"It’s a good start for us. Sweeping a team four straight games on the road is a rarity. It’s a huge confidence boost."
Eric Byrnes, after the D’backs took 4 in a row from the Washington Nationals.
(photo by Lawrence Jackson/AP)
It was one of those times when one is grateful that Spring Training stats don’t always predict what is going to happen in the regular season. Livan Hernandez had a horrible spring. His ERA was over 13.00. But yesterday he carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning, and pitched seven innings of shutout ball.
It’s the kind of start the Diamondbacks need regularly from the Cuban innings-eater; he’s usually good for seven, and though he ran into a little trouble that last inning, he pitched out of it. The Diamondbacks won their fourth in a row at RFK Stadium, after going 0-6 there last year.
I’m glad to hear that taking four in a row from the Nationals, as bad as they are, is, to use Eric Byrnes’ words, "a huge confidence boost." But I remember all too well that the Diamondbacks swept four from the Braves at Turner Field last year and then the roof caved in. So I’m still a little apprehensive about how good this team really is, especially after I’ve seen how bad the Nationals really are. They were something like 1-31 with men in scoring position during the four-game series. But the Diamondbacks were looking at early disaster square in the face, having dropped two in a row to the Colorado Rockies and heading into RFK, where they had yet to win. So the sweeping Washington means they bounced back from adversity, at least in the short term.
As for the game itself, it was good to see the Diamondbacks score before the Nationals could even come up to bat. Often last year, the early scoring was done by the Diamondbacks’ opponents. Orlando Hudson hit a double that drove in Conor Jackson who had been hit by a pitch. Hudson moved to third on the throw. Batting cleanup, Eric Byrnes drove in Hudson with a groundout to second. The first-inning runs were all the Diamondbacks would need, but they got an insurance run in the eighth, courtesy of a Scott Hairston single.
It was a so-so day for Byrnes, who is again playing right field in place of the injured Carlos Quentin. Livan’s no-hitter was broken up by a ground rule double over Byrnes’ head. Eric would have caught the ball if he had a better angle on it; it really wasn’t that far over his glove, but he reached back for it awkwardly. I was rooting for the Nationals to get at least one other hit, and they obliged me with two in the seventh. So at least Eric is not responsible for costing Livan a no-hitter. On the other hand, Eric also made a fine running catch near the right-field line, and quickly made an accurate throw to first, holding the runner there.
Byrnes struck out in the ninth, with runners on first and second and two out. Chad Cordero, against whom he’d homered, was pitching. Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you. In addition to the productive out in the first inning, Byrnesie singled and stole second in the fifth inning. Unfortunately, he was not driven in. But he now has four stolen bases in four attempts.
José Valverde recorded his third save. Shawn Hill took the loss. Chris Young left the game early with a leg injury; Robbie Hammock replaced Byrnes in right and Byrnes moved to center. I have not seen anything detailing the problem.
I am so glad the Diamondbacks are out of Washington, and not just because of the cold weather or the very big park that cost Eric Byrnes at lease one homer. I am glad to get out of there because the MASN broadcasts were painful to listen to. There was this awful sound, like fireworks and drums, that kept running over the announcers. I could not tell where it was coming from. It was not on the field; I could tell because they wouldn’t have that constant noise running while their players were batting. And the announcers did not seem to be aware of it even though at times the sound nearly drowned them out, so it didn’t come from their booth. Also yesterday, there was cross-talk from another broadcast on more than one occasion, probably the Orioles game on MASN2.
So now it’s the opening homestand, in a better climate, and against a better team, the Cincinnati Reds.
"He made it easy on us hitters. I’m not sure how much
people realize how important that is for an offense to be able to get
back in the dugout and stay warm and stay hitting."
— Eric Byrnes, on the virtues of Brandon Webb’s efficiency on a night when the wind chill was 28 degrees.
(photo by Susan Walsh/AP)
Don’t let the sleeveless look fool you. Webb, a Kentuckian, can deal with the cold. But Chris Young, born in Houston, TX, and Eric Byrnes, from Redwood City in the mild San Francisco Bay Area, wore hoods that covered the ears, neck and most of the face.
D’Back hitters were also helped by Washington pitchers issuing 5 walks.
