Record: 67-61. Pace: 85-77. Change on last season: -5
Magic number: 33. Playoff odds: 64.0%
Ooh, where to start? Wretched clutch hitting. Another loss for the bullpen, running their record this year to 10-20? Three errors? And third-base coach Chip Hale is not going to be opening a hospice in the near future, since he firmly believes in sending everybody home to die. Let's start there. It's nice he has this touching faith that the likes of Chris Snyder and, tonight, Miguel Montero possess the speed of Usain Bolt on crack, capable of scoring from second on a line-drive back up the middle, right to the center fielder. Yet again, he was proven wildly wrong: Mark Grace spouted his usual BS about how it forces the opponents to make a play, and it would have taken a perfect play to get the runner. That's utter bilge; Anna Nicole Smith could have thrown out Montero, and she's been dead for eighteen months.
I've had enough of Hale's reckless abandon at third - he rarely sees a ball hit to the outfield he didn't love. We might as well just plug in an electric fan and let that man the hot corner instead. About the only time I've seen him hold the runner, Augie Ojeda ran right through the stop-sign...and scored easily. Of course, who can say what might have happened had the runner been held? We may not have scored any runs anyway. Or we might still be batting. But we would have had the top of the order up, against a pitcher undoubtedly discomforted by having allowed a hit to his opposite number - and it never seems a good idea to hand the opposition free outs, which is what Hale did. I don't know what the other duties of a third-base coach might be. But I know that Chip is dire at what appears to the main one.
So, the 42% of you who voted for Jon Rauch as closer down the stretch. How do you feel about that choice after tonight? Two runs - and very nearly two home-runs, with a ball that was a prime candidate for instant replay - in one inning of work, and a one-run lead is converted to a one-run deficit. These were not good pitches where you have to tip your cap to the batter. This was 6'11" of heavily-tattooed mediocrity on the mound, running our bullpen's record to 0-6 since July 11. Rauch's record during his last five outings and innings: eight hits, three homers and six earned runs: in the longer term, his ERA over 15 games since coming to Arizona is a hardly-impressive 5.03.
Switching my ire to the offense, and in particular our failure to add to the lead in the seventh, after a Drew RBI single and Young RBI double had given Arizona the lead for the second time that night. That meant Randy Johnson had a shot at win #295, even after he'd been replaced by a pinch-hitter. Jackson was walked to load the bases, but reliever Rhodes got Dunn to watch strike three, his third K of the night. The Treadmill barked at the umpire afterwards, but to be fair to the man in the mask, James Hoye, he'd been giving the Big Unit exactly the same pitch all night. Chad Tracy, inevitably, failed to add any insurance runs: he's batting .173 [9-for-52] in August, and might be the one benched when Upton returns. Romero also killed a comeback in the eight, grounding into an inning-ending double-play with two men on, though the ball did take a fortuitous bounce off the mound.
Johnson continued to impress, except for his fielding - Tracy was charged with one of the night's trio of errors on a pick-off throw, but I think the official scorer was simply too scared to give it to Randy. The box-score currently says Johnson only had one of the three runs as earned, but I'm not sure why it wouldn't be two - that's still decent, over seven innings of work. What isn't in doubt, is that he returned to his old days of being a strikeout machine, with thirteen K's - that's the most he's had since August 31st, 2004, when he fanned fifteen Dodgers. He did walk three, but those did no real harm: it was the three stolen bases, in particular the one by Amezaga in the seventh, that were more problematic.
Anyone escape criticism? Jackson reached twice, on a hit and a walk, while there were two hits each for Drew, Montero and Ojeda. The last-named also got hit by a pitch, which gives him a share of the team lead, on eight. That's the same as Conor Jackson, who has about 270 more at-bats. Ojeda is actually getting plunked at a faster rate this year - once every 23.5 PA's - than major-league leader Carlos Quentin (one per 26.4). This is quite a feat: you'd imagine he'd present a smaller target than usual, the case throughout the rest of his career, where he had only four HBPs in 235 games prior to this season.
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Master of his domain: Augie Ojeda, +18.4%
Honorable mentions: Montero, +16.3%; Drew, +13.2%
God-emperor of suck: Jon Rauch: -42.7%
Dishonorable mentions: Romero, -24.4%; Dunn, -15.0%; Tracy, -13.5%
A pretty subdued Gameday Thread, short of 300 comments. I know my enthusiasm evaporated after Hale's rally-killing over-enthusiasm: the loss that followed seemed almost inevitable, with everything else, such as our first comeback, simply extending the agony unnecessarily. Present were: Zephon, snakecharmer, emilylovesthedbacks, kishi, TwinnerA, foulpole, utahdbacksfan, AJforAZ, Azreous, Muu, hotclaws, Captain D Bag, srdmad, Shums, Scrbl and pepperdinedevil.
So, with the Dodgers getting smacked around in Philadelphia, we wasted a golden opportunity to pull three games clear, and remain two up. Still, if we had to pick a night to suck in a variety of ways, and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, I'd rather it was tonight and not Saturday, when we'll all be at the park for SnakePitFest '08, to which I am looking forward enormously. It should be a lot of fun - i believe there may be cheesecake! - and I'm hoping a lot of people bring cameras: ours appears to be non-functioning and I'm not sure we'll be able to resurrect it between now and the afternoon. Let's get 'em tomorrow!