(Photo by Ed Betz/AP)
"A little tight, shoulder-wise. And it’s never tight. You’d think it would loosen up throughout the game, but it was just one of those games where it’s never going to feel good, so you’ve just got to battle through it, and that’s what I did."
—Brandon Webb, on how he felt throughout the game.
Brandon Webb finally saw his luck change against the New York Mets yesterday. The defending Cy Young Award winner had beaten the Mets only once in his career, and that has been on the occasion of his first major league win in 2003. His record since then had been six losses, although with an ERA of under 3.00. This time he got the run support he needed to beat the New Yorkers, and despite a stiff shoulder, he pitched like the Cy Young Award winner he is. The result was the Diamondbacks eighth straight win. John Maine took the loss for the Mets.
Catcher Chris Snyder provided all the offense Webb needed, with a two-run homer in the fifth inning and shortstop Stephen Drew added more with a three-run homer in the eighth. Carlos Quentin capped the victory with an excellent diving catch for the last out of the game.
Although Eric Byrnes was not a part of the scoring, he led off the game with a solid single to left to keep his hitting streak alive, and then stole his 10th base.
Speaking of stealing bases, a tip of the cap to 48-year-old Julio Franco, who stole second in today’s game.
Livan Hernandez takes on the Mets today. He’ll face Jorge Sosa.
"I remember when he first came up with Oakland. He was a
horrible hitter. He worked at it and he worked at it, and he’s turned
himself into a pretty nice player. He’d play hard for you, but his hitting always seemed to be the
suspect thing. But as he got more opportunities to play, he adapted."
–Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer, on Eric Byrnes, who hit two homers off him in Arizona’s 4-3 victory.
Thank you, Jamie Moyer, for validating something we Byrnes fans have always known: give Eric a consistent chance to play, and he’ll improve. Believe in him and he’ll work it out.
Eric Byrnes hit two homers off Moyer yesterday. It was the fifth multi-homer game of his career. And it was half the runs in Arizona’s 4-3 victory over the Phillies. The Snakes have now completed back-to-back sweeps and go into this weekend’s series with the NL East-leading New York Mets riding a seven-game win streak.
Batting leadoff, Byrnes hit the very first pitch he saw from Moyer — a fastball — over the centerfield fence. Moyer then got the better of Byrnes the next two times up. And I’ve got to say that in the second at-bat, Byrnes helped him by swinging at two outside pitches that would have been balls had he laid off. He got a piece of the first one, fouling off the 0-2 pitch, but missed the second one for a strikeout with runners on second and first. The third time up, Moyer got him on an infield pop-up. Of course, the crafty old left-hander was getting a lot of people out. After that first pitch to Byrnes, the Diamondbacks did no more scoring until the eighth inning.
Then up came Byrnes for the fourth time, and this time he parked a Moyer changeup in the left-field seats. That sparked a little rally, as Conor Jackson then doubled and Mark Reynolds hit his fourth homer in the 15 games he’s been here. It was great just to see him on the field, given that he left the previous game in the seventh inning with injuries. But to hit a homer on top of that… well, all I can say is, "Glad to have you back!"
The Diamondbacks would need all the runs they got as the bullpen threatened to collapse in the ninth inning. Brandon Lyon, who pitched a scoreless eighth, gave up three runs in the ninth in his first attempt to pitch more than one inning this season. José Valverde was then brought in to save the game. He faced reigning NL MVP Ryan Howard with the fast Michael Bourn on second base. But the Diamondbacks had a Barry Bonds-David Ortiz type of shift on against Howard and Valverde induced a line drive to Orlando Hudson, playing in short right field. Hudson then threw to second to double up Bourn to end the game.
Randy Johnson, the winner, threw six innings of one-hit ball, striking out six. Moreover, he was extremely efficient, throwing only 61 pitches. With Bob Melvin having told the press earlier that Johnson could approach 100 pitches, we were expecting the Big Unit to appear in the seventh. The score at the time was still 1-0. But when it appeared that Johnson might have to bat in the bottom of the sixth, a pinch-hitter showed up in the on-deck circle. Although the pinch-hitter did not have to be used, Doug Slaten came out to pitch the seventh. After the game, Melvin told reporters that he told Johnson he was coming out after six innings no matter what. Johnson said he did not remember such a conversation, but that it was OK because his back was starting to get stiff. It’s not a good sign that Johnson’s back will get stiff after only 61 pitches. This was the kind of outing where you’d hope Johnson could be extended to the seventh or eighth inning because of his extreme efficiency.
