— Mgr. Bob Melvin, on Orlando Hudson, whose 2-run double in the 7th inning provided the winning margin for the Diamondbacks on Sunday.
Take that, Giants! Payback for the three-game sweep at "Ballpark by the Bay." You have Barry Bonds, but the Diamondbacks have Orlando Hudson, who has managed to get on base with a hit or a walk every game this season.
O-Dawg’s double in the 7th with the bases loaded broke a 3-3 tie and put the Snakes in the lead for good.
The D’Backs are now on a five-game winning streak, and are 10-0 when leading after seven innings.
Which is not to say that the bullpen has given up making things dramatic at the end. Starter Randy Johnson went six innings and left with the score tied at three. Brandon Medders pitched a scoreless seventh. Tony Pena gave up a run–a solo homer by Ray Durham–in the eighth. Then on came Brandon Lyon to preserve the 5-4 lead and the victory in the ninth. The Giants loaded the bases with one out before Lyon finally slammed the door.
Barry Bonds was not a factor. He came up as a pinch-hitter with one out in the ninth, but was unintentionally intentionally walked on four pitches, and then removed for a pinch-runner.
Eric Byrnes did not start for the first time this season, making Orlando Hudson the only player who has now started every game. Considering that Byrnes has cooled off this week and that Scott Hairston deserved a reward for his pinch-hit homer Saturday, this day off was no big deal. Byrnes appeared as a defensive replacement in the ninth.
New week! Webby starts against the Dodgers. As a fan of the Diamondbacks AND a Northern Californian, I say, BEAT L.A.!
And brush the cobwebs off your bat, Byrnesie!
(photo by Rick Scuteri/AP)
"Usually I take a pitch coming off the bench, but that hasn’t been
working. So I decided to switch it up and try
something new, and it worked out."
—Scott Hairston, on the pinch-hit homer that capped a Diamondbacks’ 4-run rally in the 7th inning.
Maybe it’s the home cooking? I don’t know, but the Diamondbacks have taken another game from the San Francisco Giants. And they did it even though D’Backs starter Edgar Gonzalez was no where nearly as effective this time out as he was in San Francisco. And they did it even though manager Bob Melvin let Gonzalez pitch to Barry Bonds with first base open in the first inning, and a Bonds homer having been the difference when Gonzalez pitched so well but lost in San Francisco last week.
Bonds hit homer No. 742.
"That wasn’t my crowning moment right there," Melvin said. "At some
point in time, especially early in the game, you maybe want to try and
send a precedent that we’re just not going to walk this guy every time.
. . . But the minute I thought that, the ball leaves the ballpark, and
you want to crawl into a hole."
Don’t try to be macho, BoMel. Discretion is the better part of valor. Billy Wagner, one of the game’s best closers, challenged Bonds and lost with the game on the line. But even though I’m a Mets fan, I was glad to see Wagner try. A premier closer against a premier slugger is what we pay to see. But Edgar Gonzalez is no Billy Wagner.
Giants’ starter Matt Cain no-hit the Snakes into the fifth and left after six with a one-hitter. Cain is so good that his every start is viewed as a potential no-hitter. (Last person I heard that said about — Nolan Ryan). But you’ve got to pitch 9 to throw a no-hitter, and as Cain and Jake Peavy can tell you, 6 or 7 great innings doesn’t always put the W in your column.
It’s as if the exit of a dominating starter breathes new life into the D’Backs. Jack Taschner came in with the score 4-1 and promptly started putting runners on. An RBI single to Miguel Montero ended Taschner’s night. Vinnie Chulk faced pinch-hitter Scott Hairston, who deposited the first pitch he saw into the left field seats for a three-run homer that gave the Diamondbacks the lead for good. Left fielder Barry Bonds did not even turn around.
Jose Valverde again made it too interesting but held on for another save.
Eric Byrnes went hitless again in the cleanup spot. But his line out to left field in the fourth, and his flyout to deep right-center in the 6th were well-struck. Cold comfort to Byrnes, whose batting average has sunk like a stone since he left San Francisco last week. (From .313 to .270). But I’ve got to believe that if he keeps swinging the bat as he did those two at-bats, the balls will start to find turf (or seats) rather than leather. More importantly, he’s got to believe that.
