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Diamondbacks 2, Dodgers 7 - A Farewell to First

Record: 71-70. Pace: 82-80. Change on last season: -7
Elimination number: 21. Playoff odds: not good

Here is a visual representation of what the past two games have been like for Arizona fans:


Any questions? The long run of the Arizona Diamondbacks in first place came to an end this afternoon, with a second consecutive wretched performance in Los Angeles, who rolled over Arizona once again, slaughtering us with a mix of timely offense, good pitching and solid defense. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks were going 0-for-3 in those categories: we fail to muster an extra-base hit; Webb walks a career-high six batters; and Justin Upton turns into the laughing-stock of California after taking up position under a Ramirez fly-ball... Only for it to land five yards to his left, and bounce over the wall for a two-run ground-rule double.

That, somehow, sums up the entire series so far, in which we have been outscored by the margin of 14-2 and our offensive line has been .133/.200/.133, an appalling OPS of .333. The Diamondbacks were one out away from going down to back-to-back shutouts, for the first time since May 2004, before Upton singled home a couple of runs. That was the tiniest of victories on a day where everything that could go wrong, pretty much did. Will we ever see first-place again this season? Based on the performances over the past week, I would not be surprised if the Rockies prove a bigger threat to the Dodgers down the stretch than we do.

So, now can we be concerned about Brandon Webb? The starter formerly known as "Arizona's ace" delivered a third consecutive woeful performance, walking a career-high six batters and allowing seven earned runs in 5.2 innings. That makes his line in those three appearances as:
    Webb: 13.2 IP, 22 H, 12 BB, 19 ER, 13 K, ERA 12.51
There is something very clearly not right with Webb. Right from the start, his sinker was staying up and/or sailing wide, and was basically a useless pitch, except on the odd occasion the Dodgers helped him out by swinging at balls out of the zone. The warning signs were there early: he walked the very first batter he faced in the game, a deep fly-ball by Ramirez just stayed in the park and he got out of the inning with a good throw by Snyder to nail Martin as he tried to steal second..

He did settle down for a bit, and looked pretty good in the second inning. But he was back to struggling again in he third, and it took a huge strikeout of Mandy with the bases loaded to escape damage. The next time our Most Hated Player came up, however, Webb was not so lucky, and a fastball - or it might have been a sinker that didn't - was crushed into the right-field bleachers with two men aboard, for a three-run shot that apparently caused collective pants-wetting for all in attendance at Dodger Stadium, A bases-loaded walk in the sixth drove in another run and ended Webb's day, but Cruz is clearly the new Qualls, allowing all three inherited runners to score on another walk and Upton's blunder.

That was much, much more than enough offense for the Dodgers, as Billingsley followed up Lowe's eight shutout innings by taking his own shutout into the seventh. Thus far, off the Los Angeles starters, we have managed just six hits, all singles, three walks and no runs in 14.1 innings. In contrast, they have smacked the Arizona starters around for eleven hits, ten walks and 12 earned runs in 9.2 frames. That microcosm is why the 4.5 game lead we had after Friday night's game, a mere eight days ago, is now a deficit. Chris Young had two walks, and Justin Upton a pair of hits, but... I got nothing.

 

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[Click to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Stephen Drew, +1.6%
God-emperor of suck: Brandon Webb, -11.7%

The suckage was not particularly deep today, but it was very, very widespread. Drew was the only Diamondbacks whose positive contribution exceeded 0.2% this afternoon, Seems a fair assessment of a wretched game. Present in the thread were soco, DbacksSkins, BleedingSedonaRed, TwinnerA, AZWILDCATS, foulpole, Azreous, J Up, mrssoco, Scrbl, emilylovesthedbacks, Zephon, snakecharmer, Diamondhacks, singaporedbacksfan, unnamedDBacksfan, Gravity, IndyDBack and Muu, No prizes for guessing what the tone of the thread was like.

So, for the first time in five months, we find ourselves looking up at another team in the NL West, and can no longer fall back on the rejoinder, "Well, at least we're still in first place." There are still more than twenty games to go for Arizona, and the team still has the opportunity to turn things around - a win tomorrow would send us right back into first. [Incidentally, Randy Johnson will no longer be starting that game due to a shoulder issue, giving us an intriguing match-up of rookie phenoms, in Clayton Kershaw vs. Max Scherzer] But I just don't get the feeling that this team is doing anything but sinking, and going anywhere but down. The starting pitching, which got the team thus far, has now failed, and the shortcomings which it covered have been ruthlessly exposed.