Record: 53-51. Pace: 83-79. Change on last season: -3
Usually, teams that allow fourteen hits to their opposition in regulation do not win games - only ten times, of the 160 occasions it happened in the NL this year before today. But the key for the Diamondbacks as they finished off their first sweep in almost 2 1/2 months,, was less the number of hits, than the fact that they did not walk a single opposing batter. This is an area where the team has improved markedly this year: their overall BB/9 rate is 2.90 per nine; it was 3.41 last season. Though I imagine not having Hernandez v2.0 is likely helpful in this regard. :-)
Randy Johnson scattered nine hits over seven innings, with just two strikeouts, but again, his good control helped immeasurably. As Randy said at the beginning of the month, ""If you have velocity, that's a luxury; but if you don't have location... That's a necessity." The results since those words bear out their truth: in four starts, the Big Unit has walked only two, in 26.1 innings - and has won all four games, with today being #292 for his career. He'll have probably eleven more starts this season, so three hundred remains a long shot. Still, who knows, especially if he keeps going like today, where he posted nothing but zeros, for the second game in a row. Perhaps surprisingly, that's the first time Johnson has had back-to-back starts with no runs allowed, in over nine years - the last occasion was July 15-20, 1999.
In contrast, the Giants pitching staff provided nine free passes to Diamondbacks' hitters; the problems this caused were most apparent in the four-run fourth inning. There, Barry Zito walked three hitters, including Chris Snyder with the bases loaded. All three men eventually came round to score, with the key blow a two-run knock from Drew, and our Win Probability finished the inning at 85%. Particular kudus to both Mark Reynolds and Snyder [though what they will do with their woodland African antelopes, I don't know...] for well-worked at-bats that eventually resulted in walks. Snyder was just great, fouling off some tough, tough pitches by Zito with a full count, before taking one out of the zone.
Conor Jackson - and stop me if you've heard this one before - had another extremely-productive day, reaching base safely four times, on three hits and a walk, getting his twelfth homer of the season. It's his fifth consecutive multi-hit game [the franchise record, in case you were wondering, is seven, by Gonzo in June 2001], and having gone 13-for-24 with three homers and seven RBI this week, he's going to be among the front-runners for Player of the Week honors. He's now batting .324, and it's been a while since the Diamondbacks had anyone that high on this date. Let's take a look back and see how far we have to go...
Some surprising names show up as contenders. Johnny "The Walkless Wonder" Estrada came pretty close, hitting .323 in 2006; Tony Clark was at .328 in 2005, but that was in less than 200 at-bats, compared to Jackson's 340. The same goes for Quinton McCracken in 2002, where he was at .340 on this date, though with just 188 AB. To find the last legitimate, full-time player with a higher batting-average than Jackson, it looks like we have to go back all the way to 2001, where Luis Gonzalez had a rather impressive line of .350/.439/.738 on July 29, with 41 HR and 102 RBI. Wow. I guess I'd kinda forgotten exactky how good Gonzo was in his prime.
Mark Reynolds hammered his 21st homer, and Stephen Drew had three hits in the lead-off spot, bouncing back from a schooling received at the hands of Lincecum last night. His OBP - a key mark for those atop the order - is up to .313. While still a little lower than we'd like, it's the highest it has been in over than six weeks, and is at a respectable .366 for the month of July. Some discussion as to whether Hudson - OBP .420 in July, and .365 overall - might be better off in the #1 spot, in part because that'd help avoid the double-plays into which O-Dawg hits. He now has seventeen for the year, as many as any other two players on the roster put together. The reason is clear when you look at the stats sorted by GroundOut/AirOut ratio; Hudson is all the way up at 1.67, while none of the other regulars are above one. He's a ground-ball machine.
Nice turnout for a Sunday in the Gameday Thread, with appearances by Muu, AF DBacks Fanatic, unnamedDBacksfan, snakecharmer, hotclaws, srdmad, emilylovesthedbacks, Mr. Philosophical, Red Reign, dahlian, soco, AJforAZ, Scrbl, AZWILDCATS, 4 Corners Fan, SongBird, frienetic, Wimb, utahdbacksfan, mrssoco, DiamondbacksWIn, pepperdinedevil and TwinnerA. It's apparently the first time that we've swept the Giants in San Francisco over a three-game series, since May 2001. Frankly, it feels about as long as that since we have swept anyone.
But with the Dodgers beating up on the Nationals - not to mention the Rockies suddenly rediscovering how to play, and winning nine of their last ten games - it was important for the Diamondbacks to keep pace. Mission accomplished there. So, we retain a one-game lead and head down the coast to San Diego, while the Dodgers get to take their turn at San Francisco. They get to dodge Lincecum: curses! Still: we simply need to keep winning. Now we've got that difficult third victory under our belts, let's see how far we can go.