Tagged: Eric Byrnes 06.06

An Occasion of Good Cheer: D’Backs 6 — A’s 4

Sun18_26Winning can happen when your pitching staff doesn’t give away the store. The good Claudio Vargas, the one who gets through the first inning unscathed, appeared at the Oakland Coliseum last night, and pitched shut out ball until the 6th. While he was being effective, so was the Arizona offense. The D’Backs scored three runs. Vargas started to wilt after the 90th pitch and the A’s tied the score in the 6th 3-3. But they only tied it. The roof did not cave in. (Maybe that’s because the Coliseum doesn’t have a roof!)

In the 7th, the D’Backs scored 3 more, putting them ahead for good. The rally was sparked by an infield hit by a certain ever-hustling outfielder the A’s mistakenly traded last year.

Reliever Brandon Medders, who pitched the 7th and 8th innings, gave up a  run, BUT ONLY 1 RUN. That made the score 6-4 and that was how it ended. Jorge Julio, out to prove that the bad pitching virus he apparently came down with the night before was only a 24-hour bug, slammed the door on the A’s in the 9th. I was there and could feel his determination as he warmed up on the mound before closing out the Oaklanders.

Maybe this is the turnaround the Snakes need as they enter a new month and the second half of the season.

The Eric Byrnes line for the night: 1-4 and a walk, with 1 R, BA .289. He now has a little three-game hitting streak. No Ks tonight.

Housefly_261-4 does not help Byrnesie’s batting average, which slipped a point this game;  He left runners on 2nd and 3rd with two out when he lined to right in the 4th. I want to see Byrnesie’s clutchness get stronger, so I wanted those RBI.  He hit some foul balls this game that showed his timing is still just a bit off. And he was stranded at 3rd after walking his second time up. Yeah, I’m picky.  And good cheer doesn’t quite cut it for me anymore. I’ve grown addicted to true elation and was hoping for TE-12 this time. 

Note_23Schadenfreude time. Byrnesie’s fate in Oakland was sealed last year when CF Mark Kotsay agreed to a three-year contract extension and LF Jay Payton, whom the A’s had wanted when he signed with San Diego, was made available by Boston. Kotsay went 0-5, including a fly out to Byrnes. Payton had a much better night, getting two singles and getting HBP. He scored after the HBP and the second single. He was kept off the bases once, when Eric Byrnes picked a fly ball off his shoe tops in the 4th. I didn’t see that. I was in the ladies room donning my Byrnesblog jersey under my Byrnes/D’Backs T-Shirt because it had started to get cold. But I heard it in the bathroom because the A’s broadcast in there so we know what’s going on.

I am still thinking that maybe I am in a phase in which Byrnesie does better when I am not watching in real time. If this is the case, he should be back to .300 soon. I have to work at the radio station during the games the next four days. Maybe I’ll not watch in real time until after the All-Star Break and then start up again and see what happens.

K.R
Oakland, CA

D’Backs v. A’s Tonight: Yes, I’m Going!

Sun18_25Having been offered a ticket to tonight’s matchup between the A’s and the D’Backs, I said yes. (What the A’s have done with their ticket prices is a kvetch best left for another time). Money is the absolute pits right now, even though today was payday. But I had hoped to be there today since the schedule was first announced. And apparently the gods, and the lovely person who offered the ticket, definitely want me to be there.

MeI’m still not quite decided as to whether I’ll wear my Byrnesblog jersey as I did in San Francisco, or the D-Backs T-Shirt with Byrnes 22 on the back. Were it a day game, the shorter-sleeved T-Shirt would definitely be in order. But it’s a 7:05 p.m. start, meaning whatever I wear will probably end up being covered up by a sweatshirt by the middle of the game. I’ll wear my purple sweatshirt, since that’s a D’Backs color, and my authentic D’Backs road cap. The Diamondbacks may have the worst pitching staff in the majors right now, but they’ve got the some of the coolest logos.

