I could scarcely believe my eyes and had to count twice to make sure. But indeed, there he is, No. 4 against the San Diego Padres tonight.
It’s Counsell, Hudson, Gonzalez, Byrnes, Estrada, Jackson, Tracy, Quentin and Webb.
DTLFL has been arguing for an Estrada-Byrnes 4-5 lineup for months, but there is sense to making it the other way around these days. We noticed yesterday, and we noticed in San Francisco, and we’ve actually noticed from time to time throughout the year, that Byrnesie loses RBIs by virtue of having plodders, usually pitchers and catchers, on base ahead of him. This happened yesterday when Byrnesie hit a two-out, 9th-inning double with runners on first and second. The runner on second scored. The runner on first, catcher Chris Snyder, was held at third.
We saw something similar in San Francisco on August 22nd, when Johnny Estrada was hitting like a man possessed. He’s the last of the D’Back regulars still over .300. Fine catcher. Clutch hitter. But slow on the basepaths and everyone knows it. Estrada, batting 5th, hit a double. Byrnesie, in the 6-hole following the trade earlier that day of the usual 6-hitter, Shawn Green, hit a fly ball to deep left-center, not all that far from where I was sitting. Estrada tagged up. But Giants’ CF Steve Finley made a strong throw to the shortstop and Estrada wisely retreated to second. A faster runner could have made it to third.
Tonight, Byrnesie has Couns, O-Dawg and Gonzo ahead of him, and they are all fast. (Yes, even at 38, Gonzo can run). So if they can get on and Byrnesie can come through, the merry-go-round will spin.
The only concern I have here is that Byrnesie might try too hard in his effort to prove that he should be in the heart of the lineup. If that happens, I hope manager Bob Melvin is not quick to send him back to the one or two hole. Byrnesie needs to be given the slugger’s role he has earned with 19 HRS and 31 2-baggers and also given a chance to grow into that role. There isn’t a whole lot left to the season, so if he is to help the team make the playoffs as a slugger, he has to grow fast. But not so fast that a mediocre or worse showing tonight, especially if the San Diego pitcher is lights out, will change Melvin’s mind about having Byrnesie in the heart of the lineup. That’s really where he belongs. Yes, he’s the team’s stolen base leader, but the Diamondbacks are not really a running team and his now personal-best 18 SBs is nowhere near the league leaders. Call his speed a fringe benefit–though, indeed, I want to see him be a 20/20 man this year–it’s time for him to develop as the RBI guy the pop in his bat suggests he should be.
But let’s hope that the pitcher who is lights out tonight is Brandon Webb. He really did not pitch badly in S.F. Two unearned runs early made things look worse than they were.
The D’Backs go up tonight against the 40-year-old right-hander, Woody Williams. Remember what I have said before. Byrnes’ average is much better against lefties than against righties, but his power numbers are against the right handers.
This would be a great night for No. 20.
I’ll have my statshot sidebar updated before I turn in for the night.
Kéllia "Clean ’em up, Byrnesie" Ramares