A Dark Day in Chalupa-ville

For the majority of the 2007 season scoring runs has been a real challenge for the Arizona Diamondbacks especially at Chase Field. Through 103 games which would include last night’s game the Diamondbacks had averaged just over 4 runs per game. On the surface this average doesn’t seem too bad but the numbers are somewhat skewed due to the fact that Arizona has scored 9 runs on Tuesday and 7 runs last night. This should come as much of a surprise considering that only one position player in last night’s line-up had a batting average over .300 (Eric Byrnes leads the team with a .308 average). This woeful set of statistics is one of the reasons that contributed to the dismissal of Kevin Sietzer as hitting coach. Personally I don’t feel like Sietzer was given a fair enough chance but with expectations set so highly for this team I understand the team felt some change was required. While the Diamondbacks struggles at the plate have accounted for their recent slide in the standings, it has had an even larger impact on the fan base and is quickly reaching critical mass.

One of the many sponsors of the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field is Taco Bell. Part of this sponsorship is an in-game promotion where fans in attendance at the game are rewarded when the Diamondbacks meet certain offensive milestones. The promotion is described as “The Best Chalupa You Ever 8” and the parameters are that every game where the Diamondbacks score 8 runs or more all guests in attendance will receive a coupon good for a free Chalupa at a participating Taco Bell restaurant. With a young team like the Diamondbacks have this milestone has proven to be more elusive than initially expected. During the first month of the season the Diamondbacks did not reach that plateau during any game. In May the fans fared somewhat better as the Diamondbacks broke the eight barrier three times (all happening during the same home stand against the Houston Astros who became the new favorite team of hungry fans in the Phoenix area). The Diamondbacks bats cooled off slightly in June and Chalupa coupons were handed out only twice. As the calendar turned to July the Diamondbacks bats seemed to melt in the summer heat. In the games leading up to this series with the Marlins the Diamondbacks averaged scoring only 2.87 runs per game which is 1.23 runs less per game than their yearly total when on the road. At home though their game average jumped to 5.50 which is 1.40 runs per game more than their season average. You would think this kind of offensive surge would have everyone excited at Chase Field but that was not the case last night.

After scoring 9 runs on Tuesday against the Marlins the Diamondbacks came right back in last night’s game to stake Brandon Webb to an early 7-0 lead after 4 innings worth of work. The fans at last night’s game wanted more; one run more to be exact. The way the Diamondbacks were swinging the bats it seemed a given that they could score one more run rewarding those in attendance with a free chalupa. The Mexican Food Gods conspired against us though. I knew something was amiss in the fourth inning when lead-off man Chris Young reached first base on a walk. Orlando Hudson struck out swinging bringing up Eric Byrnes with one out. Young got too far off the bag and Marlins catcher Miguel Olivo threw down to first picking off Young. Byrnes next hit a double to left field that would definitely have scored Young. Even if Young had held at third he would have scored when Conor Jackson hit a single to center that scored Byrnes. That pick-off play basically took food out of the mouths of 20,154 people in attendance. No matter though, it was only the fourth inning, we still had 3 more innings in which to score and the way the Diamondbacks players were hitting we would definitely be able to score one more run. In the bottom of the fifth inning the Diamondbacks again threatened to score and again were turned back by the Mexican Food Gods. After Chris Snyder walked and Stephen Drew flew out to the edge of the right field warning track; Scott Hairston doubled to left field giving the Diamondbacks runners at second and third with one out. Pitcher Brandon Webb struck out bringing up Chris Young with an opportunity to redeem himself and reward everyone with a full stomach. Instead Young struck out ending the inning. The stadium was so quiet you could hear the fans’ stomachs growling. The seventh inning saw another chance when third baseman Mark Reynolds hit a double to start the inning. He was followed by Chris Snyder who struck out, Stephen Drew who popped out to the catcher in foul territory and Scott Hairston who was called out on strikes which stranded our chalupa at second base. In the ninth inning when Doug Slaten came in and caused Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla to fly out to centerfield ending the game; fans reacted in a mixed fashion. It was great that the Diamondbacks had won and Webb was credited for throwing a shut-out but that didn’t make our stomachs feel any better. We packed up the bags and made our way out the gates looking longingly at the ushers who stood there empty handed rather than bringing joy to everyone by handing out chalupa coupons. As I walked back to the car replaying the game in my head I heard a husband and wife talking.

“We had a guy on second and no outs and they could not get him in” the husband said.

“I know,” said the wife “I really could have used a chalupa. I am so hungry!”

Oh the dilemmas of a Diamondbacks fan. The team is in the midst of a 5-game winning streak and all we can think about is the fact that we missed out on the deep-fried goodness of a Taco Bell chalupa. Life is just not fair.

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