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Diamondbacks 3, Pirates 1: The Win's The Thing

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Record: 33-28. Pace 88-64. Change on last season: -3

Not perhaps the most convincing of victories. But at this point, I feel like a sailor who has just completed a single-handed circumnavigation of the world, i.e. "I don't care how ugly it is, it'll do for now". While we may only have gone 6-for-33 at the plate, we broke the three-game losing sequence, and are now moving in the right direction - at least for the moment.

This one, of course, comes to the Diamondbacks courtesy of their ace, Brandon Webb - and I'm losing count of how many times we've said that this season. He picked up his eleventh win of the season on a sticky Pittsburgh night, that likely made his actual pitch-count of 95 seems a good deal more. That got him through seven innings, in which Webb allowed only three hits and no walks. Webb also chipped in by driving in a run, coming back from 0-2 to rifle a full-count pitch back up the middle - he said,  "I knew he didn't want to walk the pitcher. I was swinging no matter what." That was his fifth RBI - two more than Miguel Montero, and only one less than Chris Burke.

It was certainly among his most welcome win if it wasn't perhaps his most dominating outing of the year - he fell behind more often than usual, struck out only three Pittsburgh batters and had just four swinging strikes all night. He commented, "The arm felt fine and the legs had kind of a dead feeling and the ball just wasn't coming out of my hand real good, and I was flipping curveballs that didn't have too much bite and changeups kind of the same way."When you get out there in the first, usually the adrenalin kicks in and takes over, but the first inning I still had the same kind of stuff. It just wasn't jumping out of my hand and it didn't have a whole lot of movement." On that basis, it says a lot that his stuff still proved good enough to have a no-hitter up until two outs in the fifth inning.

It's also the fifth time this year he has won after a loss in our previous games: "I look to do that. I had to do it a couple of times this year. I've been fortunate enough to be that guy. I enjoy doing that. You don't want to be in those kind of situations, but it does happen." We are phenomenally lucky to have Webb, and I dread to think what we'd be right now without him. Oh, hang on: we'd be the Arizona Padres. It's only our second win of the season scoring three runs or less - the first being Webb's 2-1 victory over Peavy on April 27 - so improves our record to 2-18. That's actually a bit worse than the overall percentage in the National League with three or less, which is .196 [82-336], so we'd expect to have taken a couple more. Remarkably, the Giants have already ten such games in their W column: between April 23-May 3, they won six times, and scored a total of only seventeen runs in those victories.

Peña and Lyon polished off the win with a pair of shutout innings. You can probably forgive the latter for looking a little confused before the ninth - he probably had to look up "save opportunity" in the dictionary, since it has been so long since his last one, more than three weeks. This one was a bit of a struggle, with the tying run ending up on base, and it would likely have been worse yet, except for a line-drive which LaRoche smashed right at Hudson. Still, it's both 21 straight games and innings without a run allowed, the best streaks in the majors by a reliever this season. The games is a new franchise record, and the innings ties Willie Banks' bullpen mark from back in 1998. Perhaps more impressively, Lyon hasn't allowed an extra-base hit, and only two walks, in that time.

It was, however, also our twentieth consecutive game with ten or less hits. That's now the longest in the majors this year, passing Florida's nineteen between May 9-30. Indeed, this hasn't been surpassed since the Expos did it for 30 straight, from September 13, 2003 through April 22 the following season. [It seemed curiously fashionable at the time - for a week in September, as well as the Expos starting off a run, the Mets and Detroit were coming to the end of their own 25- and 21-game streaks respectively]. Simply by random chance, I feel it can't continue for much longer. However, I am far from happy to be relying on 'luck' for such things.

No-one had more than a single hit yesterday: Hudson and Tracy had a walk and a hit, while Salazar added two walks. That dropped our batting average on this trip down to .202, but is basically continuing a theme of the past three weeks. Since the Tigers arrived in town on May 16, the team is hitting a collecting .212. Justin Upton is the poster-boy for the slump, having gone 7-for-59 [.119] with 29 strikeouts over that time. That's almost down to Eric Byrnes' [6-for-62, April 27-May 14] level - at this rate, we'll probably end up trading Upton away to someone in the AL Central, for a nameless A-ball player. :-(

[Click to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Brandon Webb: +36.2%
God-emperor of suck: Chris Snyder, -9.0%

Thanks to those who were in the Gameday Thread, which largely wasn't me, due to an unexpected power outage. Those less electrically challenged were: Azreous, hotclaws, Stile4aly, DbacksSkins, dahlian, unnamedDBacksfan, Wimb, foulpole, kishi, TwinnerA, peeklay, emilylovesthedbacks, soco, mrssoco, luckycc and srdmad. Let's focus on the positive, as Webb notches his eleventh win - nobody else in the league has more than eight, and he also leads the league in WHIP [Dan Haren, incidentally, is tied with Ben Sheets for second]. Barring a sudden collapse over the remaining month, we are looking at the National League starter in the All-Star game.

It doesn't seem like he'll have much company from Arizona: in the most recent figures from voting, we have a number of players in the top five, but no-one is even close to being elected. Upton leads our vote-getters with 329,467 - I'm assume few of those were cast in the last three weeks - but even he is languishing in eighth, more than 160K out of an automatic spot. We're getting decent showings from Hudson (5th, but barely a quarter of the votes for leader Chase Utley), Reynolds (4th, more than half a million behind Chipper Jones), Snyder (5th, trailing Soto by about 400K) and Young (14th, with 240K votes). Says something about the rest of the NL West, that the only other players from it among the 40 listed are Russell Martin and Matt Holliday.

There is other good news, in that Conor Jackson looks ready to return to the starting lineup after his quadriceps-enforced layoff. Melvin said our first-baseman was available to pinch-hit yesterday, and will be good to go today. "We ran him pretty good out here on the field today and tested him at about as high a level as you could test him other than playing in game conditions." Byrnes is also making progress: He did some agility drills today," Melvin said. "It was the first day for that. We'll progressively lead into the running part, which he is champing at the bit to do, but it was the first day that he did agilities out on the field." The way our offense has been hitting, we need all the able-bodies we can get.