Record: 44-45. Pace: 80-82. Change on last season: -3.
It wasn't pretty. We had to struggle and claw our way to a massive three runs, while another botched play by the defense almost cost us the game. But, the franchise's longest ever streak in sole possession of first-place rolls on - at least for another day. We don't play tomorrow, but the Dodgers do: it would be ironic if they won, and ended the streak that way. It's probably too early to describe games as "must win" before the All-Star break, but this was certainly a "really, really like to win, pretty please with sugar on top" game. Being swept by our division rival at home, and losing first-place as a result, would have been a painful blow.
Let's start at the end, shall we? Lyon came in to cling to a two-run lead in the ninth, but things started poorly with a leadoff single by the Padres. They immediately got a great deal worse: Kouzmanoff hit a line-drive to right, which caromed off the glove of a diving Upton for a double. Then, Upton's throw back to the infield glanced off Hudson's glove, and then again off the desperate grab of Tracy, who was backing up - one run trotted home, and the tying run now stood at third-base, still with nobody out. First-place; it was nice to have known you. Maybe we'll meet again sometime down the road?
Hah! Brandon Lyon is made of sterner stuff than that. Chase Headley, the dugout will see you now - he went down swinging. Khalil Greene: why don't you ground out to the drawn-in infield? Thank you for your co-operation. Brian Giles: oh, same again will be fine. Game over, Lyon gets his sixteenth save, and the mere +7.8% he gets on the Win Probability doesn't quite reflect the roller-coast nature of that ninth inning:
|B Lyon||A Gonzalez||Single||84.6%|
|B Lyon||K Kouzmanoff||Double||63.5%|
|B Lyon||C Headley||Strikeout||67.7%|
|B Lyon||K Greene||Ground Out||87.1%|
|B Lyon||B Giles||Ground Out||100.0%|
The effective work done by Lyon Salvage Incorporated finally got the loss monkey off the Big Unit's back, breaking a streak of six straight losses and giving him his first victory since May 18. It didn't look like that would be the case after the first batter he faced, as Diamondbacks' nemesis Scott Hairston cranked his third homer of the series into the bleachers, giving Arizona an early hole from which they, inevitably, struggled to escape. Four straight zeroes were posted by Banks: add on the seven by Peavy, six from Baek, six by Parra in the Matinee Miracle, and a couple from McClung at the end of his stint, and it meant we hadn't scored a single run off the opposition starter for twenty-five innings, over parts of five games.
But when that streak ended...hoo-boy, it ended. Justin Upton merely uncorked what is being called the longest home-run in the majors this year, utterly crushing a ball into Friday's Front Row. And not the bottom row either, but the top tier: a couple of feet to the left, and it would have been pinging around the inside of the restaurant like a psychotic pinball. The estimate from the club was 484 feet, but we'll wait from a neutral estimate out of HitTracker.com before anointing it officially: "I just caught it perfect and it took off a little bit," said Upton, in what appears to be his entry for Understatement of the Year.
Hammock was next up, and a shaken Banks hit him - I think Upton's blast broke the Banks, as it were. Johnson bunted him over, and with two outs, Drew gave the Diamondbacks the lead, with a single to right-center. Mark Reynolds added a crucial insurance run with his eighteenth homer off the batters' eye in center during the sixth inning. Justin Upton could probably be heard sniggering in the dugout, for Special K's shot was "only" estimated at 424 foot. "Hey, it still counts exactly the same as yours," would be Reynolds' appropriate reminder. Two hits for Tracy and two for Upton, but the K:BB ratio remained weak, at 1:6, leaving the final tally for this series four walks and twenty-four strikeouts.
Mind you, the Padres were a good deal worse than us, fanning fourteen times without taking a walk. Ten of those came courtesy of Johnson who, after and outside of the homer to Hairston had one of his best outings in a long time; he allowed only three hits and retired 19 of 23 batters faced, with the other one getting plunked. He was pulled after a leadoff double in the seventh was followed by a ground-out that advanced the runner. Hearts collectively sunk as Chad Qualls came to the mound, who has rarely met an inherited runner of late that hasn't crossed home-plate as a result. However, he belied that rep with back-to-back strikeouts, and Peña also pitched out of difficulty in the eighth, after letting the first two Padres reach base. Over those final three innings alone, San Diego were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
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Master of his domain: Randy Johnson, +18.6%
Honorable mentions: Upton, 13.1%; Qualls, +12.2%
God-emperor of suck: Conor Jackson, -12.0%
This one ended up over 600, which is pretty monstrous for a single thread. Thanks to soco, unnamedDBacksfan, DbacksSkins, snakecharmer, Snakebitten, DiamondbacksWIn, kishi, hotclaws, Muu, mrssoco, Zephon, luckycc, emilylovesthedbacks, golfmanthee, Counsellmember, dahlian, 4 Corners Fan, srdmad, Geno Ardi [welcome!] and SongBird for their comments - no thanks to the now-banned RAMJB and ben_grdn, who are both the same person, but still outstayed their welcome.
Congratulations to Dan Haren and Brandon Webb, both very deserving selections to represent the Diamondbacks at this year's All-Star Game in New York. It's not clear at the moment whether Webb will be able to play: he's scheduled to throw on the side that day, so he might be able to get an inning off, even as he starts the last day before and the first day atter the break. Tuesday would be Haren's regularly-scheduled day to pitch, so I imagine he'll be good to go: I doubt he'll get the call to start. I suspect that ERA leader Volquez, who picked up his eleventh win tonight, might get the nod, schedule permitting. See the attached poll for who was the Diamondbacks first-half All-Star, outside of these two.
Off-day tomorrow, and I've got one too - woo-hoo, four-day weekend! Arizona will be heading towards Washington, for their series there. They might be joined in first by the Dodgers, as they will be playing the Braves tomorrow - and must be salivating at the prospect, since the Atlanta bullpen had to work for eleven innings tonight, finally getting past the Astros in seventeen. Go, Braves... More to follow on Monday, including our old favorite, the Random Off-Day Thread.