Record: 6-9. Pace: 65-97. Change on last season: -5
Tensions were high going into this game. The Diamondbacks had started the season with four straight losing series, taking just one game in each. After blowing a three-run lead in last night's game, they were right back on pace to do it again. And taking the mound was that troublemaker Dan Haren, who was removed from his last start with no run support and only at 79 pitches, and subsequently incinerated a water cooler, shot lasers out of his eye and melted Jon Rauch, or went into the dugout and Falcon Punched his manager over the left-field wall. You know, depending on whose account you read.
Haren came in sporting an 0-3 record for his troubles, despite his sub-2 ERA. An interesting fact from the AP recap: "Since 1983, only one pitcher has lost his first three starts with a sub-2.00 ERA—Juan Cruz, who went 0-3 with a 1.80 ERA for the Chicago Cubs in 2002, according to the Elias Sports Bureau."
So between Randy Johnson's streak of futility years ago, and our old buddy Cruz back when he was a starter, Danny was in some undesirable (yet familiar) territory. And the offense looked poised to let him down again, with just two hits through five innings -- and one of them was by Haren, who singled in the fifth. Personally, I'm amazed Haren didn't hit the ball about 700 feet at that point.
But before that, Haren and Jorge De La Rosa were trading zeroes in the early innings, although not without their share of potential threats. The Rockies had a runner in scoring position in each of the first five frames, but were unable to score any runs, helped somewhat by De La Rosa being at the plate for two of them, flailing away with some awful-looking swings.) Spilborghs (a recurring nightmare in today's game) was on second with one out in the first, but Helton and Atkins were retired. De La Rosa came up with two on and two out in the second (and fourth) and was rapidly struck out. Spilborghs singled and stole second to lead off the third, but advanced no further as Haren worked out of the jam nicely. Atkins popped out to end the fifth with Baker on second, and Haren had slithered through the landmines.
Meanwhile, despite their continued ineptitude at the plate, the Diamondbacks had a handful of chances as well. Lopez and Reynolds walked in the first inning, but were left stranded by Chad Tracy (a curious choice to start, given his struggles against left-handed pitching). Byrnes doubled with one out in the second, and stole third an out later, but Snyder and Haren were unable to do anything. Other than Haren's shining beacon of hope single in the fifth, the rest of the hitters were sent down in order from the third through the fifth. In the sixth, with Haren pacing in the dugout and sharpening the end of his bat, CoJack walked and stole second with one out. Reynolds followed with a base hit to left, but it wasn't deep enough to score the run (Smith bobbled the ball for a moment, but even that may not have been enough to score Jackson). The threat was quickly erased when Tracy grounded into a double play, and the chances of ever scoring a run for Dan Haren ever again seemed in jeopardy.
But wait! All was not as it seemed! Young led off the seventh with a base hit, and Snyder joined him with one out. This time, pinch hitting for Haren (103 pitches) was the easy call to make, and Ryan Roberts delivered with a huge base hit toward the gap in right center, plating just the second run of support for Haren all season, and the first in his last 18 innings. Animals everywhere rejoiced, and Haren could be seen smiling in the dugout -- a smile of true happiness, not a smirk of evil intent. Lopez was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Drew wasted an opportunity with one out, but Jackson would not be denied. He battled from 1-2 down in an extended at-bat against reliever Jason Grilli, and finally drew a walk that brought in the second -- and last -- run of the game. At the time, it felt like not just a big insurance run, but a huge torrent of offense compared to Haren's last outings. Reynolds nearly blew the game open, but his flyout fell just short of the warning track for the third out.
So, a two-run lead in a high-leverage situation...Rauch time, right? Wrong! Tony Peña, the remaining Horse of the Apocalypse, was handed the ball in the eighth and worked a relatively stress-free inning, allowing just a two-out single to Brad Hawpe. Chad Qualls came in to close the door in the ninth, and while he managed to keep the heart rate thumping by giving up a couple of hits, he retired Barmes with a weak grounder to Ojeda, and the Diamondbacks had officially won their first series of the year.
Master of his Domain: Dan Haren, +45.3%
Honorable Mention: Ryan Roberts, +19.9%; Conor Jackson, +11.4%
God-emperor of Suck: Chad Tracy, -24.3%
Dishonorable Mention: Stephen Drew, -14.5%
Haren finally got his first win, lowering his ERA to 1.38 in the process, a sported a fantastic line (7 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K. Qualls picked up his fourth save of the season. On the other side, Lopez and Jackson each drew two walks, and Reynolds and Chris Young each had a walk and a hit. Just six hits total, but six walks as well, and it proved to be enough. Jackson and Byrnes each stole their second base of the year, and Young was caught stealing for the second time on a pickoff move. Hey, not everything was perfect. For the Rockies, Spilborghs had a four-hit game, and Smith and Hawpe reached base three times (two hits and a walk apiece), but no one else in the lineup mounted any significant threat. De La Rosa pitched solid, but was left wanting for run support -- I don't expect him to get much pity here.
A relatively happening GameDay Thread for a midweek day game. More than 700 comments, and DbackSkins was accountable for more than 200 of them (perhaps adding a few extra after he was banned over at Purple Row). kishi also had more than 100 posts, but it was a solid effort all around. Present were: DbacksSkins, kishi, singaporedbacksfan, paqs, TwinnerA, Wimb, Poseidon's Fist, jonny-yuma, AJforAZ, luckycc, Diamondhacks, Jim McLennan, Turambar, venomfan, Muu, hotclaws, mrssoco, PhoenixFly, emilylovesthedbacks, ASUJon, DKuon, IHateSouthBend, chem, Azreous, Tim Weiss, Wailord and Rox Girl, who gave us more information than we probably needed to know.
Another off day tomorrow, continuing the relatively easy schedule we've had to this point. On Friday, the team will attempt to capture its first two-game winning streak of the season against those dreaded Giants. It'll be Davis against Lincecum in that outing, and who would have thought that Doug Davis' numbers would destroy Timcecum's to this point? But there'll be plenty of time to cover that in the next 48 hours. For now, drink in that first series win, and the comfort of tossing the Rockies into the cellar instead of us.
[Audio update. Much happy clippage, courtesy of Dan Haren, Bob Melvin and the offensive juggernaut which is Ryan Roberts. Oh, and I haven't been able to test out the audio, so if it doesn't work, I'll fix it tonight when I get home!]
Audio courtesy of KTAR 620