I feel a little like Frank Costanza from Seinfeld today. Seinfeld was one of the few non-baseball shows that I actually watched. Each Thursday I would be entertained by a show about nothing. Mind you this was several years BT* (* – Before Tivo) so you actually had to be around to watch television when it was scheduled. Oh sure there were some people that owned a VCR but the majority of them suffered from Flash-a-noona that debilitating technical phenomena where your VCR continuously flashed the time of 12:00 with no idea what time or date it really was. Wow, I really feel dated. The next thing you know I will be telling everyone how I had to walk to school 5 miles in the snow battling grizzly bears with my spiral notebook and that when I was a kid gas was a quarter and for that price a guy would come out and pump your gas, wash your windows, fill your tires with air, and give you a free drinking glass if you bought 7 gallons or more.
One of my favorite Seinfeld episodes was where they introduced the holiday of Festivus. This holiday came about as a result from Frank Costanza getting in a fight while trying to purchase a doll for George for Christmas. One aspect of the holiday was that you were to provide feedback to anyone who had somehow wronged you during the year.
The tradition of Festivus begins with the airing of grievances. I have a lot of problems with you people! And your gonna hear about it!– Frank Costanza
Yesterday I alluded to the fact that I don’t necessarily deal well with a Diamondbacks loss. It’s really pretty stupid if I think about it. It’s not like I have any bearing whatsoever on the game so I am not sure why I let it bother me when the team loses. Trina constantly reminds me that “It’s just a game” which is kind of like saying that a Corvette is just a car or the United States is just a country, or air is just a periodic element but I won’t go down that path here. I understand what she is trying to tell me, I just somehow can’t. Maybe that’s why I am a diehard fan; I somehow have connected to this team and it just feels like it is a part of me.
Tuesday night was bad enough losing 6-3 but you could justify that saying that the effects of travel and the recent trouble on the road had a lingering effect. Wednesday’s game was just a complete disaster where all four wheels on the bus fell off at the same time. Trouble was that the bus was headed down the freeway at 60 miles an hour when the wheels came apart. It was just brutal but sometimes things like that happen. I was ready to try and shrug those off as anomalies and I was really looking forward to the game last night. It was like the planets were all aligning. Randy Johnson was taking the mound after what was arguably his best start of the 2008 season. He would be facing Barry Zito who until last week was winless this season. This had not only win written on it, it had big win written in bold letters across the front.
As the game began you could almost feel it in the air. It was reminiscent of May 18, 2004. Randy was mowing through Giants hitters like a barber at a high school hazing. Through the first three innings he was perfect. It was classic Randy with a mixture of fastballs, change-ups, and more than a few sightings of Mr. Snappy* (* – Mr. Snappy is the name Randy has given to his slider). I started to get ahead of myself and thought that maybe this was the night I would get to see a Diamondbacks pitcher throw a no-hitter in person. That dream faded when Randy Winn planted a hanging breaking ball into the left field stands not only killing the no-hitter but also the shutout and the lead. It was beginning to look like the Diamondbacks bats had stayed at home again but in the bottom of the 4th the Diamondbacks tied the game and then went ahead in the 6th inning on Justin Upton’s triple. Things were looking up as Randy Johnson left to the roar of the crowd in the seventh.
I had already begun outlining my blog entry as I expounded upon the magnificent pitching performance by Randy Johnson. He was carrying this team on his shoulders and looked like the Randy of old. Not only was he going to win this game but in the process he had recorded 9 strikeouts which tied him for second place on the all-time strikeout list with Roger Clemens. The normally quiet Arizona crowd was definitely into the game as well standing and loudly cheering Randy on as he approached the milestone moment. On two occasions it looked as though he would break the tie with Clemens and take over second place only to see the Giants make contact for an out erasing the potential strikeout. Things looked perfect, that is until the eighth inning.
The Diamondbacks sent in Tony Pena to pitch the eighth inning with Brandon Lyon warming up to come in for the ninth for the save and a victory for the Big Unit. Pena quickly went to work getting Aaron Rowand to fly out to center. He then walked Bengie Molina on 5 pitches putting the tying runner on base. Ray Durham then hit a routine grounder to Conor Jackson that could have been an inning ending double play except that Conor did his best Bill Buckner impression letting the ball get through him to put runners on first and second. Omar Vizquel then hit a grounder to Jackson who bobbled it again but at least got the out moving the runners to second and third. Best case scenario Vizquel would not have gotten up. Worst case scenario Vizquel should have been the third out of the inning. Reality was that there were 2 outs with runners in scoring position. Tony Pena then hit John Bowker on an 0-1 pitch to load the bases and followed that with a walk to pinch hitter Fred Lewis to tie the game and erase any hopes the Diamondbacks had of rewarding Randy Johnson with the win. Manager Bob Melvin then brought in Chad Qualls who struck out Steve Holm to end the inning.
In the bottom of the eighth Orlando Hudson led off the inning with a single to put the go-ahead run aboard. Conor Jackson came up to try and redeem himself for his poor fielding (earlier he failed to catch a ball from Stephen Drew for the first error of the game). Conor flied out to right field failing to move the runner up. Mark Reynolds then came to the plate. Hudson took second base on a wild pitch during Reynolds at bat putting the lead runner in scoring position. Rather than moving the runner up, Reynolds struck out for the 63rd time this season. With 2 outs Justin Upton came to the plate and took over the team lead watching a called third strike giving him 64 strikeouts for the year.
Chad Qualls came out for the ninth inning and threw a sinker that didn’t sink to Randy Winn who hit his second home run of the night putting the Giants ahead 4-3. In the bottom of the ninth against the bottom of the Diamondbacks order Giants closer Brian Wilson put the snakes down in order handing Arizona its fourth consecutive loss and the first season sweep by a National League West opponent.
Today the airwaves and media are heaping blame on the Arizona Diamondbacks bullpen for losing the game. Pena is being blasted for the hit batsman and walking in the tying run and Chad Qualls is being slammed for the home run pitch to Winn. No one seems to be mentioning Conor Jackson who allowed all of this to play out. If he had turned a double play instead of getting the error in the 8th then Pena would not have had an opportunity to hit Bowker or walk Fred Lewis. Consequently Qualls would not have entered the game as the Diamondbacks would have been leading 3-2 and Lyon would have faced Vizquel, Ortmeier (Lewis was a pinch hitter and probably would not have hit with no one on in the ninth with the Giants losing)and Holm. There’s a good chance Win never would have made it to the plate. While the bullpen didn’t maintain the lead it was a result of poor defense that the bullpen was put in that situation. This is one of those games that you can look at and say the 2007 Diamondbacks probably would have won this game since Tony Clark would probably have been a late defensive substitution eliminating any chance of Conor bobbling the ball for an error. It is players such as Tony Clark that allowed the Diamondbacks to have the best record of any team in one-run games. This season they don’t have that luxury and hence we should be prepared for more nights like last night where the Diamondbacks lose a heart breaker due to a defensive lapse that opened the door to possible disaster. At the end we’re left to remember the immortal words of Frank Costanza “SERENITY NOW! SERENITY NOW!”