Fortunately, Byrnes is not one of those players to bring his batting woes out to the field. In the forth inning, after Pedro Feliz had homered over his head for what proved to be the Giants final run, Byrnesie caught a Randy Winn blast on the warning track. It was not pretty. He misjudged the ball and was facing the wrong way. He had to do a 180 to grab it. But grab it he did, saving a double. Way to go, Byrnesie!
Now let’s see if your bat can wake up against Matt Morris, as he faces Randy Johnson in the last of this three-game series.
(photo by Matt York/AP)
"I was able to throw my curveball and changeup in different counts, which frustrates hitters."
— Doug Davis, whose best performance so far in this early season gave the D’Backs their third straight victory and snapped the Giants’ win streak at eight.
It’s so nice to have a solid starting pitching! A year ago, Diamondbacks fans held their breath when their starter took the mound. How many runs would he yield before the team got their first ups? Would he even last five innings?
That hasn’t been a major concern this month. Rather the question has been whether the rest of the team would be strong enough to support a quality start. Last week, when Doug Davis took the mound against the San Francisco Giants at "Ballpark by the Bay," fielding errors, baserunning errors, and lack of timely hitting wasted a good effort by Davis. But last night, Davis was even stronger than he had been in San Francisco, and the timely hitting that was absent last week was there now, courtesy of a Stephen Drew two-run double.
The Diamondbacks also avoided Barry Bonds trouble by intentionally walking the slugger twice. Those walks were the only two that Davis gave up. Davis has evened his record at 2-2. And although José Valverde gave up a home run, he notched another save, his ninth.
Eric Byrnes batted cleanup again and managed to do nothing against former teammate Barry Zito again. Zito got him to strike out, line out to center, and pop out to shallow left. He did draw a walk from reliever Vinnie Chulk. He also made a tactical error in the field. Barry Bonds had singled and moved to second on a single by Ray Durham. Then Bengie Molina flied out to Byrnes in right, and Byrnes threw past the cutoff man in an effort to get Barry Bonds going to third. Durham moved to second on the throw. Bonds is definitely running better now than last year and so the wise move was to throw the ball to second base. Fortunately for the Diamondbacks, Bonds was then tagged out trying for home on a grounder to third. The contact play must have been on.
The Diamondbacks are now back to two games over .500 (13-11) as they take on Matt Cain today. If Edgar Gonzalez is anywhere nearly as effective as he was last week, the Diamondbacks have a strong chance to make it four straight wins.
(photo by Paul Conners/AP)
"I’ve never played with a guy that works as hard as he does, that stays as prepared as he
does and that has the presence in the clubhouse. I’ve never played with
a guy like that. We need him right now. Our offense has been scuffling
a little bit, so to get that boost from a veteran guy like that really
helps us out."
— Eric Byrnes, on Tony Clark, whose second two-homer day this season led the Diamondbacks to victory.
When an offense is running on all cylinders, there’s a different hero every night. Two nights ago, it was Stephen Drew with an improbable homer off Trevor Hoffman. Last night, it was Tony Clark, who has gotten some extra appearances this week because of an injury to Conor Jackson. Clark hit two home runs for the second time this season, sparking a 7-4 Diamondbacks victory over the San Diego Padres. Clark is having a much better season than he had an injury-riddled 2006. And although Conor Jackson is the regular first baseman, Clark can expect a share of plate appearances, particularly when manager Bob Melvin likes the matchup between Clark and the opposing pitcher. He liked it last night with Chris R. Young on the mound.
When an offense is running on all cylinders, several people contribute to the victory. Two nights ago, Miguel Montero hit a late home run that put the Diamondbacks on the board. Last night, the rookie catcher hustled down the first-base line in the second inning on what appeared to be a tap back to the pitcher. But Chris Young could not pick it up cleanly and Montero reached. That kept the inning alive for Livan Hernandez. A run scored on a wild pitch during Hernandez’ at-bat. And then Livo helped his own cause with a sacrifice fly. That tied the score 3-3 — Hernandez had given up three runs in the first inning — and set the stage for Clark’s heroics.