The Diamondbacks have the day off before Brandon Webb takes on John Maine at Shea Stadium. I remember when Eric Byrnes went to Shea this time last season. And I look forward to a reprise of that performance. If he can pull it off, and Mark Reynolds stays hot, and the starting pitching stays sharp, and the bullpen doesn’t collapse, the Diamondbacks could end the weekend in first place in the NL West. I’m generally a Mets fan, but since even the best teams lose a third of their games, it’s OK for the Mets to drop the next series. My number one priority is to see Eric Byrnes back in the postseason, with a bat, not a microphone, in hand.
(photo by George Widman/AP)
"I just remember the bunt, I remember having the ball. Next thing you know, I’m laying on the ground."
–Hot-hitting rookie third baseman Mark Reynolds, who was injured in the seventh inning. It was a bruised neck. He’s day-to-day.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen says there are little piranhas in Minnesota. It turns out that there are some in Arizona as well. And they chewed on the Philadelphia Phillies to the tune of 11 runs on 17 hits to give rookie pitcher Micah Owings his fourth victory of the season. Arizona has now won six in a row.
The lead piranha was second baseman Orlando Hudson (pictured above), who went 4-6 with four RBI and a run scored. Shortstop Stephen Drew also took several big bites out of the Phillies. He went 3-5 with three RBI and a run scored. And Conor Jackson, who has been heating up of late, took a two-RBI bite out of Philly pitching with a double. Everyone in the starting lineup got at least one hit, including pitcher Micah Owings, who hit a triple in the sixth inning. Jon Lieber pitched 6 2/3 innings and took the loss for Philly.
Phillies defense did the equivalent of tossing raw ground beef into the Orinoco River by committing three errors that allowed six unearned runs to score.
The one scary moment for Arizona came in the seventh inning when third baseman Mark Reynolds crashed into pitcher Brandon Medders while fielding a bunt. He was on the ground for a few minutes before walking off the field with the help of trainers. He suffered a bruised neck and is day-to-day. Get well soon, Mark!
Eric Byrnes had an OK day, but it was a disappointment considering the day he could have had. Leading off, he went 2-6 and got on base a third time on a throwing error. He scored two runs. But he wasted Micah Owings’ triple in the sixth, and in the ninth, with the bases loaded and none out, he popped up. Yes, the glass half-full people will say he finished the game batting .302. He is one of the major league leaders in multi-hit games. He contributed to yesterday’s victory by scoring two runs. And he’s on a hitting streak that is at least as long as the Diamondbacks’ winning streak. I forget exactly how long; other business has kept me from paying real close attention to the stats lately. Just before they started this win streak, Eric told reporters that the team needed more production from a lot of people, himself included, and he’s delivered.
But cynical journalist me looks at a game like yesterday’s and thinks of what might have been. Yes, he is among the league leaders in multi-hit games, but almost all of those games are 2-hit games. Starting out as he did yesterday with two hits by the third inning, I was hoping for three or four hits. The team did not need RBI from him yesterday. But still, he left four runners on base, three in scoring position. And there was that bases-loaded situation. With Arizona having a huge lead and none out, that was as pressure-less a bases-loaded situation as anyone will ever see, and still he popped up. <Groan!> Where is the hit that will clear the bases? When will be the day like Orlando Hudson had yesterday?
Today is the next game in the AARP series, as Randy Johnson takes on Jamie Moyer. Let’s hope the piranhas don’t feel too sated after yesterday’s feast.
"Good thing the ballpark’s big enough for that hit."
—Brandon Lyon, on Rod Barajas’ deep fly ball to Carlos Quentin that ended the game.
Doug Davis pitched great. This was perhaps his best start of the season. And he got some run support. Eric Byrnes led off the game with a single and was promptly driven in by Conor Jackson, who homered. So Davis had a lead before he even stepped out onto the mound at Citizens’ Bank Park in Philly.
