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Diamondbacks 0, Red Sox 5 - Knuckled Under

Record: 40-39. Pace: 82-80. Change on last season: -5

Well, this road-trip rolls merrily along. In the six games so far, we have lost five, scored a total of 12 runs, and batted .194 overall. This might have been the worst one yet: shutout for the second time this year, Arizona mustered only two hits and one walk in seven shutout innings from Tim Wakefield, and ended on the receiving end of a three-hitter. It's gone beyond desperate. It's sunk below pathetic. It's now reached the stage where, no matter how bad the Diamondbacks' offense gets, I simply shrug my shoulders, roll my eyes and move on. This kind of performance is no longer a shock or a surprise; it's pretty much what I've come to expect. Kinda sad.

Another solid outing from a starter, in a losing cause. In the past eight games, we have now had six quality starts, an ERA of 3.48 [take out Randy's complete-game suckage in Minnesota, and the ERA in the other seven was 2.72], but the team has gone 2-6. No, by and large, it has not been the starting pitching which has caused the problems over the past [insert however long a time-frame you feel like considering]. If Johnson was not brilliant - he allowed eight hits and two walks in six innings, and it took him 109 pitches to get that far - the two runs he allowed were a significant improvement over the previous outings, and this was his best start of the month.

The Big Unit, of course, was not able to acquire that pesky 289th career win, which remained as elusive as it has for the past seven appearances - one short of tying the longest winless streak in his entire 21-season career.  The chances of him reaching the 300 mark this season now appear to be basically zero, and one begins to wonder, will it ever happen? Instead, Johnson got tagged with his fifth consecutive loss, the first time that has happened since an infamous stretch when he pitched for us in 1999. There, he received a total of zero runs in support over four straight games, which we lost 0-1, 0-2, 0-1 and 0-2. The only streak of defeats in his career to surpass this, dates all the way back to 1992, when he lost eight in a row, with Seattle.

The headline on the recap says, "Johnson outdueled by Wakefield." That's something of a misrepresentation of the facts, since Coco Crisp alone had as many extra-base hits off Johnson, as our entire roster managed, of any type, off the Boston knuckleballer. I guess "Johnson pitches quite well, while the Arizona hitters flail wildly as the ball flutter towards them," was felt to be a little too wordy as captions go. Pre-game batting practice was served up by Hall of Fame knuckler, now the D-backs radio analyst, Tom Candiotti, who said, "It's so different than a guy going out there and throwing the ball 90 mph with breaking stuff. You see that every day, so you get conditioned to it. That's one of the things that makes knuckleballers pretty effective is that they're the only ones who do it."

No kidding. Wakefield faced two batters over the minimum through his seven innings. The only hitters to reach were Montero (single), Hudson (double) and Young (walk) - the last-named was thrown out trying to steal second, reducing our success-rate in that area this season to a troubling 65%. As an aside, I notice that leading the team in successful thefts this year are...Mark Reynolds and Conor Jackson, each with five. Hands up anyone who bet money on them as a quinella in this category.

Arizona threatened to end the shutout in the ninth, loading the bases for Chad Tracy with two outs. That put the Diamondbacks just a bloop and a blast away from tying up the game, and sent our Win Probability shooting all the way up from 0.2% to the dizzying heights of 1.3%. Clearly terrified, Red Sox manager Terry Francona, was forced to go deep into his bullpen to salvage the game, and... Oh, who am I trying to kid? Jonathan Papelbon struck out Tracy to end the game, complete the shutout, and consign the Diamondbacks - four outs from taking the series yesterday - to another defeat. In the 29 games Arizona has played over the past month, we have scored 94 runs - an average of 3.2 per game. We have scored more than four on only four occasions in that time.

[Click to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Randy Johnson, +6.3%
God-emperor of suck: Chad Tracy, -10.6%

Yes, the losing pitcher was Arizona's best player of the game. Any questions? Apparently not. For after two epic gameday threads earlier in the series, this was - entirely understandably - one of the limper efforts we have mustered this season. Present were: Wimb, DbacksSkins, emilylovesthedbacks, TwinnerA, nihil67, hotclaws, kishi, luckycc, 4 Corners Fan, Elway4Prez, dbacksfan01, Diamondhacks, dahlian, snakecharmer and Muu. Obviously, the next person to mention Rachel Nichols in a Gameday Thread will find a mob of outraged Diamondbacks fans marching on their home with torches, since this game proved that she is the Antichrist to our saints. Do not believe her lies!

Thus, a series that began with so much hope, ends with Arizona licking their wounds and slinking off. About the only things I enjoyed about this game was that it a) started on time, and b) didn't take long. So I get to post this relatively early, and go off to watch something appropriately crap - likely starring Bruce Campbell and that irritating sidekick from Xena. Sure beats rehashing this one any further, folks.