Record: 47-49. Pace: 79-83. Change on last season: -3
After the first five Dodgers had reached base, and they had scored three runs, with men on second and third with no-one out, it was looking like the night would bring nothing more than some unexpected attention to the unwatched DVD pile. It probably would have been better for all concerned had that actually been the case: instead, four hours later, the result was exactly the same, but only after a great deal of additional effort and tension on the part of all concerned - not least, the 1,000+ comments which were typed into the Gameday Thread.
Early on, it seemed as if our offense was going to blow past the Dodgers. After Chris Young's triple led off the third inning, our hitters had, to that point, gone 9-for-15. However, it was as if someone turned off the offensive faucet when LA starter Kuroda left the game after the second: in nine subsequent innings against the Dodger bullpen, we managed only seven hits and one run. That was the biggest difference between the two teams last night: the Dodgers pen just kept hurling very good arms at us. With the exception of Falkenborg - who faced one hitter - everyone else had an ERA of no worse than 3.32, and that's with closer Saito and his 2.18 ERA on the disabled list. The LA relievers we faced last night had a combined ERA of 2.47 - only Lyon is below three for us.
One factor was the absence of Chad Qualls: we expected to see him in the seventh inning, with the Diamondbacks clinging to a one-run lead. However, while warming up, he felt a twinge in his lower back. Qualls said, "I started getting going in the seventh inning and I thought I was in there. It was a little sore, a little tight and during the pitching change they decided to go with Rosie. I guess they're just more on the safer side." Safer for Qualls, but not for that lead, as the designated replacement, Leo Rosales, retired one batter, then allowed a tying homer and a long, ground-rule double, which hardly counts as stepping up and getting it done, by any means.
That did expose the weakness of our bullpen - its disturbing lack of depth, especially with Qualls unavailable, and Juan Cruz on the disabled list. Once you get past Lyon and Peña [who combined for 2.2 innings, and retired all eight hitters that they faced], things get painfully slim, with the likes of Rosales, Robertson and Doug Slaten, whom Melvin tried to squeeze two innings out of, for the second time in his entire career. Any guesses how that worked out? If your answer was 'game-losing homer,' then you have more accurate, if less optimistic, expectations than Bob Melvin. Kudos, however, to the Petit Unit, forced into an extended outing by the early departure of Doug Davis, and who allowed one hit and one run over three innings.
Davis was horrible. As noted above, the first five Dodgers reached, and it took a niftily-turned double-play by Mark Reynolds, tagging the runner off third, then throwing to first, to avoid us being in a much worse hole than three runs down after the first. He got through the second without problem, and even the opening two batters in the third. However, a walk and a home-run to Nomar brought LA right back into the game, and Davis's night was over one batter later. He will likely not thank me for reminding him of the following line: three innings, five hits, three walks, five runs, four earned.
Fortunately, Kuroda was even worse. After getting Drew to ground out, he also allowed five straight hitters to reach safely - in our case, on five straight singles - and a groundout by Young had given us a first-inning lead that had looked extremely unlikely, only a few minutes before. We added two more runs in the second and another in the third, but that was our lot. Oh, if we'd only been able to take advantage of one of the opportunities to add on more runs; the Diamondbacks were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position after the second inning. Perhaps the best of these was in the sixth, when we loaded the bases with one out. However, Chad Tracy popped up to the shallow outfield on the first pitch he saw, and Mark Reynolds went down swinging.
All told, however, we can't really blame the offense for dropping this one, not when they got 15 hits [even with the maddeningly-inconsistent strikezone of home-plate umpire, Jim Reynolds, who was not giving the same pitches to both sides]. Conor Jackson had the best night, reaching base safely on five occasions, with three hits and two walks. However, he was also charged with two errors on the same play in the opening inning, first bobbling the ball in left, and then making a poor throw to third which allowed the runner to advance. [This is my fault, having pointed out his errorless streak at LF in my midterm report!] Hudson had three hits and a walk, while Young and Tracy each added a pair of knocks. It just wasn't enough, on a night where Doug Davis was basically no use, and our already-thin bullpen gave up too many long balls, with three homers in eight innings.
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Master of his domain: Tony Pena, +23.3%
Honorable mention: Jackson, +17.9%; Lyon, +14.3%
God-emperor of suck: Doug Davis, -29.1%
Dishonorable mentions: Rosales, -22.2; Slaten, -18.9%
Definitely a high volume thread: as already noted, we passed 1,000 for the first time in a while, with ten posters delivering forty or more comments. Here's the rollcall for the game: 4 Corners Fan, kishi, soco, DbacksSkins, Scrbl, utahdbacksfan, hotclaws, TwinnerA, mrssoco, DiamondbacksWIn, emilylovesthedbacks, Stile4aly, snakecharmer, AF DBacks Fanatic, unnamedDBacksfan, UofAZGrad and Muu. Thanks to them for their passion: occasionally a little too much passion, and the new SnakePit policy, effective as of last night, is that posts which include profanity will immediately be hidden by the moderators, unless a free-fire zone has been announced by myself. And, believe me, that won't happen often. I don't want to censor free expression - but if you can't think of anything better to type than "F***!", then you're not trying hard enough. [Foreign language cursing - particularly in tongues not understood by the mods - remains fine. :-)]
Worth noting that the All-Star break hasn't cooled off our bats: we have had 12 or more hits for five straight games, and are batting .315 over that span. That's the longest run for us since we went six in a row back at the end of April and into early May during the 1999 season, and only three NL teams have passed five since then [Houston had seven in June 2007, while Atlanta [July 2006] and Cincinnati [April 2000] both managed six]. Unfortunately, we still have a losing record over that span, as our pitching has allowed 29 runs in those five games. Still, little steps - though if we can maintain that streak against Billingsley this evening, I will be really impressed.