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Snake Bytes, 8/26: More cold water for those hopes, sir?

Remember that day we thought that we just might, possibly, could be on the verge of contending? Yeah, about that...

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[FOX Sports] Cardinals hammer Ray early, cruise past D-backs - The Arizona Diamondbacks came home this week flying high, above .500 and within sight of the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. Then came two games against St. Louis, and the Cardinals have brought the Diamondbacks firmly back to earth. Robbie Ray gave up four runs in the first inning and it didn't get any better after that in Arizona's 9-1 loss Tuesday night that saw the Diamondbacks fall 6 1-2 games behind the Dodgers..

[Arizona Sports] Ray's rough start buries the D-backs - Control was once again an issue for Ray. He walked two batters in both the first and third innings and finished with a season-high five. Ray’s 11 walks over his last three starts are one more than his previous six starts combined. Oh, and he also hit a batter. “That first inning I couldn’t command my fastball, I couldn’t command anything,” said Ray, his beard gone after a post-game shave. “I mean this is the most I’ve walked guys all year. When you get behind in the count on guys, especially a team like this who is in first place, they make you pay for it and that’s what happened.”

[AZ Central] Diamondbacks fall to Cardinals in rare blowout loss - Since Ray spent most of last season in the minors save for a brief stint in the Detroit Tigers bullpen, there wasn’t much of a book on him earlier in the year. But now teams have had a chance to place him under a microscope. “There’s a lot more video on him,” Hale said. “This team across the way is pretty good about studying and picking up stuff. I’m sure if there’s anything out there, they’re on it.”

[] Cardinals rout Diamondbacks, pad division lead - Ray's night ended before he retired a batter in the fourth. He was charged with six runs in the 91-pitch outing. Garcia rolled to his sixth win, while allowing one run on four hits over six innings. His ERA dipped to 1.77, the second-lowest in the Majors among pitchers with at least 13 starts. "We're better than losing 9-1 to the Cardinals," D-backs outfielder A.J. Pollock said. "They're a good team. We're a good team. It got away from us pretty early."

Team news

[AZ Central] Marshall makes return to Chase Field after scary head injury - "They didn’t know if he was going to make it through the night," Allie said. On Tuesday, exactly three weeks later, Evan Marshall sat next to his wife on the dais in the interview room at Chase Field. He sported a long scar under the hairline on the right side of his head, snaking from above his temple down through his sideburn, from where a neurosurgeon had cut him open to relieve pressure building up inside his skull. As Marshall described his ordeal, he was engaging, funny and at times emotional. But most of all he was determined,

[] Evan Marshall visits D-backs in wake of injury - Marshall was hospitalized in El Paso for a week before being transfered to Barrow, where he spent another week before being released to continue his rehab on an outpatient basis. "I'm blessed and thankful because the speed that everyone acted is honestly what allowed me to wake up and remember who I was," Marshall said. "I had some symptoms. The left side of my body was a little slow because I got hit on the right, and I was slurring my words. It was scary. I didn't like it. It's been amazing the care I've received."

[Arizona Sports] Hall: 'We're going to look to improve the team if we can' - "I don’t think it changes our approach any from where we were a couple weeks back when we talked about this. We don’t want to do anything that mortgages our future," Hall said. "If we’re going to make any move whatsoever, it’s going to be one that helps us this year, but also prepares us for the next couple of years. We see ourselves building something that is sustainable here."

[AZ Central] Diamondbacks adopt hamster as team mascot - After acquiring a Mantis during their recent road stop in Cincinnati, the Diamondbacks added to their pet collection earlier this week by welcoming a hamster named Slider. "Probably wouldn’t be a bad thing to have something running around in here," said reliever Josh Collmenter, who introduced Slider to the team on Monday. "A little team mascot. Can’t quite well have a rattlesnake in here, so I figured a hamster would be pretty safe."

[FOX Sports] D-backs have a mascot, it's a hamster, and it could be on borrowed time - Collmenter said the hamster now has a home in the clubhouse, but he didn't rule out road trips. "We have to make sure it gets its passport, but once it's cleared through the FAA, we are good to go," he said. The bigger question is whether Slider can bring better results. The D-backs are 0-2 since she took up residence. "We'll see," Collmenter said. "The mantis was a lot better. She doesn't have a whole lot of leash to work with. She may be come a sacrifice if we don't get a win soon. The mantis was 3-0 in Cincinnati."

[Arizona Sports] Hale on Paul Goldschmidt's struggles: 'He's human' "I just think that it’s a long year," Hale said. "He’s human and you go through struggles. He did have some mechanical issues that him and Turner (Ward) worked on and worked out. Saturday was the culmination of him feeling better. He’s told us that he feels like he’s back on track... It’s tough to put everything on him all the time and that is why it’s great to see what David Peralta and A.J. Pollock have done as late to help us out while he has struggled a bit."

[AZ Central] Chip Hale is Diamondbacks’ rookie of the year - Hale’s work in Arizona is beginning to turn heads across Major League Baseball. After losing 98 games under Kirk Gibson last season, the Diamondbacks are threatening to enter September in an actual pennant race. Hale has been surprisingly solid across the board, from overall strategy to handling a bullpen and managing rest. He’s been exceptional at creating hustle, which seems to ooze out of the Diamondbacks. Opponents have noticed. His players have responded, especially after Hale benched Yasmany Tomas in the middle of a game for not running hard to first base.

And, elsewhere...

[LA Times] Every pitch counts in baseball, but the 1-1 pitch counts more than any other - The general consensus in baseball has long held that the first pitch of an at-bat is the most important. The logic: getting ahead in a count will lead to better results. But advanced analytics show the 1-1 count actually is most likely to be an at-bat's turning point, and teams like the Dodgers, whose front office is constantly probing for even the slimmest of edges, are trying to leverage the count to their advantage. "We, organizationally, are stressing what pitchers and what hitters can control versus what things are out of their control," says Gabe Kapler, the team's director of player development.

[SFGate] Should Major League Baseball do away with divisions? - In one proposal making the rounds, Major League Baseball should do away with divisions and simply choose the five teams with the best record in each league for the postseason. The two teams with the worst records would be the wild cards and have that one-game play-in. The survivor would be seeded fourth for the Division Series, with the top three teams seeded according to records. The NL playoff picture would look a lot different this year under that format.

[FiveThirtyEight] The Happiest And Saddest Fans In Baseball - Baseball teams have a way of dragging their fans’ moods with their fortunes on the field. It’s no fun to root for a perpetually losing team, especially if its performance seems unlikely to improve. Conversely, an unexpected contender has a way of lifting one’s spirits. ut wins and losses are much easier to measure than happiness. We do have a proxy, though: the masses at Reddit.