The offense was spread out. There were RBIs by Drew (1), Byrnes (2), Tracy (2), Clark (1) and Young (1). Clark went 3-4.
The full line on Eric Byrnes was 2-5 (a homer and a double), 2 RBI, 2 R, and a stolen base. His first time up, he tapped a weak grounder to short that forced Orlando Hudson at second. But it was so slowly hit, the Nats didn’t even try to throw Byrnes out at first. At that point, I knew that Byrnes would attempt to steal, in order to replace the runner he had erased with his ground out. I suppose everyone in the stadium knew that, or should have known. Byrnes took a big lead, got a great jump and ran on a curve ball. The catcher ate the ball. Byrnes later scored, making his fielder’s choice a productive out in the long run.
His second time up, Eric flied to deep center. In most stadiums, it would have been a home run in just about any other park, but when you are playing in the Grand Canyon…The ball was caught on the warning track.
The next time up, he hit the ball to deep right center, where Austin Kearns made a fine running catch. Byrnes was visibly frustrated. I was, too. I knew he as justthisclose to a big hit.
It came the next time up, a few minutes before the start of the newscast I was teching. I felt lucky he got the hit while I was watching. "Byrnes finally got one over the outfielder’s head!" I said to our baseball fan co-anchor. RBI double. Now we can start the newscast."
The cast itself was extremely stressful, with one reporter filing remotely and later than he was expected, another reporter editing late, and the anchor wanting some back up stories during the cast. Usually they are called for before we go on air so that they are ready just in case. Fortunately, there was someone there I called upon for help, as I could not leave the board because we had a lot of short sound clips to play. It was an example of why this job is giving me dangerously high blood pressure that has been unresponsive to medication. Byrnes came up a few minutes after the cast ended, and hit a homer to left to nail down a true elation day; my blood pressure, which I measure several times a day, started to go down a bit.
It’s going to take more than a homer to deal with my blood pressure. But true elation is good medicine.
Great to see this, especially since, after one day where the temp went up to 83 degrees in Oakland, it’s dropped faster than a Brandon Webb sinkerball.
Thanks to M. Spencer Green/AP who took these pix. And a tip of my outdated but still great-looking and fitting D’Backs road cap to a certain reader who sent them along just as I was finishing a tedious day of slogging through the endnotes of my latest article.
It’s definitely a better one than last year, when Eric Byrnes had just gotten non-tendered by the Baltimore Orioles and I was literally sick about it. As grim as the weather that day. This year, it’s colder than last and it is actually raining as opposed to threatening last year. But Byrnes knows he has a place to play next year, and although he’s going to arbitration with the D’Backs, he has some sort of nice raise coming to him after the fine 2006. So I am in a much better mood.
Here is some other really good news. Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester goes for his last chemotherapy today. So let’s hope that from now on, the things beginning with C that he has to focus on are Curves, Changeups and Contention for Championships.
The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is my heaviest work period at KPFA. I am one of those people who helps keep the news department running while others take holidays and vacations, i.e. as a part-timer with no paid holidays or paid vacations, I pick up as many subbing hours as I can. So I haven’t had time to write as often as I did before. However, I intend to give my opinion on some of the off-season signings. Maybe Zito will have picked a team by the time I do that. I will be a little delayed in giving myself a Solstice present., But that present, results of which I will share with you, will be the time to fully analyze the fine 2006 Eric Byrnes turned in and to write up what I think he needs to do to make 2007 even better.
I also want to write an article about the cost of baseball tickets. I’m going to put my journalistic research skills behind this one, so it probably won’t get done until sometime in March, given everything else I have to do. Whether it ends up here or someplace else won’t be determined for a while yet, but it is something that I want to do and I’d love to have your help. If you have written about ticket prices in your area, please point it out, I might want to quote you. If you haven’t written a piece, but have opinions on the subject, you can leave a comment on this blog or send me an email at kellia[at]rise4news.net. If you do that latter, let me know if you are willing to be quoted by name, (just a first name and city is fine). I generally figure people who email me when they could leave a comment on the blog want to be incognito.
