Capitol Punishment

Looking over the schedule at the beginning of the season, I had penciled in my predictions of wins and losses. As the year has progressed I am surprised to see that I was relatively accurate. The lack of starting pitching coming out of spring training didn’t give me a lot of hope for this season. The early success the Diamondbacks had in May was somewhat of a shock but the June Swoon brought balance back to my estimates. Going into the last month of the season I had expected the Diamondbacks to be 67-66 so they were really only 3 games worse than I had planned. The Washington series according to my calculations was a lock even without the pick up of Livan Hernandez last month. I didn’t expect the Nationals to be much of a force to be reckoned with even when they did have Livan. For seven and a half innings of each game I was looking like a genius. Too bad this isn’t Babe Ruth league baseball where we only played seven innings for a complete game.

A three day weekend playing on the east coast against the team with the worst record in the National League East, it doesn’t get much better than that to get a team back on track and moving towards a play-off berth. Friday night’s game being rained out meant that there would be a double-header on Saturday followed by a day game on Sunday. A double header on a holiday weekend should mean a big crowd with lots of excitement which should feed the players even further. I could think of nothing that would be better for the Diamondbacks.

During the first game Miguel Batista took the hill and looked good pitching seven strong innings allowing only one run and 5 hits. As the Diamondbacks closed out the Nationals in the seventh inning they had a 6-1 lead and this one was in the bag, or so we thought. Tony Pena came in to pitch the eighth inning and this is where the wheels started to wobble on the Diamondbacks bandwagon. He gave up 2 hits and walked one but in the process he allowed 3 runs making it a 6-4 ball game. Still, that shouldn’t be a problem as the Diamondbacks would need just 3 outs to take game one. Bob Melvin turned it over to his closer Jorge Julio in the ninth and he lasted just 1 out giving up a two run home run to blow his fourth save of the season. The Nationals tied the game sending it to extra innings. Luis Vizcaino pitched well for the remainder of the ninth and tenth innings holding the Nationals and not allowing a hit. Brandon Lyon came in the eleventh and was able to retire one batter but then his control vanished like a hot dog at a Weight Watcher’s welcome meeting. Lyon walked four batters including walking in the winning run. In 3 innings the Diamondbacks watched as victory turned to a loss.

Watching the end of that game was gut wrenching so it was good that another game followed closely so that we didn’t have time to think about what just happened. The nightcap saw Livan Hernandez facing his former team for the first time since he was traded to Arizona in August. Livan was his usual workhorse mowing down hitters while his pitch count climbed faster than the price of gas on a holiday. Through seven innings Livan had done his part making a quality start with the Diamondbacks leading 3-1. It looked like the Diamondbacks had recovered from the earlier meltdown. Bob Melvin decided not to take any chances and left his starter in even though Hernandez pitch count was just over a hundred pitches. The eighth inning again was a turning point as Livan suddenly was very hittable giving up a home run to Zimmerman, a single to Nick Johnson, then another home run to Austin Kearns. Within an inning the Diamondbacks went from a 3-1 winner to a 4-3 loser and found themselves 0-2 on this road trip.

Sunday’s game featured the return of Brandon Webb from bereavement leave. He came into the game and started somewhat shaky allowing a run in the first inning but then settled down to retire 13 straight batters. The Diamondbacks scored in the fifth, sixth, and seventh to give Webb a 3-1 lead. Webb’s pitch count after seven innings was barely over 80 pitches so it seemed this one was in the bag. Then the eighth inning occurred and the Nationals suddenly came to life for the third straight game. They scored 4 runs on Webb to take a 5-3 lead in the game which is how it ended.

In three games the Diamondbacks had outscored the Nationals 10-3 in innings 1 through 7. In the eighth inning the Nationals scored 10 runs in 3 games while the Diamondbacks scored only 2. The Diamondbacks did not score after the eighth inning in any of the games. So instead of a three game sweep and potentially moving 2 games closer to first place in the National League West, the Diamondbacks leave Washington another game back to the Dodgers after the three game sweep. This series was indeed Capitol punishment.

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