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Diamondbacks 6, Rockies 9: Zen and the Art of Bullpen Maintenance

Record: 5-9. Pace: 58-104. Change on last season: -5

I find myself surprisingly at ease with tonight's defeat. This was always the game in the series I was least optimistic about, with the wobbly Petit going up against a pitcher who all but shut us down two weeks ago. Hence, the end result is not all that far from what I expected. However, the spectacular mismanagement of the bullpen and bench which led to the loss is...disappointing. Given a three-run lead, Bob Melvin seemed carefully to pick the players least well suited to each situation, and stuck with the pitchers for the precise length necessary to cause maximum carnage to our chances of victory. Remarkably, it was the first loss of the year not tagged to our starters, despite a relief ERA now sitting at 6.80.

Bobby Korecky - the mop-up man in the bullpen - allowed the first three Colorado batters in the sixth to reach. This merited a fatherly discussion from Melvin, rather than the removal of his right ear with a rusty butter-knife which his performance actually merited. Thanks to a dive and a throw from the ground by Augie Ojeda [well, he is closer to it than most of our players] , he got a double-play ball. But Melvin then opted to bring in our "B" LOOGY Doug Slaten, to face the left-handed batter with more hits in the National League than anyone else since the Diamondbacks came into existence. That would be Todd Helton, with 1,941, oops, my mistake: make that 1,942 hits. I guess Melvin was saving "A" LOOGY, Scott Schoeneweis, for...oh, yeah, mop-up duty in the ninth inning.

Even after we finally reached the middle of that sixth, we were only one run behind, and the way the game had gone, it felt entirely plausible we could get that back. However, you know what a one-run deficit means: Jon Rauch shambling in from the bullpen, a heavily-tattooed vortex of relief suck. A double and a homer [the latter, once more, to Helton] later, his record was 5-for-5, taking games where we were one run down, and allowing the opposition to score. One definition of insanity is repeating the same actions over and over again, hoping for a different result. On that basis, there is a comfy cell with the "Mad" Scientist's name on it at the Bide-a-Wee Rest Home for the Feeble-Minded. Another shining example was the bottom of the eighth, where, with two men in scoring position and the tying run at the plate, he pulled Chad Tracy for Tony Clark. Was the strikeout which followed a surprise to anyone except Melvin?

Way to waste a solid start by Yusmeiro Petit, and some decent hitting from the offense. Petit went five innings, and allowed two earned runs, as well as an unearned one, resulting from a CoJack blunder at first. Petit dodged his share of bullets, none more so than the fifth where he had men on second and third with no outs, and managed to retire the next three hitters without allowing a run. He allowed eight hits and a walk in his five innings, but struck out four Rockies. Petit was comfortably in line for the win, after RBI hits from Ojeda and Jackson gave Arizona a 6-3 lead after five. Melvin and the bullpen, however, had different ideas, and the Petit Unit instead gets to add his name to the ever-increasing list of Arizona starting pitchers who deserved a kinder fate.

The offense, too, merited better than to sink to 0-6 vs LHP: eleven hits including back-to-back solo homers for Chris Young and Eric Byrnes, and a two-run shot from Mark Reynolds, his fourth. Felipe Lopez had three knocks, Reynolds and Jackson two apiece, while Byrnes and Miguel Montero each delivered a hit and a walk. It just wasn''t enough to offset four innings of "relief" [and I use the word in the same way an advert for Ex-Lax does], which led to seven hits - most of them for extra-bases - two walks and six earned runs. Of course, our actual good relievers, Qualls and Peña, got the night off, and the chances of our first winning streak (not consisting of the number 1, anyway) went similarly absent. As noted, the result I view with equanimity. But if I hadn't put away four Heinekens at the wrestling tonight, I might be less mellow and inclined to demand our manager's head, for continued incompetenece. I leave that up to others. You know who you are.

[Click to enlarge, at]
Master of his domain: Eric Byrmes, +7.5%
God-emperor of suck: Juan Gutierrez, -24.1%
Dishonorable mention: Jon Rauch, -16.9%

The hitters have clearly responded to the whole 'cute animal' thing fairly well, but after tonight, it's clear that my encouragement needs to be directed to the disaster which is the bullpen. I'll work on that for tomorrow. A somewhat frustrated Gameday thread in the second-half - though that doesn't excuse the F-bombs being dropped by some. 735 comments in total, with hotclaws (78) backing up 'Skins admirably. Also present: Gravity, mrssoco, AJforAZ, singaporedbacksfan, Snake Bitten, dbacksbj, luckycc, Diamondhacks, Azreous, PioneerSkies, kishi, Wimb, ASUJon, TwinnerA, Tooch27, emilylovesthedbacks, IndyDBack, Muu, soco, venomfan, Rox Girl, Wailord, jonny-yuma, Brendan Scolari and snakecharmer.

As noted before the game, Webb threw a bullpen session today, the next start of his rehab. He'll throw another on Friday - possibly a longer one, that would have him pause in the middle, in effect, creating a mini simulated game. He wouldn't be drawn on any timetable for his return as yet, but it sounds like we may know more depending on how he feels after Friday. He may either then make a rehab start somewhere, or simply throw to hitters in Phoenix - but it still sounds like we'll be lucky to have him back by the end of April. Here's his thoughts, and also those of Melvin, on Webb and our struggles against left-handed pitching.

Audio courtesy of KTAR 620

Down in the minors, Tom Gordon also made his second rehab appearance for Reno tonight, throwing two scoreless innings, giving up three hits and two walks. He threw a total of 33 pitches [19 strikes and 14 balls], and gave up all the hits to start the eighth inning, but - much like Petit in the fifth tonight - avoided any runs being scored. Down in Visalia, Jarrod Parker started and had a poor outing bu his standards. By that, I mean he finally allowed a run, in his third outing. He allowed five hits over five innings, and the evening's work saw his ERA sky-rocket from zero to the dizzy heights of 0.64. It doesn't seem like he'll be long for Visalia at that rate.

Day-game tomorrow, and we get another chance to see if we can finally beat a southpaw, in the shape of Jorge De La Rosa. And, more importantly, get Dan Haren his first win and take our first series of the year.