Walk-ome Back

After what seems like an eternity, the Diamondbacks are finally back home. The road trip saw them go five and five. Not a bad trip but not as good as it could have been. The two games they lost in Chicago were both blow-outs and the rain-out on Wednesday didn’t help matters at all. Still, they are only a game behind the San Diego Padres in the National League Western Division and they are tied for first with the Cincinnati Reds for the National League Wild Card spot. These facts had everyone excited about this home stand. It is nine games over ten days and all the teams coming in have losing records. First up is the Houston Astros followed by NL West divisional rivals the San Francisco Giants and finally a series with the Florida Marlins. If this team is going to make a run at the play-offs, it is these next three series that they need to do it. Tonight Miguel Batista was on the mound and I had high hopes that this game would set the tone for the series and the home stand.

Miguel has been somewhat inconsistent this season. When he is on he is really on and looks like a dominating force. An example of this was the start he had in Oakland where he took a perfect game into the seventh inning. But when Miguel is off, he is totally off and the team ends up getting blown out. I was really hoping that tonight was an “on” night. It started out well enough with the Astros scoring a run in the top of the first but Miguel buckled down and got out of the inning with no other damage than that single run. The Diamondbacks who are usually horrible against Roy Oswalt seemed to find his number and scored three runs in the bottom of the inning to take the lead. Oswalt threw 32 pitches that first inning and it really looked like he was in for a long night. But Miguel showed the dark side of his stuff tonight and never could quite find a rhythm. Several times during the game he and Johnny Estrada could not get on the same page and they would have to call time-out and discuss pitch selection. From the way Miguel was throwing tonight, he should have just listened to Estrada because he became very erratic. Over four innings he walked 7 batters and left the game throwing nearly 100 pitches by the top of the fifth. This was bad since the bullpen has already been taxed due to the last 4 starts including the double header yesterday. Each pitcher after Brandon Webb did not get out of the sixth inning meaning the middle relievers have had a long four games trying to maintain some semblance of consistency. Fortunately for the Diamondbacks, Oswalt was just as inconsistent and gave up his share of walks as well. The game see-sawed back and forth with each team taking the lead only to give it up within a couple of innings.

In the eighth, the Diamondbacks clung to a one run lead and brought in Brandon Lyon to set the table for Jorge Julio. Lyon did the unspeakable though and gave up a home run to Lance Berkman to tie the game. In the ninth Tony Pena came into a tie ball game and gave up two monster home runs to give the Astros a two run lead with an inning left to play. They brought in their closer Brad Lidge to finish out the game. He too had control issues. He gave up a single to Conor Jackson to begin the inning but then retired the next two batters. At this point he complexly lost it and walked the bases loaded. Phil Gardner had seen enough and pulled Lidge out of the game. Dan Wheeler came in and gave up a walk to bring the Diamondbacks to within one run with the bases loaded and two outs. With the fans on their feet willing the Diamondbacks to win, Wheeler shut the door by striking out Carlos Quentin on a wicked change-up getting the save and sending Arizona home with a heart breaking loss. The most telling thing about this game was that the Diamondbacks pitching staff gave up 11 walks while allowing 14 hits. The Astros likewise were wild allowing 5 walks and 16 hits. Those kinds of statistics can mean just one thing, it was a long night. It was the longest nine inning game the Diamondbacks have played at home this year lasting 3:45. I was beginning to think this night would never end. What made it even worse was that the Diamondbacks only scored 7 runs and the pitching staff recorded just 7 strikeouts so we didn’t get a win, didn’t get a Chalupa, and didn’t get a Thirst Buster. Nothing seemed to work right.

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