Record: 70-67. Pace: 83-79. Change on last season: -6.
Magic number: 23. Playoff odds: 66.9%.
Well, I think we can categorically say that victory was totally unexpected. By the middle of the third inning, the Cardinals had already homered four times off Randy Johnson, traveling an estimated 1,598 feet, combined, on their way to a 5-1 lead at Chase. It looked like our main hope for the day was going to consist of cheering for Evil Chris Young and the Padres to beat the Dodgers - is that really how low this team had gone, forcing its fans to root for San Diego, no doubt requiring a lengthy shower after such self-degradation, followed by a rub-down with the skin of a rainbow unicorn?
Fortunately, we've dodged that fate for the evening, as a sterling comeback by Arizona brought us victory, meaning that any Padres victory tonight now falls into the category of pleasant bonus, rather than essential for our salvation. The main driving force was Stephen Drew who was suffering from a fever of 102 before the game: never a good sign when your temperature is higher than your OPS+, but Drew took care of that by going 5-for-5 and becoming the third Diamondback to hit for the cycle, as well as the first player ever to do so in Phoenix.
Drew opened by singling in the first, though he was immediately erased when David Eckstein hit into a double-play, his first at-bat as a Diamondback. He then tripled in the third and homered in the fifth, and completed the cycle by bouncing one over the fence in left-center for ground-rule double in the seventh, meriting a standing ovation. Then, just in case that last hit didn't count, he had a more-regular double in the eighth - though that one would probably have been a triple, except that the base-paths were being clogged up by pinch-runner Tony Clark.
Yes: you read that correctly. Pinch-runner Tony Clark. Who came in to run for Justin Upton. Because our right-fielder got hit in the head while at first-base. By a pick-off throw. What kind of bizarre game was this? Well, just one with a Chase record eight homers, four for each side; five double-plays; and where pitchers from both teams were ejected for arguing balls and strikes - including one who had already left the game. Well, I guess if you're an equal-opportunity ejector behind home-plate, at least you can't be accused of bias - though the strike-zone of Dan Iassogna was one of life's eternal mysteries, apparently known only to him.
Johnson extended the run of recent sucky performance by Arizona starting pitchers, lasting only 3.2 innings, though eight of the eleven outs recorded came with a K. He walked three and allowed six hits, four of which, as noted, left the ballpark in a hurry. He was bailed out in the fourth, after being left in to deliver an intentional walk to Albert Pujols, and had to be bailed out by September call-up Jailen Peguero: yeah, welcome back to the bigs, Jailen. Bases loaded, 85-RBI hitter at the plate: no pressure. But he got former D-back Troy Glaus to pop up into foul territory, and also retired the Cardinals in order during the fifth.
Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks were crawling back into the game. Dunn, Young and Drew each had solo homers in the second, fourth and fifth inning, around a sacrifice fly for Eckstein in the third. That made it a one-run game, but Jon Rauch's struggles continued even demoted to the sixth inning: he walked two, allowed two hits and escaped with the bases loaded, though allowed another run. He has now been scored upon in six consecutive appearances, tying a major-league high for relievers this season, and his ERA since joining the team is a meaty 6.35.
It looks like he may have been supplanted in the A-pen by Qualls and Peña, as that's who pitched the seventh and eighth innings this afternoon. Admittedly, the game landscape had changed by then as Adam 'The Treadmill' Dunn led off with another walk - he has 24 in just 19 games - and then Mark Reynolds tied the game up with his 27th of the year, off my distant relative (presumably), Kyle McClellan. That almost made us forget that he had commit his franchise-record tying 26th error of the year in the first inning: as long as he has more homers than errors, we'll be happy!
Arizona then took the lead with two runs in the seventh, the first coming on an RBI single by Eckstein, following immediately after Drew completed the cycle to put men on second and third with no outs. It looked like that one run might be all Arizona would get as Jackson lined out and, after another free pass for Dunn, Reynolds went down swinging. But the Cardinals kindly decided to gift-wrap another run, a wild pitch by former D-back Russ Springer [quick: name the other two members of the 1998 AZ roster still playing in the majors?] allowing Drew to trot home from third-base, and give us a very welcome add-on as a bit of insurance.
Tony Peña got us through the eighth, though not without his fair share of drama, as he put two men on with one out, plunking Ludwig. That brought up Albert Pujols, and one feared we might be heading towards our bullpen's tenth straight loss, but the Cardinals slugger rolled over into a double-play ball, ending the threat and getting us past the distinctly dangerous heart of the St. Louis order. So, all we had to do was get Lyon through the ninth - even though his last save situation was back on August 19, and he had to be bailed out of that one by Peña.
A lead-off single had our eyes rolling, but Molina, who'd homered to open the scoring back in the second [and how long ago that all seemed now!] knocked one straight to Eckstein, who shoveled it to Drew, as if they'd been working together all their life, and he then fired it across to Clark to complete the double-play. Tony had come into the game at first, after an unfortunate and somewhat frightening incident in the bottom of the eighth, where a pickoff throw was missed entirely by Pujols and clanged straight into the side of Justin Upton's head as he dove back into first. He got up, staggered around for a second, then went down and it was a relief to see him finally up and moving around after getting his bell rung, in no uncertain terms.
Another single then followed, past a diving Tony Clark, who made little effort at all, appearing to forget that Orlando Hudson was no longer vacuuming up everything to the right of center. He has now officially been replaced at second by The New Littlest Ballplayer, David Eckstein [who appears to be at least one inch, possibly two, shorted than the previous incumbent, Augie Ojeda]; Upton got the start in right today, and Dunn moved to first, with Tracy sitting it out. It will be interesting to see how Melvin constructs the line-up over the next couple of days. Anyway, the two-out single proved insignificant, Schumaker helping Lyon out by swinging wildly at a pitch out of the zone, and the Diamondbacks completed an improbable victory.
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Master of his domain: Stephen Drew, +39.6%
Honorable mentions: Reynolds, +20.8%; Dunn, +16.6%
God-emperor of suck: Randy Johnson, -34.0%
Dishonorable mention: Conor Jackson, -15.1%
For purpose of mojo maintenance, the Gameday Thread was allowed to run long after 500 comments were reached, getting past 700 at time of writing. What looked likely to be fairly quiet, after the Cardinals had their four-homer outburst, turned extremely lively and was generally a lot of fun: this was one of those games that it would have sucked to lose, admittedly. Present for the Labor Day entertainment were kishi, DbacksSkins, snakecharmer, foulpole, Scrbl, emilylovesthedbacks, Azreous, hotclaws, TwinnerA, 4 Corners Fan, Mr 4CornersFan, Muu, Snakebitten, njjohn, dahlian, soco and mrssoco. It's been decided that kishi is on Gameday Thread creation duty until we lose a game. So, hopefully, you won't be hearing anything from me for a while!
The Dodgers duly rolled over Evil Chris Young, so they will still remain 2.5 games back of the Diamondbacks. It was good to see the team mount a comeback this afternoon, though past experience has shown that there tends to be precious little carry-over from such games [the most obvious example being the stunning ninth-inning comeback against Milwaukee, which was followed by two defeats to the Padres where we scored a total of three runs!]. But it stops a losing streak that seems an awful lot longer than two games, and we'll see what tomorrow brings, with Petit taking on Adam Wainwright. Fantasy recap to follow, though I'm thinking it'll be kinda brief. Hey, it's a holiday! :-)
[Answer to trivia question: outside of Russ Springer, the other two members of the 1998 Diamondbacks roster still active in the majors this season are David Dellucci, now with Cleveland, and Alan Embree, who is pitching for Oakland]