: -5
Over 24 innings in these three games, we actually outscored Minnesota 7-1. Unfortunately, this isn't diving, and you do not get to discard the highest score by the opposition from your card: because, in the other three innings, the Twins plundered no less than seventeen runs off Arizona, and ended up with the sweep. At least we avoided giving up a six-spot today - the five-spot allowed in the fifth proved more than an adequate substitute.
It was quite remarkable how rapidly this fell apart. We had a 3-0 lead, and had just put the first two men on base in the top of the fifth. However, Melvin inexplicably called upon Orlando Hudson to bunt the runners along. O-Dawg missed the ball entirely, the catcher threw to second and Drew was tagged out before he could scurry back to the bag. Hudson then immediately grounded into a double-play, and in the space of two pitches, we'd gone from two on with nobody out, to inning over. But, hey, we were still three runs ahead, and Brandon Webb was back to pitching like his old self. Even after a lead-off single for the Twins, it's no problem. For the next batter slaps a high fly-ball to left-field, where Conor Jackson has plenty of room and carefully places himself for an easy out.
Unfortunately, the ball drops to the Astroturf about six feet forward and to the right of our rookie right-fielder.
Yes, Jackson had completely lost the ball against the all-white backdrop of the Metrodome roof, and instead of a man on first and one out, the Twins had two men in scoring position and nobody out. Perhaps understandably, Webb appeared to be taken out of his game by the gaffe, and the next three hitters went two-RBI single, single, sacrifice bunt, two-RBI single. Drew then let a ground-ball through his legs, to put runners back on the corners with one out and the Twins now 4-3 up. The pain was mercifully ended by a sacrifice-fly double-play, which scored the runner on third, but got the other one trying to advance to second. However, the lead, as yesterday, had vanished into the mists of irrelevance, this time thanks to the Twins getting hold of Webb's sinker, and more mis-cues by the defense.
While I'm feeling all grumpy and critical, let me explain the purpose of the Designated Hitter. It is to allow you to add an extra batter to the line-up - not so that you can remove your best defensive player from the field and use him as the DH. I am obliged to mention this, because Bob Melvin seems unclear on the concept. I'd love to be able to ask him the logic behind taking our only Gold Glover - widely regarded as our top man on defense - off the field for the afternoon. Especially while, at the same time, you run our first baseman out into left, to contend with a position he has barely played, and deal with one of the most treacherous backdrops for fly-balls in the major-leagues.
Of course, some of this is second-guessing with the benefit of hindsight: we didn't know that CoJack was going to lose a fly-ball against the Metrodome roof. But that's exactly the kind of thing we've been dreading since Jackson bravely went into left. The American League rules should have made it less likely; we could keep Jackson's bat in the lineup alongside Tracy, and still had an experienced left-fielder. Instead, we had Ojeda at second-base and Jackson in left: hard to argue that both those were defensive downgrades, not really countered by having Ojeda at the plate instead of, say, Jeff Salazar.
Certainly, Jackson was one of the few hitters who proved capable of handling Hernandez 2.0, with Livan frustrating Arizona's offense in typical style, allowing nine hits in seven innings, but only one earned run. He even managed to find time to strike out a season-high five Diamondbacks, helped significantly by Chris Young looking at six straight strikes over his first two at-bats. [As an aside, Livan has improved his walk-rate seriously this year: it's now only at 1.39 BB/9 IP, down from 3.48 last season.] Jackson had three hits, while Reynolds and Snyder had a pair apiece.
Negative points to Drew, for getting picked off second in the nightmarish fifth, and Upton, caught stealing for the fourth time - he has only one successful attempt this year, so time for our first-base coach to bring out the staple-gun. We have now been caught 13 times in 38 attempts (66%), well below the usual break-even point, which is about 75%.
We were at 88% before Hudson couldn't get the bunt down. About the only crumb of comfort we can take is that the Giants blew things even worse, dropping a 10-3 lead and a 97.5% Win Probability to Kansas City. Yeah, I got nothing. Rockies lost, Padres look likely to lose, but the Dodgers held on, and our lead is back to 3.5 games, as the American League kicked our ass in this series. Thanks to those who hung out in the Gameday Thread, which rolled on through the European soccer quarter-final between Italy and Spain, ending at almost 600 comments. Present were: unnamedDBacksfan, DbacksSkins, Counsellmember, soco, TwinnerA, srdmad, garyho (welcome!), acidtongue, luckycc, Wimb (Bisons win! Bisons win!), dbacksfan01, kishi, hotclaws, emilylovesthedbacks, Diamondhacks and 4 Corners Fan (again, hope your Mom gets better!).
Onto Boston, whose bullpen will hopefully be a bit tired by having taken thirteen innings this afternoon to avoid the sweep against St. Louis. Looking at the match-ups for the upcoming series at Fenway...yuck. If we can take one out of three, I'll be happy.