Record: 32-26. Pace: 89-73. Change on last season: -2
Ooh, look at the Diamondbacks queuing up for the all-you-can-eat Blame Buffet this evening. There's Mark Reynolds, piling his plate high. Chad Qualls looks particularly hungry too. Doug 'Batting Practice' Slaten is forming an orderly line, right in front of Augie 'Mini EB' Ojeda. I see Chris Snyder, letting Prince Fielder steal in, right before his eyes. And Bob Melvin is coming back for a second helping, while we try to work out the logic behind his baffling managerial choices. Even Doug Davis is nibbling on an appetizer, since Fielder's theft of third-base was likely as much on his head as Snyder's.
Otherwise, though, up until the seventh inning, Davis was pretty much everything you could want, with just one run on five hits and a walk. Sure, the Brewers had runners in scoring position with no outs in the first and second inning, and two outs in the third, but the only damage after six frames was Fielder's manufactured run: single, wild-pitch, steal, sacrifice fly. I was more than a little surprised - and said so at the time - that he was allowed to bat for himself in the sixth, then go back to the mound for the seventh. With a fully-rested bullpen [only two innings over Saturday and Sunday], it seemed to be pushing our luck somewhat, especially as we only had a two-run lead.
And events proved these fears entirely justified. Another infield single [one of five on the night, which seems like an awful lot], Drew's off-line throw pulling Tracy off the bag, and then a walk, marked the end of Doug's night, but was only a warm-up for the atrocity exhibition to come. Chad Qualls came in, and Kendall tried to sacrifice - Qualls, with plenty of time to get the runner, threw wildly and again pulled the fielder covering first away from the base. That meant everyone was safe, with the bases now loaded with Brewers, and still no-one was out. Worse was to follow: Qualls then coaxed a ground-ball to Reynolds, who fired the ball home. Or, more accurately, fired the ball about five yards to Snyder's right, allowing two runs to score and tying the game.
Remarkably, Qualls then managed to escape the second and third, nobody out jam without further damage, on a strikeout, a walk and a double-play - let's just review the Win Probability as the inning unfolded:
Milwaukee Win Probabilty - 22.3%
B Hall Single - 29.3%
J Hardy Walk - 39.7%
C Qualls relieved D Davis
J Kendall SacBunt+Err - 53.0%
G Kapler FC+Err - 82.3%
R Weeks Strikeout - 73.5%
M Cameron Walk - 73.5%
R Braun Ground DP - 50.0%
"Ok, we somehow got out with the score still tied. We just need our bullpen to..." Barely had that thought crossed my mind, when Doug Slaten served up a fatty to a fatty, and Prince Fielder promptly crushed the ball to deep center. It may not have landed yet - the results of that pitching change made the NL Manager of the Year look a bit crap, didn't it? In the ninth, some luck finally broke Arizona's way: back-to-back errors by the Brewers allowed Reynolds and Upton to reach. With the tying run on second, we were back in the game; a sacrifice bunt by Snyder [and, for once, this actually increased our Win Probability, albeit by a massive one-half of one percent] brought the tying run to third with one out. Even a sacrifice fly would do.
But there then followed a pair of mystifying decisions by Melvin. Firstly, letting Burke - about the worst hitter on the roster - hit for himself. Somehow he managed to work a walk, loading the bases for a pinch-hitter. Who do you think Melvin sent up? Miguel Montero? Jeff Salazar? Even, perhaps, the injured Conor Jackson, for some Kirk Gibsonesque heroics? No: try Augie Ojeda, a man who has been in the majors since 2000, has amassed eight sacrifice flies in that time and was getting his first at-bat since May 25. Really: much as I love the littlest ballplayer, he's not who I wanted to see at the plate. I have a better chance of driving the ball to the outfield than Ojeda. He immediately fell behind 0-2, just got a piece of a couple of pitches that were miles outside the zone, then popped up weakly on the infield. Drew got screwed by the umpire for strike three, though the way we played over those final innings, we can hardly complain - we don't deserve to win a game for the rest of the season.
The bullpen picked up its tenth loss of the season, against only three wins, wasting another quality start. The Diamondbacks' rotation has now gone 29-16, the most victories in the majors - even including the AL, where starters go deeper and so have more chance of a decision. In comparison, last year, our relievers didn't pick up their tenth defeat for another entire month, until July 4. It's turning into a real Achilles heel for the team: Qualls and Slaten have combined to go 0-7, in just 43.2 innings of work. I know wins and losses are not the most reliable method of judging performance - especially for relievers - but a 3-10 record would seem to provide credible cause for concern.
The offense sputtered, coughed, and fell back into the trough from whence they came, going 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. And even that hit resulted in an out: Reynolds singled to the infield, scoring Drew from third - but Chris Young motored around too, trying to score from second and was thrown out at the plate. That run would have been very nice to have later on, shall we say. Reynolds and Snyder has a pair of hits apiece, with Snyder adding his fifth homer of the year. Burke had a hit and two walks, while Drew reached twice, on a hit and a walk - he was caught stealing on a strikeout/thrown-out double play. That's the first time he's been nailed in the majors, after 13 successful attempts.
[Click to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Chris Snyder, +22.5%
Honorary mention: Mark Reynolds, +21.1% No, I'm calling that null and void
God-emperor of suck: oh, where to start? Deep breath...
Augie Ojeda, -22.4%
Stephen Drew, -23.3%
Doug Slaten, -25.5%
Tonight's fangraph looks like the overnight pulse-rate of a man whose bedroom was visited at 4am by Al Qaeda, 5am by Jenna Jameson, and finally, at 6am by the Grim Reaper. Not one for the ages, shall we say. I did still mostly enjoy the Gameday Thread, so thanks to the contributors: DbacksSkins, Azreous, kishi, dahlian, foulpole, mr.tunes [welcome!], hotclaws, soco, luckycc, DiamondbacksWIn, Wimb, RAMJB, LucaMaz3, njjohn, Zephon, 4 Corners Fan, Goose, TwinnerA, unnamedDBacksfan, mrssoco and shoewizard.
No-one seems to know how long Jackson will be out. He took batting practice today and is scheduled to run some agility drills tomorrow, which will hopefully answer some questions there. The MRI he received on Saturday showed a small tear in his quadriceps, and Melvin said yesterday that "We're going to try to shut him down for potentially three or four days and see where we're at. If he's back in the lineup a couple days after that, it's kind of what we're hoping for." Seems like it might be the middle of the Pittsburgh series before we get him back fulltime, at best. The latter story does say Jackson might be available as a pinch-hitter, and Melvin describes him as "usable, but not my first option." Which makes his absence in the ninth today all the more puzzling.
The Dodgers, to no-one's great surprise, closed the gap to 3.5 by beating the Rockies, who dropped their eighth game in a row. If Colorado keep this up, they are going to end up right alongside the 1998 fire-sale Marlins, for the biggest implosions in baseball history: Florida went from 92 wins and World Series champions, to just 54 the next year; the Rockies have now lost 16 of their last 21 games, and are on pace to go from the World Series to a 56-106 season. More importantly, we can't expect them to take the next two games from Los Angeles, and so winning tomorrow and Wednesday become doubly-important.