Yep - that is almost certainly the last spring-training game we will attend in the old pueblo. Mixed feelings about that - certainly will not miss I-10 and the tailgating assholes in their SUVs who inhabit it - but if there were a game to go out on, today's was as good as any. Marvelous fun tailgating in the parking lot beforehand, to the extent that it seemed a shame to have to stop it for baseball; many memorable snarky comments during the game itself; perfect weather for it; the only thing missing was a Diamondbacks' win.
Details after the jump. Oh, and pictures. Lots of pictures.
Pre-game in the parking lot. Another beer? Don't mind if I do...
The chances of extending our SnakePitFest victory streak pretty much evaporated after Edwin Jackson went walk, hit batter, homer to start off the game, giving the San Francisco Giants, in effect, a three-run head start, and bringing back memories of Thursday's debacle. However, the Diamondbacks kept things almost entirely in check from that point on, allowing only one more run while the next 27 visiting batters were retired. Meanwhile the offense chipped away at the lead, with one run scoring in the first, albeit Upton hitting into a double-play, and Jeff Bailey's solo homer in the seventh.
Ryan Roberts then drove in the third run with a double off the wall in the right-field corner, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple, thereby ending the game - a somewhat pointless decision, given he'd almost certainly have scored on any hit with two outs, if he'd stayed at second-base. That was a somewhat damp squib of a way to end the day, and it was particularly disappointing for an almost full-strength Diamondbacks team to lose to a Giants one without almost all their everyday players, against a starter (Kevin Pucetas) who had an ERA over five in 28 Triple-A starts last year. [Tim Lincecum pitched in a minor-league game in Scottsdale instead; hard to say whether this was to avoid the trip to Tucson, or to avoid facing a divisional rival]
Last week, the DIamondbacks were unbeatable - it seemed they could score runs almost at will. But over the past few days, they've seemed particularly mortal, the offense going stone-cold, and the pitching blowing hot and luke-warm. I wonder if the team will be this streaky during the regular season. Anyway, rather than doing anything more in the way of a traditional recap, I think it's probably best if I just do random notes of things that I noticed over the course of the afternoon, which will reflect the fact that my attention was drifting in a somewhat random fashion on and off the game, depending on what the alternative entertainments were.
Conor Jackson takes his lead off first.
- Big crowd at TEP: 10,601. That would be over three thousand more people, down in Tucson, than saw the Cubs play against their divisional rivals, the Reds in Goodyear. Indeed, that 7,252 was also significantly less than the Cleveland-LAD (9,754) and Seattle-LAA (8,827) contests today. What happened to 'The Cubs fans travel everywhere they play, not just to Hohokam'?
- However, the crowd seemed to have caught all the concession stands by surprise, as they were badly undermanned, with long queues for the most basic of services. On the other hand, the team shop had some good offers, with a clearance rack of perfectly-acceptable shirts reduced to clear, for as low as $5. Next weekend might be even better still.
- But let's mention some of the players, in particular the two Jackson. After that shaky start, Jackson (Edwin) settled down, though walking the opposing pitcher was bad - a wild pitch and RBI single led to him scoring. However, the final line perhaps doesn't quite do him justice, as I think the majority of the five hits allowed were seeing-eye singles that bounced through the infield. Jackson (Conor) looked very good however, batting lead-off, and went 2-for-3 with a stolen-base. All the signs are, he's going to be one of the cornerstones of the team this year again.
- The team certainly had their wheels up early, taking three bases, Kelly Johnson and Mark Reynolds joining CoJack on the (base)path to glory. Reynolds was particularly good, having fouled a ball off his foot and dropped like he'd been poleaxed. Next time he came up to bat, our row gave a rousing rendition of Iron Man. Just us, then... However, we did have a couple of mental errors: not just Roberts' game-ending one, but Miguel Montero jogging to first on a fly-ball that was dropped - he should easily have got to second. Said AJ Hinch ominously, "That’s not surprising this time of spring training, but it does not make it acceptable... That will be adjusted tomorrow.”
- After Jackson (Edwin) left, the bullpen took over, and did well, posting 4.1 shutout innings. Leo Rosales came in with the bases-loaded and two out in the fifth, but got the batter to pop-up on the first pitch. It was my first chance to see Aaron Heilman pitch in person. Really, not impressed - he probably has a great play by Ryan Roberts [who had replaced Reynolds at third] to thank for the zero. Good to see Chad Qualls back with a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh, and Clay Zavada did the same in the ninth.
- Apparently, aerosol cans of sunscreen are not permitted in Tucson Electric Park. Going by the number of them in the box at the entrance, I was not the only person to fall foul of this obscurist and, it seems, somewhat pointless little rule. On the other hand, we enjoyed the $4 lemonades - not just for the liquid, but the ice. The cup could then be refilled with bottled water, (and in one case, with an added shot of five-hour energy drink!), to provide additional refreshment.
- Roll-call of attendees. Mrs. + Mrs. SnakePit; Mrs and Mrs. Soco; Mrs and Mrs. Kishi; BattleMoses and MomMoses; Zephon and EmliyLovesTheDbacks; DbacksSkins and katers (who had seats elsewhere, but hung out before and after the game); plus edbigghead and his family posse. Pleasure to see you all again/for the first time. Next time, I may try and get seats that are not in one extremely long row...
- 'Skins brought his propane grill. Which would have been great except for... Well, let me put it this. Remember that game against Anaheim where we made, like, four errors in one inning? That was Gold Glove sure-handedness, when put beside 'Skins handling of the brats. I'm pretty sure they all ended up bouncing off the tarmac at some point, adding a somewhat unusual - some might say, "gritty" - texture to things. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it's still going to enter SnakePitFest lore, like mrssoco's hurling of TV sets across the room. And speaking of hot-dogs, who got a new jersey?
I know there's a certain Cubs fan who will appreciate the shirt. Anyway, thanks again to everyone who showed up and made it a great success, in every way bar the final score. It's been suggested we might try and put something together for an ASU baseball game, probably on a Sunday. We'll work out the details in due course, but it's probably going to be a few weeks before anything happens there. Stay tuned...