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Diamondback 2, Cardinals 4: And the fat lady inhales

Record: 79-79. Pace: 81-81. Change on last season: -9
Elimination number: 1. Playoff odds: basically non-existent

Another wretched performance from the offense sunk the Diamondbacks tonight, and sent the season staggering onto the edge of the abyss, clutching a can of beer in one hand and wondering what that shiny thing at the bottom of the chasm could be. We may find out tomorrow, as an Arizona defeat or Los Angeles win would eliminate us from post-season play.

The Diamondbacks stranded ten men on base, particularly woefully in the fifth and sixth when we left the bases loaded, and had just one hit in ten at-bats with runners in scoring position. That came in the third when Chris Young singled Scherzer home from third - Max reached base safely for the first time in his career, after Wainwright inexplicably walked our .000 hitting pitcher to lead off the inning. Drew then doubled him to third, one of three hits and a walk for the Arizona shortstop, increasing his average for the season to .292.

However, with men on the corners and still nobody out after Young's single, Jackson hit into a double-play: the run did score, but that emptied the bases. Shame Conor didn't have one of his other at-bats this evening instead of that twin-killing, as he had three hits too, bringing his average up to .305, and he's batting an impressive .381 [24-for-63] in September. That said, his power has almost entirely evaporated in the past couple of months. Jackson's last homer was all the way back on July 27, which is now 188 at-bats ago; even if he wasn't trying, you'd think he might have knocked one out of the park by accident. Since then, he's batting .271, which is okay, but is slugging only .351.

That was it for the Diamondbacks as far as scoring went. Oh, the team had their chances, as noted above. In the fifth, Drew and Jackson singled and advanced on a wild-pitch; Dunn was walked to load the bases, but Tracy failed to get the ball out of the infield. The same scenario was re-executed, with minor variation but even more stunning ineptness, in the sixth: two walks and a hit batter filled up the bags once more, without Arizona managing a single hit. However, despite the wildness of Wainwright, patently obvious to all, Young opted for a spot of first-pitch hacking and joined Tracy in grounding harmlessly out.

Reynolds avoided becoming the sole member of the 200-strikeout club in baseball history: he fanned in the second, to tie Howard's single-season mark of 199, but then grounded-out, walked and fouled-out to end the day one short of history [Howard had one strikeout today, so remains solidly behind Special K]. However, Reynolds committed his 34th error of the season, booting a ground-ball. That moves him past Aramis Ramirez (2003 Cubs): he now has more E's than any major-league player since Jose Valentin was charged with 36 (2000 White Sox). Among third-basemen, you have to go back to Gary Sheffield (1993 Padres and Marlins), to match that total - Bobby Bonilla had one more with the 1989 Pirates.

His error today led to an unearned run for Scherzer; another unearned run was the result of Max's own gaffe. That helped victory elude our prospect for the seventh consecutive start; he didn't pitch all that badly, allowing two ER in five innings, but did allow seven hits and two walks, while striking out four. He was followed to the mound by Juan Cruz: I've no idea what made this two-run deficit worthy of Cruz, when yesterday's two-run deficit was, apparently, cause for the mop-up talents of Jon Rauch (who promptly doubled it). Today, Cruz pitched two scoreless innings, reducing his ERA to 2.66, among the ten best NL relievers with 50+ IP. That Cruz finally joined that club tonight is interesting; I know he missed three early weeks through injury, but since the break, has only appeared in nineteen games, despite a second-half ERA now down to 1.80.

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Master of his domain: Stephen Drew, +26.4%
God-emperor of suck: Max Scherzer, -19.6%
Dishonorable mention: Young, -14.4%; Snyder, -14.3%

Thanks to those who endured the latest pathetic display of 'Diamondbacks baseball' - never mind 'be a part of it', I think I want to be apart from it. Tomorrow will likely be a blessed relief, finally terminating things and allowing us to enjoy the final three games, free from any pathetic illusions of contention. Present tonight were 4 Corners Fan, AZWILDCATS, unnamedDBacksfan, kishi, DbacksSkins, hex706f726368, foulpole, luckycc, TwinnerA, snakecharmer, Azreous, Diamondhacks, AF DBacks Fanatic and friendly visiting fan TuLoRocks2008, who popped round to join us in a nice cup of warm hemlock. I'm waiting for the Dodgers to finish off the Padres - they're three outs away from doing so as I write, and are now seven runs up, so we're talking a mere formality.

While I'm here, might as well mention something I noted in the Gameday Thread: barring a power-surge from Dunn or someone else in the final four games, Ryan Howard will be the only major-league hitter with 40 homers this year. It would be the first time that has happened in almost two decades: you have to go back to 1989, where Kevin Mitchell was the sole slugger to reach the mark, for the last case. Anyone doubting the impact of steroids in baseball should note the following. There have been 294 such seasons in the entire history of the game. No less than eighty of those happened in a mere six years, from 1996-2001. As recently as 2006, there were still eleven players who made it; last year, there were only five; this season, probably only one.

And there you go. Dodgers win. We now simply have to take all our four remaining games, while Los Angeles loses all theirs; we can then beat 'em on Monday in a playoff. No problem. And if you believe that, you probably will also believe me when I say that Penelope Cruz just called to say she and Denise Richards - bearing a large vat of chocolate pudding - are on their way over for a nightcap. I'd better go and make sure we have some clean dessert spoons.