TC hit a solo shot in the fourth inning and a two-run homer in the sixth; Chad Tracy, who doubled and scored in the second inning, was aboard for the second homer. Tracy’s bat has woken up during this series and he was aboard with a walk when Stephen Drew hit the walkoff two nights ago.
Eric Byrnes capped things off with an RBI single in the seventh, scoring Chris B Young, whose bat has also started to stir. His previous time up, Byrnesie put too much uppercut in his swing and popped up. D’Backs announcer Daron Sutton said that he lifted the ball. That’s exactly right. I’ve seen him do that a number of times lately. That’s always bad news. But in the seventh inning, he took a level swing and lined the ball into center field. RBI No. 14.
As to what happened next… well… Byrnes was thrown out stealing by about 5 feet. It was the worst jump I’ve ever seen him get. Apparently, he thought a hit-and-run was on, but manager Bob Melvin said after the game that he didn’t call for one. Byrnes has now been caught stealing twice this month, a little alarming when you think that he was caught stealing only three times all last year, and both times it’s come on a botched hit-and-run. Get your communication down on when there is going to be a hit-and-run, boys.
José Valverde got the save again. That’s 7.
Now the Diamondbacks have a rematch with the San Francisco Giants. Barry Zito and Matt Cain, who between them held in the Diamondbacks to one run over 16 1/3 innings, are the first two pitchers the Diamondbacks will face this weekend. Given the confidence boost of the last two games, I hope the Diamondbacks can get revenge.
Have yourself a weekend, Byrnesie! How about two RBIs per night this weekend, including one or maybe two line-drive home runs? Time to get Zito in the book on the major league level.
(photo by Matt York/AP)
"It’s a good feeling to lift the team when we’re kind of struggling like this."
—Stephen Drew, on hitting the walk-off homer against Trevor Hoffman that ended the D’Backs losing streak.
Yesterday reminded me of the time Steve Carlton struck out 19 Mets, setting a then-major league record, only to lose the game 4-3, because, in the course of setting the record, he also gave up 2 two-run homers to Ron Swoboda.
But last night’s game was even more dramatic. First of all, San Diego Padres starter Jake Peavy challenged Tom Seaver’s long-standing record of 10 strikeouts in a row. He got nine and struck out 16 altogether. His performance set a new Padres record for consecutive strikeouts and matched his previous career-high total for a game. Lost in the drama was the fact that Diamondbacks ace Brandon Webb turned in a sterling performance of his own; he allowed only two runs in eight innings and walked only one while striking out six. The Diamondback starters have really been pitching well of late, but the lack of hitting has kept them from translating solid pitching into wins.
Unlike the way it was for ace pitchers in the era in which Carlton and Seaver pitched, Peavy did not get a chance to finish the game. Tom Seaver set his record by striking out the last man in the sixth, and then striking out the side in the seventh, eighth and ninth. But nowadays, pitch count rule and Peavy was nearing his maximum by throwing 117 pitches in seven innings. Padres manager Bud Black had no intention of letting Peavy go past seven, even though the pitcher told him he felt fine when he came into the dugout after six.
Earlier yesterday, the Mets announcers interviewed Tom Seaver during the Mets-Rockies game. After Seaver left, they talked about the success he had had with the Mets. They noted that he won 198 games with them, and that he completed 171 games. Unless pitching philosophies change radically, we may never see the likes of that again. I think this is in unfortunate turn of events for baseball. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that nowadays there is a whole lot more injury and surgery to pitchers than happened in Carlton and Seaver’s era, and I don’t think that’s just because medical techniques are more advanced now than they were then. I don’t think most pitchers, especially those who throw a lot of pitches like Peavy did last night, have the stamina to go nine. Baltimore pitching coach Leo Mazzone asked his young pitchers last year before spring training, how many complete games they had pitched in the minors. None of them had any. Pitchers are coming up from college as closers. Prime example: 2005 AL Rookie of the Year Huston Street. So the chances are very good that we won’t see a pitcher challenge the current strikeouts-per-game record of 20 unless he has the least 10 by the fourth inning.
I think this turn of events is really too bad also because the starter can do an excellent job, but must leave his fate, and his won-loss record, in the hands of someone else. Such was the case last night, fortunately for the Diamondbacks. Scott Linebrink came in and struck out two more batters in the eighth. But he also gave up a home run to Miguel Montero, bringing the Diamondbacks within one. So much for the shutout.
