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Diamondbacks 2, Giants 0: Haren blanks SF. Clutch still broken.

Record: 74-76. Pace: 80-82. Change on last season: -10
Elimination number: 8. Playoff odds: evaporating steadily

Dan Haren tossed his first ever complete-game shutout, blanking the Giants on four hits. Meanwhile, Chris Snyder and Stephen Drew had solo homers, once again bypassing that whole tricky 'clutch' issue - fortunate that, since for the third game in a row, hits with men in scoring position entirely eluded the Diamondbacks. Arizona struggled against Matt Cain almost as much as San Francisco struggled against Haren: we didn't have an at-bat with anyone past first until the bottom of the seventh inning, after Snyder doubled with one man down. Augie Ojeda grounded out and Haren flew out, leaving the Diamondbacks hitting a stunning .050 - 2-for-40 - with RISP during the five games of this homestand.

If the offense continued to be marooned in a sea of ineffectiveness [that's now 12 of the last 21 contests in which we've scored two runs or less], the starting pitching has stepped up to keep the team in games over the same period. Here are the lines from our rotation during this cycle through them:
    Friday, Webb: 8 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K
    Saturday, Johnson: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K
    Sunday, Scherzer: 6 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 9 K
    Monday, Davis: 7 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB. 2 K
    Tuesday, Haren: 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 12 K
Put them all together, and that is two earned runs over 36 innings, an ERA of 0.50, with 24 hits, 9 walks and 28 strikeouts. Given signs are these same five pitchers will be our starting rotation in 2009, and that is a cause for optimism. Though, admittedly, the Reds and Giants are - with all due respect - hardly offensive forces, ranking 12th and 15th by OPS in the league this year.

Still, there's no denying how effective Haren was, getting 83 strikes to only 34 balls, with first-pitch strikes the order of the day. He retired the first eleven batters faced, and until the ninth inning, only two Giants reached second - one stole the base, and the other took it while Upton played hacky-sack with the ball out in right-field. That was his 11th error; the last time an outfielder had more was back in 2006 when the Reds' LF made 12 [though that took him 156 games - this was only Upton's 97th]. And guess who was playing LF for Arizona today? The very same player, Adam Dunn - though I have to say, he has shown better range there than I expected, covering a good bit of ground, and getting to some balls I didn't think he would.

Anyway, back to Haren. Having passed a hundred pitches, I was a little surprised to see Melvin let him come out for the ninth inning, and back-to-back singles with one out sent Bryan Price to the mound for a confab. However, whatever our pitcher said was apparently convincing enough to let him remain out there, even with the tying run on base. Molina flew out, and Ishikawa went down swinging, the twelfth strikeout of the night, which matches Dan's career high. He said, “I was really focused on hitting my spots. I pitched in quite a bit and just focused on keeping it down. If I was going to miss, I was going to miss down in the zone. That’s something I got away from. I don’t know what to attribute that to, maybe trying to do too much.”

Stephen Drew returned to the line-up, having missed the past couple of games while he attended his grandmother's funeral - our sympathies go to him there - and had a couple of hits, including his eighteenth homer of the year. Chris Snyder had a double, in addition to his 16th long-ball, but not much else to report from the offense, and the team was held walkless again. It's only the second time that has happened to the Diamondbacks in consecutive games since July 2001 - the last time was July 9-10, 2005. Helps make for quick games though, a refreshing change after the glacial pace of the contests against Cincinnati on Saturday and Sunday. Yesterday's took only 2:19, and tonight's was even quicker, at 2:06. 

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Master of his domain: Dan Haren, +60.2%
God-emperor of suck: Jeff Salazar, -5.7%

Not a bad Gameday Thread, powered by the Corkscrew of the Sea, the narwhal. Particularly good to see the return of hotclaws, who has hopefully got her Interweb tubes unclogged for the final couple of week on the season. Others present were AZWILDCATS, emilylovesthedbacks, icecoldmo, unnamedDBacksfan, DbacksSkins, TwinnerA, foulpole, 4 Corners Fan, snakecharmer, kishi, Zephon, mrssoco, soco and Scrbl. The Dodgers won - well, there's a surprise - and so the gap remains at 4.5 games. However, there is a small victory, in that the win tonight keeps us closer to Los Angeles in first, than we are to Colorado and San Francisco, now tied for third spot. Hey, we'll take what we can get...