Carlos Quentin hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth to bring in another run. And in the eighth inning, Tony Clark walked and moved to third on an Eric Byrnes double. (Byrnesie had no RBI, but he went 2-5 with two runs scored). They both scored when Conor Jackson doubled. CoJack had four RBI yesterday. At the end of eight, the score was Arizona 5 Philadelphia 1.
But they play nine and in the last inning everything threatened to unravel. Tony Clark had batted for Doug Davis in the eighth, so José Valverde took the mound. Manager Bob Melvin anticipated a save situation when he took Davis out for the pinch-hitter in the eighth, but it no longer a save situation when Valverde took the mound. But he let a couple of runners on and gave up a three-run homer to Greg Dobbs. Oh well, it be’s that way sometimes with him. He also got two outs. Brandon Lyon came in to get the third out but first added a little drama of him own by giving up a single to Pat Burrell. Then Connor Jackson picked decided to do his best Bill Buckner imitation, letting a routine grounder by Carlos Ruiz go through his legs.
"I wasn’t expecting a ground ball from a right-handed hitter in that situation," he later said.
Uh, CoJack, weren’t you taught in Little League to always be ready for the ball to be hit to you?
Lyon got Rod Barajas to fly out to deep right and it was all’s well that ends well for Davis, Jackson and the D’Backs.
But as Davis came out of the dugout to congratulate his teammates, Livan Hernandez at his side, I wondered if Hernandez was saying something to Davis about the virtues of complete games. Maybe Livan needs to talk about those virtues with Bob Melvin.
"We have a guy that’s leading the National League in saves," said D-backs manager Bob Melvin. "We get in that situation, [Davis] is up over 100 pitches already, send him back out there, potentially a couple guys get on, you’re in a position to take a loss. You got a two-run lead, you turn it over to the guy that’s leading the league in saves and you give him the ball."
That kind of automatic thinking in May can lead to a tired closer by August or September. With the way Davis was going this particular day, it might have been worthwhile to give him a chance to finish. Or at least, once the decision to lift him had been made and the Diamondbacks scored more runs in the eighth, why not bring in Lyon first?
(photo by Roy Dabner/AP)
"I think I can do it. When I have the chance to do it, I’m going to."
— Livan Hernandez, on complete games. Yesterday’s was the 43rd of his career.
Livan Hernandez’ complete game completed a sweep of the Houston Astros, who are now in fifth place in the NL Central at 21-29.
The 8-4 victory was highlighted by a Carlos Quentin two-run homer in
the fifth inning and a four-run seventh by the Diamondbacks, during
which Eric Byrnes singled in a run and later scored. That makes seven
RBI in the last four games for Eric! He went 2-5 yesterday, while
batting third as Orlando Hudson got the day off. Within this series,
Byrnesie has caught up to O-Dawg for a share of the team lead in RBI.
Both have 29.
Everyone in the starting lineup except Hernandez got at least one
hit and Livo got on base by error and scored in the seventh. Mark
Reynolds continues to be hot, going 2-4 with a walk and two RBI.
Now to see if the Diamondbacks can stay hot on the road against a much better team, the Phillies, who have a 26-24 record. The Snakes are now 29-23, one game behind the Dodgers and the Padres, who are tied atop the NL West at 29-21.
Doug Davis goes up against Freddy Garcia today to start a six-game road trip. This will be a big test of the Diamondbacks offense. Can they finally provide run support for a pitcher who has thrown much better than his won-loss record would indicate?
(photo by Paul Connors/AP)
"I kind of thought my arm was broken for a second. I waited around for a bit, and it kind of subsided."
—Brandon Webb, who got hit by a Lance Berkman liner in the sixth inning.
He finally did it.
Eric Byrnes hit a double with the bases loaded.
It did not clear the bases as doubles often do, but the two runs it did drive home provided the winning margin for the Diamondbacks third consecutive victory over the Astros, 5-4.
