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Diamondbacks 2, Padres 4 - Still first, by our fingernails

Record: 43-45. Pace: 79-83. Change on last season: -4

"It’s just kind of the same old theme here. They get a couple of runs and we have a hard time coming back. We just have to start playing better. We have to start scoring runs, getting some good at-bats and getting a different feeling from the group. We don’t have as confident a look in our eye." -- Bob Melvin

No kidding, Bob. It's a symptom of how bad things have got in Diamondbacksland of late, that we were left relying on [and, worse yet, cheering for] a late comeback by the Giants to hold on to the top of the National League West - at least, for another day. Arizona, to no great surprise, struggled against the reigning Cy Young winner in Jake Peavy, who shut us out for seven innings. That's now thirteen straight zeros posted by the Padres starters against us so far in this series, with a total of just five hits and three walks over those thirteen innings, with thirteen strikeouts.

This game was, to all intents and purposes, over when former D-back Scott Hairston latched onto a Doug Davis curveball, and deposited it into the bleachers, giving San Diego a 2-0 lead in the top of the third. Even though we'd already stranded four runners on base over the first two innings, there just wasn't a sense that the Diamondbacks had shown up with any aggression or desire to win. Things basically went downhill from there. Hairston added another homer and, though Hudson did double in a run in the eighth to make it a two-run game, the Padres immediately restored the lead with another long-ball.

Drew got his 12th homer, off Hoffman in the ninth, and Montero managed to flail a single to right, getting the tying run to the plate. However, Alex Romero flied out to right for the last out of the game, meaning another series is already lost to the opposition, and we need to win tomorrow to avoid the sweep at home. The most dispiriting thing about the whole event was probably a series of shots of the Arizona players as they occupied the field in the latter stages: the last time I saw such lack of hope etched deep into faces, I think I was watching Schindler's List.  The body-language on view was infinitely depressing - this is a team that has absolutely lost the will to win.

Doug Davis: another quality start, another loss. He has one win in seven outings, going back to the start of June, despite an ERA over that time of 3.32. Today, it was the long-ball that hurt him, but he still pitched eight innings, for the first time since August last year. He allowed seven hits and a walk, with a solid seven strikeouts - the only damage was three runs off Hairston's homers. The 122 pitches thrown by Davis was a season high for any Diamondbacks starter, and hasn't been surpassed since Hernandez 2.0 went 124 on May 22 last year, facing Colorado. I note that the number of occasions pitchers go deep has severely dropped for us: Davis is the first one to reach 120 this season. Here's the total, year-by year

Year 120+ Maximum
2008 1 122, Davis
2007 5 124, Hernandez
2006 3 125, Hernandez
2005 3 125, Vargas
2004 6 125, Johnson
2003 6 126, Schilling
2002 14 149(!), Johnson
2001 23 145, Johnson
2000 22 145, Johnson
1999 28 142, Johnson
1998 8 136, Benes

Obviously, the presence of Johnson (17 starts in 2000!), and to a lesser extent Schilling, has a big effect on these overall numbers. But Omar Daal had six of those 1999 starts - as many as our entire rotation has had since the start of last season. Heck, even Webb had a pair in each of 2003 and 2004 - he hasn't reached 120 pitches once since July 26, 2004. So this restraint with regard to pitch count does seem like a relatively recent development.

More bad news on the injury front followed Davis's departure, as Juan Cruz came in, threw three pitches, and left with a strained left oblique - maybe he knew what was coming, as Peña immediately coughed up a homer when he came in to replace Famine. Melvin apparently reports that Cruz is likely headed to the disabled list, which will leave us with a significant hole to fill in the bullpen, since he has been one of the most reliable arms there. Looks like someone will be making the trip up from Tucson: maybe Connor Robertson, who will barely have had time to drop his suitcase on the bed.

Meanwhile, the offense has so many holes in it, it's difficult to know where to start. But today brought home, in particularly, the issues - largely of our own making - in the outfield. Here is the line-up we could have had there tonight - based entirely on players traded away by the front-office during the past year.

LF: Carlos Gonzalez: .277/.301/.445 = .776 OPS
CF: Scott Hairston: .246/.296/.461 = .757 OPS
RF: Carlos Quentin: .273/.378/.513 = .891 OPS

Now, compare that to our standard one for this season so far:

LF: Eric Byrnes, .209/.272/.369 = .641 OPS
CF: Chris Young: .235/.301/.421 = .722 OPS
RF: Justin Upton: .237/.351/.419 = .770 OPS

Even without taking the boost provided to our hitters by Chase into account, it's clear that we somehow managed to dump an entire outfield that are performing better than our preferred lineup. What did we get for these players, who are now performing solidly at the highest level? Hairston netted us a mop-up reliever in Leo Rosales. For Carlos Quentin, we got A-ball first-baseman Chris Carter - Carter, along with Carlos Gonzalez, became components in the trade that brought Dan Haren to Arizona. So, basically, looks like we traded three major-league players for one.

Really, what were the front-office thinking? They were clearly relying that a) the twenty-year old Justin Upton would immediately be able to hit big-league pitching, and b) Eric Byrnes would live up to the terms of his fat contract. Each was largely in defiance of history in these matters, but we were, apparently, simply crossing our fingers and hoping for the best. Now, the strip-mining of our outfield depth has come home to roost. For thanks to Byrnes' injury and Upton's ineffectiveness, today's outfield featured, alongside Young, Conor Jackson in left - with nine previous major-league appearances at the position - and Emilio Bonifacio in right, who had played once in right-field, over his entire professional career. The pit we are in, we dug for ourselves.

[Click to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Orlando Hudson, +5.1%
God-emperor of suck: Emilio Bonifacio, -12.5%
Dishonorable mention: Augie Ojeda, -11.0%

Thanks to the Gameday attendees this evening. kishi top-scored, with 103 comments, and unnamedDBacksfan was the only other to pass forty. Also present were soco, TwinnerA, Jim McLennan, dahlian, mrssoco, Diamondhacks, hotclaws, njjohn, Muu, RAMJB, DbacksSkins, emilylovesthedbacks, DiamondbacksWIn, Mr. Philosophical, luckycc, 4 Corners Fan and srdmad, so their input was appreciated. We do remain in first, through no skill of our own, as the Giants came back to beat the Dodgers in San Francisco. Anyone feel optimistic that the Big Unit will pitch us to victory tomorrow and we'll still be in first?

Don't all rush...