(Sorry about that. I don’t mean to go on and on about clothes like some sort of sports fashionista. But I do want to look the part of welcoming Eric Byrnes home to the Bay Area. I expect to see a bunch of green and gold Byrnes 22’s in the stands).

Byrnesdbacks_1_4With this Interleague game in the American League Park, there is simply no excuse for BoMel not to start Byrnesie, the team leader in slugging percentage (not to mention the D’Back who knows most on the team about the Coliseum’s outfield. He played center there as well as left). DaVanon can be the DH.

Ebcycle03Byrnesie’s triple last night was down the RIGHT field line. This is very good news. He hits better when he gets out of the notion that he has to pull everything to have power. I will be taking my looseleaf binder full of Eric Byrnes Pitch Count Reports to the game and I look forward to filling out tonight’s edition with more True Elation. May the A’s pitchers end the night wondering why Oakland ever traded him. (Photo on this graf, by George Nitikin/AP, is of the triple in Byrnes’ cycle of 06-29-03).

Who knows? The D’Backs might even win! A goil kin dream, cain’t she?

Kéllia "The Byrnesblogger" Ramares
Oakland, CA

P.S. I’ll be in section 122, Row 27, if any of you want to stop by. Just be aware that when Byrnesie is at bat or on base, I don’t get distracted.

Bullpen Blows True Elation 11 and Enrique Gonzalez’ fine start. M’s 3 – D’Backs 2

When the D’Back’s pitching staff isn’t giving the opposition a big head start, the bulllpen is giving away the store. Sometimes Arizona pitchers do both.

Consider the just concluded sweep of the D’Backs by the Mariners. On Tuesday, the D’Backs were down 5 runs before their first at-bats. And that was with ace Brandon Webb starting. The bullpen gave up 4 runs in the ninth and the D’Backs lost 11-7.

In the second game, the score was 3 – 2 Seattle when the 8th inning began, the Arizona gave up 3 in the 8th and 4 in the 9th. Final score: Seattle 10 – Arizona 3.

Tonight, rookie starter Enrique Gonzalez pitched a gem, giving up only 1 run in 7 innings. The Snakes entered the 9th leading 2-1. They left the 9th having lost 3-2.

That’s 13 runs the Snakes have given up in the late innings of the last three games.

Jorge Julio, the one reliever who was doing well lately, finally succumbed to the bad pitching virus that has afflicted the rest of the staff.

Both Diamondback runs were scored by pitcher Enrique Gonzalez, the first time when Seattle’s GIl Meche balked with Gonzalez on 3rd. The second time when he was batted in by an Eric Byrnes single in the 5th.

The Eric Byrnes line tonight: 2-4 (a triple and a single), and 1 RBI. That’s True Elation 11. The RBI came with 2 out. He had 2 two-out RBI in the first game of the series. Thus, Byrnesie is showing improvement in the clutch-hitting department.

BUT: No one drove him in either time he was on base. And he also GIDP (leaving 2 on himself) and he K’d in the 8th inning. (He’s been doing that alot lately. Maybe someone told him that if he wants Phoenix to support him for the All-Star team he has to K as often as Adam Dunn…or at least as often as Chad Tracy!)

So now the D’Backs head to Oakland for the weekend and I’ve been asked if I am going. I can only make the Friday night game because I work the weekends. I am not quite decided yet.

K.R.

Bob Melvin’s Obvious Preference for Jeff DaVanon

is evident in today’s lineup as the D’Backs get ready to go against the M’s. "King" Felix Hernandez.

DaVanon is in the lineup in center field, in place of Eric Byrnes. This is the only change in  the regular starting lineup for the D’Backs. Rookie 1B Conor Jackson, a righty sometimes replaced earlier this year by the switch-hitting Tony Clark, when BoMel wanted to get as many left handed bats into the lineup as possible, is starting. And I think that’s fine. He IS the regular first baseman. Eric Byrnes, who had 2 doubles, 2 RBI and 1 R last night, and who had Sunday and Monday off, and therefore does not need rest, is supposed to be the regular center fielder. Casual observers of the Diamondbacks will be forgiven for failing to realize this.

