Record: 47-48. Pace: 80-82. Change on last season: -2.
So, there you have it: the Diamondbacks have a losing record over the first-half of the season. It really didn't seem likely when we started off the year winning twenty of our first twenty-eight games: at that point, it looked like we were going to run away with the division and clinch a playoff spot by the middle of August. Not quite the case, shall we say. The question of what the hell happened is something that we'll be discussing during the All-Star break. Tomorrow should see my mid-season report on the team, looking at what went well, what didn't, and who should be held accountable. For the moment, however, let's just concentrate on this single loss.
Stop me if you've heard this one before. Another quality start from our pitchers goes unrewarded. Arizona wastes its offensive opportunities, not helped by a fundamental lack of basic skills on the base-paths. And the bullpen fails to keep the team in the game, Chad Qualls getting tagged with the loss. Does any of this sound about as familiar and welcome as a re-occurring nightmare? Indeed, except for a pleasing amount of offense - fourteen hits for the Diamondbacks - this was, to a large extent, the 2008 first-half in miniature.
The lack of runs is what killed us once again. It's only the second time in franchise history we have had so many hits, and come away with so little to show for it. Back on August 1st, 2003, we had fifteen hits in Wrigley Field, and like today, only managed to plate a runner three times. Cole Hamels gave up a career-high eleven hits; we should have buried the Phillies as a result. The seventh inning was particularly painful, as a combination of poor management and bad execution snuffed out a rally, following hits by Webb and Drew to put two men on, with nobody out. The score was 2-1 to Arizona at this point, so here was a real chance to add on to that lead, and go on from there, perhaps to take the game and the series.
However, Bob Melvin's love for the bunt cost us the first out, as our best hitter, Conor Jackson, wasn't allowed to hit: his sacrifice failed to advance the runners, so we still had first and second, now with one out. Hudson then sent the ball to the outfield, where Jenkins couldn't quite corral it. Unsure whether it would be caught, Drew was held at third by Chip Hale - a questionable decision in itself. A thousand times worse, though, was Orlando Hudson steaming around first, not noticing the log-jam on the bases ahead of him, where Jackson had been forced to stop at second, since Drew was holding at third. O-Dawg was caught in a rundown, and another out was gifted to the Phillies. This is at least the third time I can recall this season, where Hudson has shown a running game which would be an embarrassment at the Little League level. At what point is someone going to deal with this?
Overall, frustrating though it was, we can't really blame the offense here. Not when Chris Burke has three hits. Yeah, that matched Burke's total from his previous eighteen games combined. You will understand why that was more of a surprising bonus than anything else. Drew, Hudson and Tracy all had two-hit days as well, with Tracy smashing a home-run off a left-hander. That was his first off a southpaw in more than two years [the last being a grand-slam against Brian Fuentes in Colorado, on July 8th, 2006]. The only factor I can really criticize is one walk for the entire team, against eleven strikeouts, and this would be why it took Hamels less than a hundred pitches to get through his seven innings of work.
Brandon Webb had a solid outing, allowing seven hits and no walks over seven frames, striking out six Phillies hitters. He kept Arizona in the game, and deserved a better fate than a no-decision. Chad Qualls came in for the eighth, and has absolutely nobody to blame for the loss but himself. There were no inherited runners, and he still contrived to allow four runs while retiring one batter - he served up a three-run homer to Burrell and a solo one to Feliz. It's interesting to note that, in a tied game, with the go-ahead run at second and no outs, Burrell was allowed to actively hit. I suspect that, had we been in that situation, Bob Melvin would have activated the flashing neon, "BUNT!" sign, regardless of who was at the plate. This may or may not be connected to the Phillies having a 52-44 record at the break, while we languish below .500.
4 Corners Fan, Zephon, srdmad, njjohn, hotclaws, soco, mrssoco, snakecharmer, DiamondbacksWIn, Scrbl, TwinnerA, kishi, Mr. Philosophical, seton hall snake pit, MamaLing, garyho, unnamedDBacksfan, emilylovesthedbacks, mikeb, Stile4aly, NewJackCity and Azreous were all to be found in the Gameday Thread this afternoon, so thanks to them for their contribution. With the Dodgers looking all but certain to polish off the Marlins [9-1 up in the eighth], it seems that our lead will be one game going into the All-Star break.
It is still a lead. Though it does make the first series back after the break, where we face the Dodgers, one of enormous importance. We have set up our rotation so that we will be sending Davis, Haren and Webb to the mound - I can only imagine that the Dodgers will be doing the same, so that looks like it will be three impressive pitching match-ups. That said, and even if the resulting runs were not as plentiful as we'd hope, I was impressed how we took it to Hamels - the only starter save Haren, with a WHIP below one coming in - and we will need to hit well in the second-half if we are going to stop this slump.
Things should still be pretty active round here though. I will be posting the mid-term report tomorrow morning [I need to wait for some stats to be updated before I can complete it], and I have a few other topics we can throw into the mix for discussion. Tuesday will have the All-Star Game and Random Thread, and I believe Zephon has been working on a minor-league mid-term, which he'll be posting at some point in the next few days as well. So, stay tuned...