The basic contention of my article is that despite the increase in attendance, the experience of live baseball is being taken away from many fans because tickets are so expensive. Maybe more people can go because they have been able to become season’s ticket holders, but others, the walk-up types, like me, who can’t afford that are being more and more left out. Have you reduced your baseball attendance because of ticket expense? If you go as part of a family, has the family reduced its attendance, or split up games so that part of the family goes some times and the other part of the family goes the other times? Are you a young person whose allowance can’t keep up with rising ticket prices? Do you depend on a program sponsored by a player or by your local team, or a community organization in order to get tickets? Are you an adult who now has to put tickets on a credit card when you used to be able to pay cash? How has the success or lack thereof of your local team impacted ticket prices? Etc, Etc. Let me know what you think.
If you don’t want to give details about your experience, you can at least vote in my poll about money in baseball. Are high player contracts to blame for high ticket prices or would it be possible to pay players market rate and still bring ticket prices down? Do you attend games of other sports that have salary caps? Haven’t those prices gone up, too?
Speaking of money in baseball, the Giants and Barry Bonds are hammering out the details of a one-year, $16 million deal. I’ll give you the results of my Barry Bonds poll as soon as I can find them. They’re around here somewhere…
Q: New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers. What do these four most recent AL representatives in the World Series have in common?
A: They are all northern teams that play in open-air stadiums.
Addendum: The New York Mets, who almost made it to the 2006 World Series, are also a northern team that plays in an open-air stadium.
News item from a recent MLB.com article by Barry M. Bloom:
Next year the World Series shifts back to a Tuesday start for the first time in 23 years, which means it won’t begin until Oct. 23 and could extend as late as Oct. 31.
Are you thinking what we’re thinking? If there is a rain out (or a snow out) in a long World Series, a meaningful baseball game, perhaps the most meaningful baseball game of the year, could be played in NOVEMBER!
Up Next: John Madden and his amazing 6-legged turkey!
First March Madness ends in April, then they move the Super Bowl to February, now we may see baseball in November…and it won’t be the Arizona Fall League.
Mets Game: Sunny with mild temps. (And Dodgers do dumb things like run themselves into a Double Play at home!)
Yankees Game: Rained out.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, who looked like they were headed for the sub-sub basement in June, are tied for first place in the NL West and in the NL wild card race after clobbering the Chicago Cubs 10 – 2 in the first game of a doubleheader necessitated by yesterday’s rainout. The Snakes bit young Cubs pitcher Carlos Marmol, a former catcher and outfielder, early and often. They scored 5 runs in the 1st inning, sending winning pitcher Juan Cruz to the plate before he took the mound. The Cubs announcers, one of whom is former D’Backs manager Bob Brenly, suggested that he may have been telegraphing his pitches; Marmol settled down a bit after a talk with Derek Lee and Henry Blanco, the announcers surmised that perhaps Lee and Blanco saw something.
Offensive highlights for the Snakes: Stephen Drew hit another homer and had 4 RBI on the day. Luis Gonzalez homered in the first (driving in Eric Byrnes) and singled in the 2nd to drive in Byrnes again. Chris Snyder was 2-4 with 2 RBI and Conor Jackson went 2-4 with 1 BB and 2 R.
It was an OK outing for Eric Byrnes, but not the great day it looked like he was in for during the first AB. He went 1-4 with a walk, 2R (thank you, Gonzo), and 2 SB. The hit, a single, extended his hit streak to 5 games. His best chances for a homer came in his first AB. He hit two balls deep to left. They were hit hard, but foul. He then walked, with the Cubs announcers suggesting that Byrnes scared Marmol into throwing a curve instead of a fastball, and the curve missed. The single was a bloop to left. His batting average is still at .291.
Byrnes K’d his last two times up. That last AB, in the 8th inning, should have been a BB. He definitely swing and just fouled off one ball, the pitch he swung at an missed for Strike 3 was probably a ball.
The weather was radically different from the Monday game; it was OK to start and turned out to be nice. The temp was 72, and while the first half of today’s game was foggy/drizzly, the skies cleared and it turned sunny.
Brandon Webb may miss his scheduled start Saturday against the Astros at Chase due to pain in his elbow. The good news is that an MRI revealed no structural damage.