Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Running diary: Diamondbacks here to stay
By David Schoenfield
The last time the Arizona Diamondbacks played a game this big was the 2007 National League Championship Series. That was a young Arizona team (Eric Byrnes was the only starting position player older than 30), and it appeared to have a bright future. It didn’t happen, mostly because Brandon Webb got hurt and the rest of that staff was put together with Scotch tape and thumbtacks.
If the 2011 season was a formulaic romantic comedy, Tuesday's game would be the nadir of the story arc, the fleeting glimpse of rock bottom that must be reached before all the couples get together in the end. The six home runs the Cubs hit would be set to an amusing musical montage, and Clint Hurdle would take a long, pensive walk along the Allegheny River -- probably during a surprise rainstorm.
It's About The Money
The wheeling and dealing is done. We can begin debating who won and who lost. In a few months we'll be able to judge the teams who took a the short view: San Francisco, St. Louis, Texas, Philadelphia, Arizona, and Milwaukee. It could be years before we feel the full effects of this deadline for Houston, San Diego, and both teams in New York and Chicago. And, finally, there were a few teams -- most obviously, Cleveland and Pittsburgh -- who hedged.
I was a little shocked when the Royals made so few moves prior to the trade deadline. With so many possible trading chips and a history of past deadline activity, it seemed likely that they would make a plethora of moves. Only two relatively minor moves actually happened, but although the traditional trade deadline has passed, trades can still be made through the waiver system.
With the D-backs facing Tim Lincecum and the Giants on Tuesday with a chance to move into a first-place tie, it seemed like the perfect game for a running diary, full of witty observations, fantastical statistical nuggets and an appreciation that the one constant through all the years, readers, has been baseball.
Prelude Tim Lincecum is 7-2 with a 2.42 ERA in his career against the Diamondbacks. He’s 9-8 with a 2.78 ERA this season. He’s 4-2 with a 1.43 ERA over his past seven starts. The broadcasters mention that plate umpire Larry Vanover is known for his wide strike zone. As for Daniel Hudson, I don’t see Barry Bonds, Will Clark and Willie Mays in the Giants' lineup, so I’m going out on a limb and predicting a low-scoring game.
Lincecum’s first pitch: 95 mph. Against the red-hot Upton, he mixes in a 95 mph fastball, an 88 mph fastball/sinker/slider, a slider on the outside corner and then a 3-2 sinking fastball/slider/changeup that Upton swings through. Really, it’s impossible to pinpoint Lincecum’s pitches. They dash and dart, he changes speeds, sometimes his sliders move like sinking fastballs and his fastballs like changeups. I think he has about 82 different pitches.
Second inning Lincecum has a habit of kind of staring off into space between pitches. He doesn’t really take a deep breath or rub up the ball, just kind of stares blankly, not exactly the look of concentration you see with Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee, but more like the 6-year-old who has been watching TV for three straight hours without blinking. So what is Lincecum thinking when he does this?
A. Should I get a haircut tomorrow?
B. There are many reasons to love San Francisco, but I really love the pastries.
C. I still don’t understand that article I read on Huffington Post today titled, “Do Frozen Meals Free Us or Turn Us Into Barbarians?” What was that about? I’ll ask.
D. Do you think Bochy would notice if I skipped Friday’s game and instead went to “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”?
Fourth inning Lincecum has walked two guys but hasn’t allowed a hit as Upton leads off the fourth. About time to start giving a little MVP love and consideration to Upton, don’t you think? He entered the game hitting .302/.379/.546 (BA/OBP/SLG) with 21 home runs, a league-leading 30 doubles and 65 RBIs. Good defense in right. He’s at least in the discussion. And since he doesn’t turn 24 until Aug. 25, it won’t be the last time.
Oh, Lincecum goes 1-2-3 in the fourth.
Hudson is also sailing along. He gets Cody Ross to ground out leading off the inning. Ross described Hudson as a “long-armer,” which means Hudson brings the ball way behind, almost slinging it like a javelin. But Ross says he hides the ball well, which is a big reason Hudson pitches “above” his stuff and a guy scouts projected as a No. 4 starter has turned into a solid No. 2.
However, Jeff Keppinger and Carlos Beltran single and Pablo Sandoval doubles in one run to give the Giants a 1-0 lead and put runners at second and third with one out and Aubrey Huff up. Kirk Gibson elects to play the infield back. Considering the way Lincecum has been pitching, I’d be tempted to bring the infield in. Hudson gets Huff to bounce back to the mound and strikes out Nate Schierholtz. Giants fans immediately scream, “PLAY BRANDON BELT!”
Fifth inning Ryan Roberts singles to break up the no-hitter, bringing up Arizona rookie first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. It’s his second game after getting recalled from the minors, where he hit .306/.435/.626 at Double-A, with 30 home runs and an 82/92 walk/strikeout ratio. Keith Law reported on Tuesday’s Baseball Today podcast that scouts aren’t in love with Goldschmidt, despite the big-time power, citing his lack of bat speed.
I’d read that Goldschmidt was a big dude, and I was expecting a left tackle. He’s big, but trim, looking much more athletic than the picture painted. He has a very wide stance and starts with the bat almost lying on his back shoulder, then lifts it up as the pitcher starts his delivery. As Mark Grace says on the Arizona TV broadcast, the wide stance resembles Jeff Bagwell’s, although not quite as exaggerated.
Lincecum delivers a 2-1 fastball, low and in. Goldschmidt destroys it. The bat speed was OK on that pitch. The ball lands 20 rows deep in the left-field seats, a huge blast Grace can only laugh at in joy. Goldschmidt’s first major league homer. It was a gutsy move by Arizona to give him the first-base job while skipping Triple-A. He could be one of the biggest keys in this race. For Lincecum, it was only the second home run he’s allowed in his past 10 starts.
Eighth inning Lincecum is done after seven. One mistake, and he left trailing 2-1, allowing just three hits, three walks and striking out eight. But he threw 112 pitches, as his command was off just a little. Ramon Ramirez comes on, and Justin Upton later treats an 88 mph hanging slider with little kindness, depositing it into the left-field seats for a two-run homer and 4-1 lead for Arizona. Upton is only a few days older than Domonic Brown and Goldschmidt. He’s younger than Pedro Alvarez, Desmond Jennings and Josh Reddick.
Hudson, meanwhile, cruises through the eighth, giving up a leadoff single to Aaron Rowand, but then retiring Belt, Ross and Keppinger. He lowers his ERA to 3.67 and goes 1-for-2 at the plate to raise his batting average to .326.
Ninth inning The D-backs tack on two more runs in the top of the ninth. Bryan Shaw comes in to pitch for Arizona. Goldschmidt makes a diving stop on a grounder for the first out, a very nice play I’m pretty sure no left tackle would have made. Mark Grace suddenly has a crush on Goldschmidt. Diamondbacks fans will have a crush on Goldschmidt. I might have a crush on Goldschmidt.
The Diamondbacks are tied for first place. And I don’t think they’re going away.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Look out. Big Papi wants a hug. Brace yourself. Hope Jarrod Saltalamacchia has strong arms.