Then it was Trevor Time. But after getting Orlando Hudson out, the all-time leader in saves walked Chad Tracy. Then after getting Eric Byrnes to pop up — Byrnes has yet to get a hit off Trevor Hoffman — up came Stephen Drew, who lined a 3-1 changeup over the right-field wall. So for all of his incredible work over 7/9 of the game, Jake Peavy didn’t even get a decision out of it because of two home runs given up by two other pitchers. That might have happened anyway in Carlton and Seaver’s day; aces in that era didn’t always finish everything they started. But nowadays it’s a likelihood and with some teams often a certainty. Starting pitchers should demand a new statistic called "left winning" that they can point to when fans, media, and especially GMs at contract-negotiation time, have negative things to say about their won-loss records.
But again, for now, lucky for the Diamondbacks. Tony Pena got the win.
As for Eric Byrnes, he went 0-3 and a walk. He batted fifth last night. He just isn’t doing it in the heart of the order. So I hope Bob Melvin will put him back in the leadoff or second spots, as his batting average has fallen below .300, and it will dip below .290 if he doesn’t get a couple of hits today. I wish he’d get comfortable in the middle of the lineup; it’s awfully crowded at the top of the Diamondbacks batting order, so I understand Melvin’s moving him down in the order once in a while. But let’s not extend the experiment so long that it does major damage to his batting average.
That walk, which was his 10th of the year — he only walked 34 times all last season — broke Peavy’s consecutive strikeouts string at nine. Byrnes took two balls and then fouled off the next four pitches. He then checked his swing for ball three; replays showed that was the right call. And then the next pitch was too low. Ball four. Diamondbacks announcers Mark Grace and Daron Sutton had Byrnesie struck out after he fouled off two pitches. Thanks a heap, guys! NEVER count out Eric Byrnes! There’s just no quit in the man.
Eric made a good running, leaping catch in the left-field corner to rob Brian Giles of extra bases in the top of the third. Stuff like that keeps games close enough that they can be won by walkoff homers.
(photo by Rick Scuteri/AP)
"It’s obviously not the end result of what we’re looking for and not the way I would have written it."
— Randy Johnson, who allowed 6 runs on 6 hits, 4 walks and 2 hit batters in 5 innings. On the plus side, he struck out 7.
As young spot starter Yusmeiro Petit, who turned in a brilliant effort in last Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants, packed his bags for the minor leagues, he might have thought to himself, "Oh well, they’re sending me down to make room for a future Hall of Famer." If only Randy Johnson had pitched like a future Hall of Famer yesterday.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: "Get off his (surgically repaired) back! It’s only his first time out!" And you’d have a point but for the build-up to yesterday’s game ever since the trade was made. You’d think it was The Second Coming of …er…Randy Johnson.
So we had a 43-year-old pitcher coming off his second back surgery facing another 43-year-old pitcher recently diagnosed with diabetes. Hmm, sounds like your local beer league rather than the major leagues. Randy’s seven strikeouts were good sign. And it was no surprise that RJ only went five innings in his first outing. His stamina still needs to be built up. But hopefully, the four walks, and especially the two hit batters, are not a sign of things to come.
David Wells did not remind anybody of Cy Young either. He gave up five runs in his five innings. In fact, the Diamondbacks grabbed the lead 3-2 in the bottom of the third and in the fourth inning both teams were scoreless. Then in the top of the fifth, the Padres scored four off Johnson. The Diamondbacks climbed back into the game in the bottom of the fifth with two runs. With the score 6-5 and plenty of innings to go, there was a feeling that Momentum had come to sit with the Diamondbacks. But if big Mo was thinking about doing that, he changed his mind after the Diamondbacks changed pitchers. Dana Eveland gave up three earned runs in one third of an inning. His ERA is now 81.00. For this we gave up Greg Aquino?
Then on came Brandon Medders, who gave us more of that beer league feeling. He gave up a fly ball to left field. Eric Byrnes tried to pick it off his shoetops but he could not hold onto it. But then he picked up the ball and threw a rocket home. It was a beautiful throw that was online to beat the runner home until Brandon Medders cut it off about 10 feet from the plate, turned and threw it into right-center field. You’ll understand if I tell you that for a split second it looked to me as if Brandon Medders was working for the Padres. The look on Eric Byrnes’ face told it all; he couldn’t believe it. Neither could I.
