Claudio Vargas, the Diamondbacks’ No. 5 pitcher, threw 7 shutout innings as the D’Backs finally solved the riddle of Jake Peavy, who had been their nemesis for the past year and a half. Vargas did not do well his last two times out, but he’s been working on some things with Arizona pitching coach Brian Price, and tonight he looked like an ace. He walked no one while striking out four. Brandon Medders pitched a scoreless eighth and Greg Aquino blanked the Padres in the ninth. Diamondbacks 7 – Padres 0.
The offense was led by first baseman Conor Jackson, who had 4 RBI in a 3-5 night. Luis Gonzalez went 2-4 and batted in two runs. The other RBI went to Johnny Estrada, who hit a sac fly.
It was "Welcome Back" night for leadoff hitter Craig Counsell, who has been nursing a sore hamstring of late. He went 3-5 with three runs scored.
Two guys in the lineup contributed nothing to the thirteen hit and 1 sac fly attack: Chad Tracy and Eric Byrnes. Yup, much to my surprise, Eric started tonight, despite the fact that we’d been hearing that Jeff DaVanon would spell him against "tough righties." Peavy is one of the toughest righties in the league. And Byrnesie hit like the start might have surprised him, too. He went 0-4 with a strikeout (caught looking his first time up) and an intentional walk.
The worst of it came in the 6th inning, when Estrada was IBB’d to load the bases for Byrnesie. He popped to shallow right on the third pitch, which I thought was a ball. It’s a situation I have seen before. When Byrnesie comes back from getting benched–and he started only 4 of the 10 games prior to this one, did not play yesterday, pinch-ran the day before, and pinch-hit the day before that–he presses, trying to prove himself. And when he does that, ugly things happen.
The first ugly thing that happens is that he loses his patience. Peavy was not exceptionally sharp tonight. Byrnesie needed to wait him out a little, especially with the bases loaded. His overall P/PA tonight was 3.20 (And that’s that one of the PA’s was the IBB in the 7th). The popouts to the first baseman down the right field line, and the second baseman in shallow right came on the third pitch each time, and off the end of the bat. I thought the pitch on which he popped up with the bases loaded was a ball.
The second ugly thing that happens is that he forgets his level swing. That was especially evident to me in the 9th inning, when he flied out to right. An early uppercut, with what looks to me like a flick of the wrists, does not send the ball far enough. The same pitch, thrown by the right-handed reliever Cassidy, would have gone for a double with a level swing.
The only thing I can say for the IBB in the seventh is that it offset the K in the second. I really don’t like Byrnesie batting eighth. With one out in the sixth, the Padres walked Estrada to get to Byrnes to set up the righty-righty matchup. In the seventh, the righty reliever Brazelton IBB’d Byrnes. Eric has a homer off Brazelton, there were two out and the pitcher was next. This is now the second time I have seen it recently. The first time, Byrnesie was not officially IBB’d, but he walked. Whenever there are two out, Byrnes batting eighth and the pitcher due up, you are going to see Byrnesie get a free pass unless the bases are already loaded. Why risk pitching to a guy with pop in his bat when the pitcher can make the third out? Such walks would help Eric’s K/BB ratio and his OBP, but they won’t help his batting average, his RBI totals or his runs scored totals.
Byrnes is now 1-10 with runners in scoring position. Shawn Green is now 1-15 in that situation, leaving four men on base today, as Byrnes also did. But Green went 2-5 and now has a higher batting average than Byrnes: .239 to .235. It’s taking a lot of multi-hit days for Green to get his batting average up but he’s doing it. Byrnes now must do likewise.
If Byrnesie is not to be forgotten, he needs to relax, be patient at the plate, and take level swings.
Todd Helton has been diagnosed with an inflammation at the end of his small intestines. He has to rest and no date has been picked for his return to the Rockies. But at least he doesn’t have to have surgery.
Juan Encarnacion of the St.Louis Cardinals has had a bad early season, but tonight was a special night: He went 3-4 with 4 RBI. All three hits were XBH: a double, a homer, and a triple. Plus, he made a great diving catch in the outfield. Our Cardinals-fan bloggers are thrilled no doubt. You’ll have to peel me off the ceiling when Eric Byrnes has a day like that. Felicitationes, Juan!
The Cleveland Indians walked David Ortiz to pitch to Manny Ramirez and the former Tribe member made them pay with a homer. As Red Sox Chick said when she posted on the subject: Do NOT disrespect the Ramirez!
I think they are the most devastating duo in the majors, though I know some Cardinals fans would reasonably vote for Pujols-Rolen. Re: having to pitch to Ortiz or Ramirez, I have heard several broadcasters say "Pick your poison." So, Manny, now that David has signed his extension, don’t talk about leaving Boston any more! Being Big Papi’s protection is one of the best gigs in the game!
And speaking of the Cardinals, being Albert Pujols is another great gig. He has hit his 12th homer and April still has almost a week to go! I was watching ESPN at the gym yesterday afternoon and the big baseball question was: "Why are teams still pitching to Albert Pujols?" Good question. Cards fans, would you care to answer that one?