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Diamondbacks 3, Cardinals 12: And so, it ends

Record: 79-80. Pace: 80-82. Change on last season: -10.
Elimination number: 0. Playoff odds: finally, mercifully, zero.

"It was just disgusting. It was embarrassing. You can’t pitch, you can’t hit, you can’t win games." -- Conor Jackson

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I'm not particularly picking on Yusmeiro Petit here. After all, it was our illustrious manager who chose to send the most homer-prone pitcher in the history of the Diamondbacks out there to face Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick, who started the day tied for seventh and fourth in the National League for homers. The back-to-back long balls which resulted were almost inevitable: the Petit Unit also let consecutive Cards hitters do the same thing, the last time he faced them. That was barely three weeks ago, on September 2nd - which is when the picture above was taken.

Still, allowing two homers, while retiring only one of four batters faced, probably counts as the worst outing in a line of particularly-ripe performances from the relief corps this afternoon. They allowed nine earned runs in just four innings on ten hits and four walks. How appropriate that our bullpen was tagged for the loss that ended our post-season hopes, running their 2008 record to 15-28. Every other team in the NL has at least twenty wins from its relievers: that's our deficit, right there

This was a sound thrashing of the highest order, exposing all of the Diamondbacks' frailties, as the Cardinals pounded our seventeen hits and took nine walks in only eight innings. Meanwhile, our batters managed only four hits, with Dunn the only D-back to reach base safely more than once. He walked, and also hammered his 39th homer of the season to lead off the second, making it a two-run game at that point. Arizona took the lead - yes, it's difficult to believe that, bases on the final score - when Reynolds singled home both Dunn and Justin Upton in the top of the fourth.

It didn't last long. A one-out triple in the bottom half of the same inning, brought the Cardinals right back level, and though Leo Rosales worked out of a bases-loaded jam with no outs in the fifth, that was only a stay of execution. A sacrifice fly from Pujols put them ahead in the sixth; they added another run that frame, then poured on five more runs in the seventh, off the P-squad of relievers. That's Peña, Petit and Peguero - though you might be forgiven for thinking it stood for something else this afternoon. Melvin did, however, acknowledge that Chad Qualls is currently the favorite to start as closer in 2009, replacing free-agent Lyon, who may or may not be back with us.

Doug Davis managed to dodge the loss, despite a wild and ineffective performance that saw him allow seven hits and five walks in only four innings. Things would have been much worse, had it not been for double-plays which ended both the second and third inning. He was pulled after failing to retire the first two batters in the fifth, and it took him 86 pitches to get those twelve outs. Davis ends the season with a 4.32 ERA, slightly up on last year's 4.25. But his 6-8 record extends his streak: ten years in the majors and his W-L record has always been within two games of .500.

If this game is remembered for anything (and it's one I'll be trying earnestly to forget ASAP) it will be for Mark Reynolds becoming the first man ever in the history of baseball - and since 1871, that is more than seventeen thousand players - to strike out two hundred times in a single season. In something of a change of tune, he said afterwards, "It’s obviously something I have to work on for next year,... It’s not the greatest of records to have, but you move on. A lot of young guys struggle." Well, there's struggle and then there's epic struggle. Never mind two hundred, only four players have fanned more than 170 times in their age 24 season:
Reynolds, 2008: 201 (and counting)
Adam Dunn, 2004: 195
Bobby Bonds, 1970: 189
Jim Presley, 1986: 172

Let's hope Special K's career trajectory follows Dunn or Bonds, rather than Presley, who never had an OPS+ above 87 the rest of his career after that season. However, Reynolds is on course to become the first player to lead the majors in both errors and strikeouts since amusingly-named shortstop Zoilo Versalles (122 strikeouts, 39 errors) did so for the 1965 Minnesota Twins. Versalles ended up being voted the MVP of the league that year; probably not something to which Mark can look forward in the off-season.

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[Click to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Mark Reynolds, +15.0%
God-emperor of suck: Doug Davis, -23.6%
Dishonorable mention: Tony Peña: -13.1%

Appreciate the irony of Mark being the master of his domain, on the same day he became God-emperor of strikeouts. The Gameday Thread was a graphics-filled extravaganza, that showcased some marvelous imagination in terms of posted images. I don't think it's something we want to do again in a hurry [the SB Nation tech-gods would likely kill me!] but as a one-off, it was a great deal of fun. Thanks to all those who took part: shoewizard, Wimb, Azreous, DbacksSkins, kishi, emilylovesthedbacks, 4 Corners Fan, Gravity, TwinnerA, luckycc, Scrbl, snakecharmer, Brendanukkah, Diamondhacks, unnamedDBacksfan, mrssoco, damdrs1717, DodgerBlueBalls, Captain D Bag and soco. Poor Mrs. SnakePit got lost on the way to the thread, but chipped in from afar.

It was, however, an immensely disappointing end to the campaign. Less than four weeks ago, we were 4.5 games up, but have gone 10-15 since that date, and now need to sweep Colorado in order to have a winning season. There are still some things to look forward to - we'll be at our final game on Friday, and I'm pleased to see that Fox Sports AZ will now be showing Webb's final start on Saturday, not previously scheduled. We did stay in the hunt until the 159th game of the season, and that's longer than most teams managed [coughYankeescough]. But if you are anything but disappointed tonight, you're probably a Dodgers fan.

I'll be holding off on the whole recrimination and blame analysis thing until after the formal end of the season on Sunday. I plan to enjoy the last few games free of pressure - there'll plenty of time for everything else during the off-season.