It wasn’t a terribly good day at the plate for Eric, so he could have used the outfield assist. Batting cleanup, he went 0-3 with a walk. That walk offset the strikeout he had first time up. So his K/BB ratio is still a very good 11/9. And he still clinging to a .300 batting average, batting .302. But it’s been a while since he’s had some RBIs. Maybe today.
Oh, and Medders? Next time you’re in the game and Byrnes throws home, get out of the way!
(photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)
"Sometimes you have to tip your cap to the pitchers and realize that they’ve thrown some really good games."
For the second day in a row, the Arizona Diamondbacks got all they could ask for from a young pitcher. Yusmeiro Petit gave up only two runs on four hits. But for the second day in a row, the Arizona Diamondbacks were bested by a dominating performance from the front of the San Francisco Giants rotation. Matt Cain gave up only three hits and one run in gaining the 2-1 complete game victory. And that one run, which came in the ninth, scored on a double play. It be’s that way sometimes.
The good news was the Eric Byrnes line: he got two of the three hits, scored the run, stole a base (his 6th- pictured above), and made two fine plays in center field: a running catch, and a little later, one of his signature diving catches. Even the Giants fans applauded that one. On the whole, it was a good though not great weekend for Byrnes. But I’m pleased. All told, he got four hits (one of them a double), two walks, two runs scored, two fine plays in the outfield, and a stolen base. His batting average is .313; his OBP is .370; his K/BB ratio is 10/8. It would have been nice to see some RBIs this weekend, but in the face of the buzz saw that was the Giants pitching, well, at least I can say he wasn’t the only one to get skunked.
AND <drumroll> Eric Byrnes signed my Diamondbacks Cap Today!!! "There she is," he said as he took the cap and pen. He also noticed my new Byrnesblog T-shirt, which features a picture of him in the middle. "I like that shirt," he said. I now have Eric Byrnes 22 written on the inside of the bill for me to look up at any time I need to lift my spirits.
My thanks to my friends and the baseball gods who got me tickets to all three games. Unlike Saturday, today the weather was clear, so of course, this was the day they gave out umbrellas. Having never gone to a sunny day game in San Francisco, I neglected the sunscreen. Big mistake, even with my baseball cap drawn over my face and a glove shielding my bare hands. I have some red patches on my lower forearms.
This time I was down at the field level among the rich people. I was told Friday that I was sitting with the rich people by being in the second level. Those folks were the upper-middle class. With all due respect to Mark Grace, Dodgers relief pitcher Jonathan Broxton is not the biggest man in the world. That title goes to the man in the row ahead of me and just to my right, whose huge head took up most of the space between the pitcher and the catcher.
There was something positive to be said about sitting at each level. Friday night’s seat in the second level was near home plate and elevated enough to offer optimal viewing for keeping score. I was also near the broadcast booths and got a chance to say hello to Gracie and Daron Sutton. (Friday was the only time I tried to both keep score and maintain The Eric Byrnes Pitch Count Report. Finding it all too much to handle with a baseball glove in tow, I abandoned score keeping on Saturday. Finally, on Sunday, I left The Report home, too, opting for a maraca to shake as a rattle whenever Byrnesie or Scott Hairston came to bat, and when Byrnesie made his diving catch). On Saturday, sitting in section 139 of the bleachers offered me the opportunity to listen to "Heckler Par Excellence" Tigger, and some of her colleagues, at work. ("Bleacher creatures" are really into the game, which is more than I can say for folks in other sections. The couple next to me Friday night actually left before Barry Bonds did.) Being in the bleachers also gave me a chance to shout some countering encouragement to Eric Byrnes.
Today’s field level seat gave me an appreciation of just how fast these pitchers throw. It amazes me that anyone ever gets hit. But they do. Especially Barry Bonds, who hit another homer today. Going back to last year, I’ve now seen Barry homer in three of the last five games I’ve attended at "Ballpark by the Bay." I may be witnessing history, but next time I’d rather see Eric Byrnes hit them.