If it was initially the pitching that was a cause for concern with the Diamondbacks, it seems to have moved over to the offense of late, with Arizona scoring more than two runs only once over the last four games. Today was a season-low for the Diamondbacks' batters, as our former ace Dan Haren dominated his old club. After Willie Bloomquist led off for us in the bottom of the first with a single, Haren retired the next nine batters he faced, seven of them by the strikeout. Arizona could muster only one other hit the rest of the way - a Chris Owings single in the eighth - and were shutout, Haren and four relievers combining on a two-hitter.
Yep, this recap will a) be brief, and b) largely focus on the pitching.
There was discussion in the Gameday Thread as to the trade that sent Haren to the Angels in July 2010. At the time, the Diamondbacks were already 22 games back in the standings, and there didn't seem much point in keeping a player who would earn $12,75 million the following year. I doubt anyone foresaw the turnaround which ensued that season, but Haren was worth every penny of that, and more, with a 4 WAR season for Anaheim in 2011, clearly better than Joe Saunders. However, salary considerations and the prospects Arizona also received - one of whom also pitched this afternoon - made the trade a good deal more balanced, and it may yet be a win for us.
Today, however, was a reminder of just how good Dan could be. His last inning was virtually impeccable, as he K'd Ryan Roberts, Trevor Cahill and Bloomquist, on 10 pitches. Haren used his splitter quite a lot, and commented after the game, "Of course I want to do well, facing guys that I know still. It brings out a little bit more in me. I still know quite a few guys over there, so it’s fun." I doubt the Diamondbacks' hitters quite share that sentiment. He added that he enjoyed seeing AZ do well: "For some reason we didn’t do much when I was here but I think the younger guys grew up a bit. The bullpen obviously did a much better job last year and a couple of guys stepped up."
Trevor Cahill and Tyler Skaggs were the focus of the Diamondbacks' pitching staff this afternoon, and after a sluggish start by the former, both men were solid. Cahill allowed hits to the first four Angels to come to the plate, but the damage was reduced by the leadoff man getting caught stealing, and Cahill also induced an inning-ending double-play, which we hope to see plenty of this season. From there, he was much better, striking out two in his second inning and, although the Angels added a solo shot in the third, a pair of groundouts ended Cahill's day. The final line was five hits and two earned runs in three innings, with three K's and no walks.
Skaggs was next up, and this was a clear improvement over his opening outing, as he rattled off the first five batters faced, with only a two-out single in the fifth to spoil his perfect day. Like Haren, Skaggs was also facing people that he knew, saying that he'd played with just about everyone he faced. "I'd say it's a lot better. It felt really good. I felt like I was throwing strikes and it's good to face some old teammates." Brad Ziegler, Kevin Munson, Brett Lorin and Mike Zagurski took things the rest of the way: Munson was charged with the Angels' third run, and Lorin was the pick, notching the only clean inning of the four.
He has now retired all 12 batters faced this spring, and I think the bullpen could lead to some tough choices for Kirk Gibson and Kevin Towers. Lorin has options, but as a Rule 5 pick, has to be kept on the 25-man roster for the entire season, or be offered back to the team we picked him from (the Pirates in this case). So if he is kept, it would seem to necessitate a spot being cleared by someone else, and it's hard to see who that might be, between guaranteed salaries and options. Still, we've got more than three weeks left to come to such decisions.
The offense...wasn't. We were hitless with runners in scoring position, and the only spark of life came from Adam Eaton, who drew a pair of walks. It was a disappointing performance, especially in front of another Salt River Fields record crowd, this one of 12,552. The team drops to 3-7-1 as a result. Tomorrow has Arizona involved in a double-header. The day game will be of particular interest as Trevor Bauer will come in after Patrick Corbin against the Padres. The evening game at SRF sees Josh Collmenter start against Colorado, with J.J. Putz and Brad Ziegler scheduled to take part there.
Top three in the GDT this afternoon were: NASCARbernet, Clefo and Bcawz, with the following also taking part: snakecharmer, SenSurround, hotclaws, kishi, 4 Corners Fan, Muu, Jim McLennan, dbacks25, blue bulldog, asteroid, Baja F1, txzona, since98, Counsellmember, PR151 and Stupendous Man. We'll see you tomorrow for that double-header, and hopefully get back in the W column.