Neither Byrnes nor DaVanon have any record against the twenty-year old righty phenom.

The comparision between Byrnes and DaVanon goes this way:

Name BA OBP SLG XBH/H HR 2B 3B RBI R BB SB%

Byrnes .286 .346 .534 .493 12 20 1 30 37 20 .889

DaVanon .289 .376 .430 .302 3 8 2 24 26 22 .778

Both have had hot spells, both have cooled off. They are actually fairly similar these days except for two important factors. Though I have not kept the stats on DaVanon that I have kept on Byrnes, my observations of him suggest that DaVanon is the more successful pinch hitter. Given how poorly the Arizona pitching staff has worked lately, and given the fact that this Interleague game is being played in a National League park, so there is no DH, it would make more sense to have DaVanon coming off the bench than Byrnes.

Likewise, given Arizona’s need for many runs these days, it would seem sensible to have Eric Byrnes in the starting lineup. He’s the guy who is the team leader in SLG and XBH/H, co-leader in homers, tied for second on the team in doubles, and high up the league leaders list in that category. (Byrnes has 20, the leader, Matt Holliday of the Rockies, has 26).

But it appears that unless Byrnes’ batting average returns to the stratosphere, we are going to see BoMel’s de facto platoon in center field.

Oh well, it’s not as if I don’t have other things to do tonight. But I can make only the Friday game of the upcoming series in Oakland, and I’m sitting here on Wednesday not sure  if Byrnesie will play Friday.

I should be having no doubts about his being the starting center fielder for the D’Backs Friday night.

Kéllia "Where did I put that crystal ball?" Ramares
Oakland, CA

M’s Win 11-7 Despite True Elation 10. Why Be Elated When the D’Backs Lose?

Happiness is . . .watching Eric Byrnes have a great day. One hit or defensive gem is cause for good cheer. But True Elation is seeing a multi-hit day with at least 1 RBI.

–Kellia Ramares, Spheroid.

If last Saturday was not the worst night of Eric Byrnes’ major league career, it had to have been darned close. He went 0-6 with 4 K’s. In the field, he missed two of his signature diving catches; and on the second miss Byrnes got a bloody nose for his trouble. He was given Sunday off, a wise move, and the whole team had Monday off before beginning the series with the Mariners. As one of my correspondents put it, "New Week – Clean slate."

So I hoped. It didn’t look that way in the early going. Byrnes was 0-3 (K, pop out, K) to start. Put that together with Saturday and he was 0-9 with 6 K’s and 2 pop outs. Count back from June 21, the day after True Elation 9, through the first three AB’s of last night (June 27) and Byrnes’ stats are just HORRID! 1-18 with 11 K’s, 3 pop outs and only 1 RBI. UGH! Looking at the replays on video after the game, it seemed to me that on both strike threes last night, Byrnes swung and missed at balls. Judgment and timing looked still way off. And mind you, M’s starter Jarrod Washburn was familiar to Byrnes and he’s done well against him.

But Byrnesie fulfilled my definition of True Elation in his last two AB’s last night by hitting two doubles and getting 2 RBI. Both RBI came on the first double, which he hit in the 7th inning, which tends to be a great inning for him. With two out, and the count 0-2, Byrnes fought back to a full count and then hit the double that drove in runners from 2nd and 3rd. This brought the D’Backs to within 1 run, 7-6. Chad Tracy then hit a double that brought home Byrnes with the tying run. Unfortunately, all the rest of the evening’s scoring was done by Seattle.

Yes, the D’Backs lost again despite Byrnes’ 7th and 9th inning accomplishments and some other good news, especially Luis Gonzalez hitting a three-run homer in the first inning, his first round tripper since April 20. They have now lost 18 of their last 21. Giving the opposition a head start will do that to you. Brandon Webb gave up 5 runs in the first inning. The final score was 11-7. Giving up 11 runs is generally a recipe for disaster.

