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Diamondbacks 4, Cardinals 3: I Love/Hate This Team!

Record: 71-68. Pace: 83-79. Change on last season: -5
Magic number: 22. Playoff odds: 61.9%.

The roller-coaster ride which has been the Diamondbacks 2008 season took another startling turn this afternoon. Three runs down at the seventh-inning stretch, and still behind entering the bottom of the ninth, Arizona rallied. We first tied the game on an RBI single by Conor Jackson [much credit to Stephen Drew for leading off the inning with a lengthy at-bat, fouling off some tough pitches before tripling] and then snatched an unlikely victory from the jaws of defeat. Adam Dunn swatted a double to the right-field corner and the new, sleek, sports model CoJack whizzed all the way around, just beating the throw to home-plate. [And let the record show, Chip Hale got his windmilling correct!]

It's only the fourth time this year the team has been down entering the ninth and clawed their way back to victory:
   April 6 @ Rockies: trailed 0-1, won 5-2 (in 10 innings)
   June 12 @ Mets: trailed 2-4, won 5-4 (in 10)
   July 3 vs. Brewers: trailed 0-5, won 6-5
   September 3 vs. Cardinals: trailed 2-3, won 4-3
Though only the first of these showed any possible impact going forward, as we reeled off five straight victories. In each of the other two cases, we lost three of the next five, which suggest that the much sought after 'momentum', appears to be an elusive beast for Arizona, at least as far as late victories go. Still, definitely better to have this than to have lost it, and it's nice to be on the giving, rather than the receiving end as far as blowing late-inning leads.

It didn't look very likely, as Lohse shackled the Diamondbacks with six shutout innings, allowing five hits and two walks, while fanning seven. We didn't get a runner into scoring position until the bottom of the fourth, and by that time, the Cardinals had used their favorite weapon, the home-run, to take the lead. Former AZ slugger Troy Glaus homered after Izturis reached on a bunt, and St. Louis took the lead, as a sense of deja-vu rolled over the Gameday Thread. Even when we did have a chance of our own in the fourth, we blew the opportunity monumentally. While David Eckstein and Jackson singled to put men on the corners with no outs, Dunn and Mark Reynolds then both struck out and, after Chad Tracy was hit by a pitch, Chris Young grounded out to leave us with nothing.

While they probably won't mind too much, it was a miserable day for Young and Reynolds, as both went 0-for-4, combining for -52.8% of Win Expectancy. The former hit into a double-play and left seven men on base, while Mark committed his franchise-record 27th error of the season, left six aboard and had four strikeouts. Those move him up to 178 on the year, just four behind MLB leader, Ryan Howard. Perhaps more impressively, Special K is already tied for nineteenth - with another former Arizona slugger, Richie Sexson - on the all-time major-league list for strikeouts in a season, with 23 Diamondbacks' games still to go...

Doug Davis gave Arizona their first quality start since the last time he took the mound, delivering six innings of serviceable pitching. He gave up eight hits, and only struck out three, so was hardly overpowering: however, two of those did come in the first, after an error by Drew had helped the Cardinals to put a pair on with only one out. Ludwick and Phelps both went down looking at strike three, to dodge a nasty early predicament. Davis walked one batter, and apart from the homer mentioned above, the only damage came on a double by Lohse: don't you just hate pitchers who can hit? Well, when they're not ours, at least.

Once again, my DNA has to be given some credit for the comebacks, as my neo-namesake Kyle McClellan charitably helped the Diamondbacks end the Cardinals shutout . His overall line for the series: 1.2 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 5 ER.  He helped Arizona to load the bases with one out, and Jackson then just legged it up the first-base line to avoid an inning-ending double-play, and deliver an RBI groundout. That proved doubly crucial, because the next Cardinals pitcher uncorked a wild-pitch, allowing Montero to scurry home from third and make it a one-run game. We went down in order in the eighth, but the A-bullpen of Cruz, Peña and Qualls did their job, posting the zeros  that allowed us to come back in the ninth. As in the opener, Qualls got the win, to run his record to a more respectable 4-8.

Chad Tracy went 3-for-3, while The Treadmill reached base three times with his ninth-inning double as well as a pair of walks - The Littlest Ballplayer v2.0 [or "mini-Augie'?] also had a hit and two free passes, while Drew and Jackson had multi-hit games. The Cardinals seemed to have issues with this crew's strike-zone again today, losing pitching coach Dave Duncan in the seventh, being tossed by home-plate umpire Dale Scott for arguing balls and strikes, during a trip to the mound. I think I'm going to go and watch the ninth inning, just for fun, since it's about to arrive on the FSN replay...

[Click to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Adam Dunn, +41.9%
Honorable mentions: Drew, +35.3%; Jackson, +22.4%, Tracy, +18.2%
God-emperor of suck: Chris Young, -29.2%
Dishonorable mentions: Reynolds, -23.6%; Eckstein -10.8%

For a day-game, a very respectable tally of comments, ending at almost 500, and the air of gloom and despondency which hovered over the early innings evaporated entirely by the end of the ninth. The graph above is a fairly-accurate assessment of feelings in this one, I think: I'm impressed to see the four masters tallied a massive +117.8% of Win Expectancy this afternoon. Present in the thread were 4 Corners Fan, kishi, DbacksSkins, mrssoco, foulpole, AJforAZ, Gravity, Azreous, TwinnerA, hotclaws, Diamondhacks, emilylovesthedbacks, njjohn, snakecharmer, and singaporedbacksfan, so thanks for their company while I, paying absolutely no attention to the game at work. :-)

The Dodgers game is still going on at time of writing, but they are two runs up in the eighth, and so barring a miracle, will sweep the Padres and come into the series that starts on Friday with a five-game winning streak under their belts. Quite a change from how they arrived in Arizona last Friday. Both teams have a day off tomorrow, so should be fully rested for the final encounters between the sides this season, which - and stop me if you've heard this one before - could go a long way towards determining the NL West title.

With Arizona having a 1.5 game lead [barring a late Padres comeback], the onus will be on the Dodgers to take two out of three, but a lot will depend on our starting pitching, and the three we're sending to the mound hardly covered themselves in anything sweet-scented last time out. More on that tomorrow, as we preview the series and have the usual Off-day Thread.