It was the first time I have ever seen Eric Byrnes get an extra-base hit with the sacks full. It came in the lucky seventh inning. It was a low and outside pitch that Eric went down and got and lifted out over the head of left fielder Carlos Lee. It bounced off the base of the wall. The double scored Snyder and Hairston (pictured above being congratulated by Orlando Hudson who was up after Byrnes) and gave the Diamondbacks a 5-2 lead. In the eighth inning, Carlos Lee hit a two-run homer that brought the Astros to within one. But that was as far as they got.
As soon as Byrnes came up with the bases loaded, the Astros broadcasters, who were running the show last night, displayed the graphic that showed that Byrnes has a lifetime .204 batting average with the bases loaded, with zero grand slams. (I remember when that batting average was .186 so there’s been some improvement). They were hoping that Astros reliever Chad Qualls could get Byrnes to ground into a double play. But I remembered that last year Byrnes hit a significant homer off Qualls and so I had the hopes that he would at least get a single. He had two strikes on him when he hit the double. Good clutch hitting, Byrnesie! Still waiting for the three-run double or triple and that first grand slam, but now I have even greater confidence that they will come soon. And in the meantime, I’m truly elated with what turned out to be the game-winning hit.
Byrnesie has now had six RBIs in the last three games.
Brandon Webb got the win. He struck out eight in seven innings. Papa Grande got his league-leading 18th save.
(photo by Matt York/AP)
"All the chips fell in place, and I was able to get my shot. I’ve always heard if you get your shot you’ve got to take
advantage of it because it may only happen once. So that’s what I’m
trying to do, just staying on an even keel, not get too high or too low
and playing the game hard."
—Mark Reynolds, who has hit safely in 8 of his first 10 games, and went 5-5 last night.
Rookie Mark Reynolds, who came up from Double A ten days ago, had a perfect 5-5 night to lead Arizona’s slaughter of the Houston Astros 13-3. Reynolds was so hot that when he tried for a double last time up in order to hit for the cycle, he hit a homer instead, his second of the game. His five-hit barrage produced four RBI; he also scored four times.
Carlos Quentin, who continues to heat up, went 3-4 with three RBI and a run scored. Eric Byrnes hit a triple during the Diamondbacks’ monster sixth inning in which they scored eight runs; that triple, his fifth of the year, drove in two runs and he also scored. Tony Clark, who entered the game in the sixth as a pinch-hitter, also batted in two runs and scored a run. He stayed in the game replacing Conor Jackson as part of a double switch, but not before CoJack went 1-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Scott Hairston went 2-5 with an RBI and a run scored. Even relief pitcher Tony Pena got a hit and batted in a run in the sixth inning.
Catcher Miguel Montero did not get the chance to bat in any runs. He went 0-2 but was walked three times, twice intentionally, and he scored a run. Stephen Drew went 2-4 and scored a run. Orlando Hudson went 1-4 and scored a run.
You got all that?
So once again the Diamondbacks mounted a very balanced attack. But, clearly, the night belonged to rookie third baseman Mark Reynolds, who continues to set a torrid pace. He is now batting .459. He was very comfortable in his first-time batting cleanup. He should stay there and Byrnes, who still batting a very healthy .297, should bat second. By the way, a tip of the cap to Houston Astros shortstop Adam Everett and third baseman Mark Loretta, who made great plays to rob Eric Byrnes of hits his first two times up. (I knew the Red Sox should not have gotten rid of Loretta!) Chris Young is feeling better and we should see him today or tomorrow back atop the lineup.
While obviously Reynolds can’t keep up a .459 pace, he’s proven so far that he belongs in the majors. The question is what the Diamondbacks will do once Tracy gets off the DL. (Express your opinion by voting in the poll in the right sidebar). His staying once Tracy is back will mean another person loses his roster spot unless there is another injury that opens up the space. Tracy was not exactly stinking up the joint when he got hurt. He was batting .311. But for now at least, Reynolds is the hotter and more exciting player. Unfortunately, as far as I know, Reynolds can only play third base. The Diamondbacks still need a backup shortstop and second baseman. Alberto Callaspo is batting only .200 and is now carrying very negative off-field baggage. If Reynolds played middle infield, the Diamondbacks’ choices would be obvious.