Before the game, Chad of Charge the Mound gave me a link to an Arizona Republic article by Bob McManaman that quoted Byrnes extensively. Apparently, I am not the only person who has taken some solace in recent Arizona losses that were not blowouts (e.g. June 21 Devil Rays 3, Diamondbacks 2), or in the rare high-scoring win (Diamondbacks 9 – Angels 7 on June 25). Still, Byrnes said:

I’m sick of feeling better about (expletive) losses. There’s no moral victories in the big leagues. This ain’t the minor leagues. We’re not trying to develop players here. We’re trying to win freaking games.

The first step to "win freaking games" is for the Diamondbacks’ pitchers to hold the fort. This will allow the offense to do its work without having to come from behind, and to score so many runs, so often. Scoring 7 runs ought to win you a game, but it can’t if you give up 11. The pitching is going to have to get better, much better, and soon, or the D’Backs’ 2006 campaign is lost.

Even if they don’t bounce back, I am very proud of Eric for caring about winning, for caring about the team’s progress and not just his individual stats. In a team sport, pride in individual stats should be the primary concern of fans like me, or a player’s agent. I know Eric’s going to do everything he can to help his team win. But he’s not a pitcher, and I think the turnaround has to start on the mound.

I really hope the D’Backs can turn things around. Winning is definitely more fun than losing. Being part of a winning team is one of Eric’s goals and I want him to achieve success as he defines it. I also want to see him in the playoffs again. (The last time was game 5 of the 2003 ALDS when he stood on third as the potential tying run in the bottom of the 9th and the A’s couldn’t get him in). But in this era of free agency, frequent trades, and the mobility of the American population, the latter of which has seen me move from New York to Indiana to California, I have chosen to be a player fan first and a team fan second. I’m not going to cry if Byrnes has a career year, but the D’Backs season falls apart because the pitching staff keeps giving away too many runs. I am still going to be truly elated whenever Eric Byrnes has a multi-hit day with an RBI. After all, I’ve been truly bummed by all the strike outs lately.

It’s not having what you want
It’s wanting what you’ve got.

–Sheryl Crow, Soak Up the Sun

K.R.

Beyond Hideous: Angels 6 – D’Backs 4 in 13

Claudio Vargas was pitching lights out and the D’Backs were up 4-0 thanks mostly to homers by Orlando Hudson and Craig Counsell of all people. Then Vargas hit a batter and Conor Jackson made a fielding error, Vargas exited with the bases loaded and before you knew it, the score was 4-4.

A two-out, pinch-hit, two-run homer by Robb Quinlan won it. K-Rod got the save. This loss was hideousness exemplified for the following reasons:

Luis Gonzalez’ 7th inning at-bat marked the 200th AB (obviously more than 200 PA’s) since he’s homered.

Jeff DaVanon, one of the few D’Backs who had a decent day, had three singles against his old team (and he made some good fielding plays in right), but in the 9th, with a runner on, he K’d. So mujch for the romantic notion of his beating his old team.

Shawn Green, sent up as a pinch hitter, was robbed by the home plate umpire on the first pitch, which was low, but called a strike. Green K’d, and was tossed for arguing balls and strikes. Greenie is a low-key personality who rarely argues; but he got the heave ho mighty quick, so he must have said one of the magic words.

Then BoMel went out to argue and he got the thumb as well. I thought managers were supposed to argue and risk getting tossed to protect a player from getting tossed. But this happened after Green was ejected. So I guess the D’Backs timing is so bad, even the manager can’t get thrown out at the appropriate moment.

Things got so desperate Damion Easley ended up playing first after going in as a pinch runner for Tony Clark who had hit a broken bat single. Clark was a defensive substitution for Jackson. Easley did well, but he’s not really a first baseman.

It was just a nightmare of a game for Eric Byrnes. Painful figuratively and literally, for him and for me watching it. First of all, it was golden sombrero night. Batting sixth, he went 0-6 with 4 strikeouts. Two looking and two swinging. He’s standing too far away from the plate again. In the last four games he has gone 1-15 with 9 K’s. His batting average, which was climbing back toward .300, is sinking like a stone again.

