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Diamondbacks 2, Marlins 5 - Let's go, Phillies!

Record: 68-62. Pace: 85-77. Change on last season: -5
Magic number: 30. Playoff odds: 72.9%

It's startling to see that the Marlins are only third in the NL East, as their performances against us this year have been an impressive blend of hitting and pitching [though their defense could benefit from some help]. The Florida victory today finished off their third series win in 2008 against the Diamondbacks, to run the overall season record against us to 7-2. I think I speak for all of our fans, when I express some pleasure that we probably won't see them again until 2009.

Today, it was Ricky Nolasco who continued his domination of Arizona, picking up his third victory in three attempts against us this season. He will be sorry not to face us again, completing the season versus the Diamondbacks with the following line:
    Nolasco: 22.1 IP, 12 H, 4 BB, 4 R, 4 ER, 26 K, 1.61 ERA
Having won the World Series in both 1997 and 2003, I think the Marlins have an excellent chance of continuing their six-year cycle, if Nolasco pitches against everyone else like he did against us in 2008.

Today, we managed only a total of four hits, two coming off the bat of Stephen Drew, who homered to tie the game up, leading off for Arizona in the bottom of the first, then doubled in the sixth, scoring our other run on a ground-out off the bat of Conor Jackson. Jackson also got our third hit against Nolasco, doubling in the first, but he was stranded, along with Tony Clark, as Reynolds went down swinging for the first of three times against Nolasco. It was not a great day for the middle of our order: Adam Dunn, Clark and Reynolds combined to go 0-for-10 with eight strikeouts. Dunn struggled throughout the series, going 2-for-12 with one walk and six K's, but that feast or famine approach is largely what we expected.

Doug Davis struggled early on, allowing runs in the first and second inning, but then settled down somewhat from there, as is not uncommon for him. He ended up going seven innings and giving us another quality start, with three earned runs on seven hits. He walked none and struck out eight, impressive figures there, and deserved a better fate than to have his record run to 5-8. It was good to see Juan Cruz come in for the eighth, and struck out two men in his inning of work, round a single.

However, the question marks about Brandon Lyon's position as the closer remain, or indeed, are likely intensified. He was asked to come in for the ninth inning, keep it a one-run game, and give our power hitters the chance to tie the game up with one swing of the bat. He failed badly, allowing three extra-base hits to the Marlins, though in his defense, one of those was misplayed badly in right-field by Dunn. That resulted in two runs, making our situation in the  bottom of the ninth a great deal more desperate than it had been going into the top of the inning. Lyon's line in thirteen games since the All-Star break is now:
    Lyon: 12 IP, 27 H, 4 BB, 18 R, 17 ER, 8 SO, ERA 12.75

You will understand why I say that there is no way Lyon should be allowed into the ninth inning of a game where we are leading. Opponents are batting .429 against Lyon in five weeks of the second-half of the season. Apparently, "Melvin remains confident in 'pen" - he must be about the only one - and is not planning to change his relief strategy, saying "You need these guys, and you have to show confidence in them." It's bizarre how he is such a big fan of the 'hot hand' as far as placing hitters into games goes: see the recent fondness for using Miguel Montero. But he refuses to acknowledge that relief pitchers can have similar streaks - though in the case of Lyon, we appear to be dealing with something much more fundamental.

Arizona had a bit of a chance in the ninth inning, with Young singling and Dunn walking - after looking to bunt his way on with the first pitch. That was an impressive piece of baseball smarts given the huge defensive shift meant that anything at all towards third-base would have allowed him to stroll onto the bag. However, having worked the count full, Tony Clark was fooled utterly by a Gregg breaking ball, about two foot inside off the plate, and missed it by a country mile - only the worst of some truly ugly hacks by Diamondbacks' hitters this afternoon. Reynolds popped out to second, ending the game and the series. I knew it was a mistake to have the wife of an opposing player throw out the first pitch, Olympic gold-medalist or not...

[Click to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Stephen Drew, +12.8%
God-emperor of suck: Mark Reynolds, -14.3%
Dishonorable mentions: Lyon, -12.4%; Clark, -12.2%; Ojeda, -10.7%

Solid Gameday Thread, with normal service being resumed after yesterday's skeleton service. Today, it almost reached 500 comments, despite the  less than appealing final resut. Present today were: TwinnerA, snakecharmer, DbacksSkins, foulpole, unnamedDBacksfan, srdmad, soco, hotclaws, emilylovesthedbacks, utahdbacksfan, mrssoco, Gravity [welcome - now you have to come back tomorrow, to prove this wasn't your fault!], Azreous, kishi and 4 Corners Fan.

Play is under way in Philadelphia, with the Dodgers trying to claw their way back to two games behind us. After two innings, they are 1-0 up: it's on ESPN as their Sunday night game, so for once we'll be able to follow this one without having to hit the 'Refresh' button quite so hard on Gameday! For Arizona, they make the short flight to San Diego, and will be hoping to repeat last week's success by sweeping the Padres: with the top of our rotation going there, I have to feel confident, even if we do face Peavy again tomorrow. I'm working on a piece looking at the schedules faced by us and the Dodgers down the stretch, so that should go up there tomorrow.