To make matters worse, he missed two diving catches, the kind we Byrnes fans are used to seeing him make. He bloodied his nose on the second miss and was in obvious pain after hitting the ground. Mark Grace wondered several times if Byrnesie had broken his nose. He played the rest of the inning with blood coming out of his nostrils, but the trainer managed to stop it after the inning ended and he went out again.  To the People who wonder why I like him so much: There’s an answer for you. He’s tough.

But things have been really tough on him in the last four days. Strike three in the 13th inning was a swing and a miss at gas down the middle from K-Rod that he should have put into the seats. I don’t have words for how horrible all the K’s and the missed dives are. It’s like bad timing has just taken Byrnesie over on offense and defense.

The D’Backs are now 2-17. I want to think that tonight was rock bottom for them in general and for Byrnes in particular. But I will admit that I can’t bear to look, right now. Tomorrow, I am brunching with some good out-of-town friends, I am working at KPFA, and I am going to try to forget about baseball for a day or two and leave Byrnesie and the D’Backs to turn things around without my looking. They have a day off Monday. I have a number of things I need to take care of that have nothing to do with baseball. So now would be a good time for me to pull the disappearing act I thought I was going to pull about 5 weeks ago.

Turn it around, Byrnesie. Here’s another consistency test. Relax and don’t stand so far from the plate. As for the missed dives, I don’t get it. It’s as if that computer in your brain that calculates the distance to the ball has developed a glitch. Time to debug and reboot.

Go Byrnesie! Go Snakes! (And I don’t mean to **** in a handbasket!)

K.R.

When It Rains, It Pours: Angels 8 – D’Backs 2

These blowouts getting so routine it’s becoming a bore to write about them. The D’Backs were down three runs before they had their first AB’s. The geographically-challenged Angels had no trouble finding home; the score was 5-0 before the D’Backs scored their first run in the 4th. Enrique Gonzalez gave up the first 5 runs; Jose Valverde, pitching the 7th, gave up the other three.

But let’s not rag on the Arizona pitchers all day today. If someone told you that one team, in this case the Angels, got 9 hits and 7 walks, while their opponents, in this case the D’Backs, got 10 hits and 6 walks, you would guess that it was a high scoring game, but not a blow out. Not 8-2.

Can you say "Lack of timely hitting"? I know you can.

All the position players were charged with at least 1 LOB. Shawn Green and Johnny Estrada left 5 a piece and Orlando Hudson left 4. One of the two runs scored by the Snakes was Chad Tracy driving himself in with a solo homer in the fourth. It was his 12th of the year, moving him back into a tie with Eric Byrnes for the team lead.

The only other score came when Conor Jackson walked with the bases loaded in the 5th. This brought home Jeff DaVanon from third. DaVanon had walked and moved to third on a Luis Gonzalez single. After Tracy walked to load the bases, Jackson walked to score the run. All this happened with only one out. But then S. Green popped to second (infield fly) and Johnny Estrada flied to center.

So the Snakes got only one run out of a bases-loaded situation and that came because of a bit of wildness by the pitcher, not because of a hit. Can’t win that way unless your pitchers are throwing shutout or near-shutout ball. In June, that has happened only three times: June 1 (D’Backs 2 – Braves 1); June 3 (D’Backs 4 – Braves 2), and June 13 (D’Backs 2 – Giants 1). I’m writing this on the morning of June 24.

This interleague game had no DH because it was played in a National League park. So Jeff DaVanon got the start against his old team at the expense of you know who. This is also getting so routine it’s becoming a bore, an infuriating bore, but a bore to write about, nonetheless. It was another day where the D’Backs starting lineup was complete except for center field.

Byrnesie was called on in the 8th to pinch-hit. As I have said time and again, this is not one of his strengths. He flied out to center, failing to advance a runner on first. Tony Clark and Andy Green, who preceded Byrnes in the game as pinch-hitters, also failed to hit safely.

DaVanon was 0-3 with 2 BB and 1 LOB. (A blip, really, compared to S. Green and Estrada).

Like I said before, can you say "Lack of timely hitting"? I know I can.

K.R.