What a Webb We Weave

Today marks the end of another Rock-tober. With a win last night the Diamondbacks ensured that another series win against a National League Western Division opponent. Micah Owings looked good on the mound although he didn’t necessarily start out that way. I have to admit I was pretty nervous when he threw 23 pitches in the first inning followed by 20 pitches in the second and 20 more in the third. Sitting at 63 pitches after 3 innings there was little reason to believe Micah would be in the game long enough to figure into the decision. I am not sure how much of that was attributed to Micah being wild and how much could be results of an inconsistent strike zone by home plate umpire Adrian Johnson. I’m sure the pitchers and catchers were frustrated and I know the fans were. The strike zone worked to the Diamondbacks favor when a third called strike was instead called a ball on Orlando Hudson who laced the next pitch into the gap for a double scoring two runs. Micah adjusted and the pitch count fell dramatically from the fourth through the sixth inning. Even so, at the end of the sixth he had tossed 100 pitches and definitely looked spent. I figured he would not have faced another batter if he had not gotten Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta to fly out to Eric Byrnes to end the inning. As it was, things worked out and Micah left the game holding a 4-0 lead. The Diamondbacks bullpen bent but didn’t break allowing 3 runs in 3 innings work. Brandon Lyon came in for the ninth and retired the first two hitters then promptly allowed the tying run to reach third base before getting Brad Hawpe to fly out to Mark Reynolds to end the game and preserve the win. Through the first two games of this series the Diamondbacks have once again taken it to the Rockies and now lead the series this year 7-1. It now all hinges on today’s game.

Normally when Brandon Webb is scheduled to take the mound especially against the Colorado Rockies in 2008 you just pencil in a “W” in the win column. Today I have a really uneasy feeling about the game. I am not sure whether it is because the Diamondbacks will be facing Aaron Cook or if I just think this is the end of the unbeaten streak for Webb. Webb cannot go all season undefeated and there has to be an end of his domination. This just feels like the time. Cook is no slouch. He owns a 6-1 record himself and has won all six of his last six starts. His ERA is a minuscule 2.26 and over the last six starts that has dropped to 1.47 so this looks to be a pitcher’s duel of epic proportions. Both of these pitchers tend to work rather fast so tonight’s game should be quick. Of course now that I have said all of that this game will end up being a 15-14 slug fest where neither starting pitcher goes more than 3 innings and the game will set a mark for longest 9-inning game in Diamondbacks history.

Besides seeing a great pitched game the other thing I expect to see is Jeff Salazar playing left field. Eric Byrnes continues his struggle going 0-4 last night and 0-8 this home stand. Byrnes finds himself in a serious funk having gone 2-for-infinity. Tuesday night after flying out to the second baseman stranding Justin Upton at third the Chase Field crowd began to boo the “face of the franchise”. Orlando Hudson took offense to the treatment Byrnes was receiving and called out the fans after the game.

It’s just disappointing to me seeing Eric Byrnes, the face of this squad, the way the fans performed tonight against him by booing him and everything. I wouldn’t mind if they booed me, that’s OK. But to boo Eric Byrnes — TV show, all the things he brings to this squad and the things he does on the field. Through the course of the year, you’re going to fall into slumps — I don’t care how good you are, you’re going to fall into slumps — and the way they did him was very disappointing.

Orlando Hudson
Diamondbacks second baseman

The fans seem to take Hudson’s words to heart. When Eric Byrnes came up to bat the first time Wednesday the fans cheered him as though he had just won the World Series. There were several standing to give him an ovation. After a quick 3-0 count it looked as if Byrnes would at least get on base. But the next pitch he swung out of his shoes fouling to the screen. I sat then dumbfounded. How could a guy in a slump this bad have the audacity to swing at a 3-0 pitch? The next two pitches were also swung at, one of them being up around Byrnes eye level and he walked away from the plate with a strikeout. I know Orlando Hudson was just trying to protect his friend and asking for the fans to be a little compassionate but it is really hard to cheer when a guy does something as dumb as what we just witnessed. I know how hard it is to hit a baseball and how easy it is to get caught up in the moment but Byrnes really needs to step back and think about how he is approaching each at-bat and what he can do to raise not only his paltry .214 batting average. It may be best for the team for Bob Melvin to sit him for a few days. It will give him time to heal his obviously hurting legs and let him think about how he can get himself out of this. It will also give Jeff Salazar some much needed playing time to keep him fresh for when he is needed later in the season. What is even more frustrating about the Byrnes saga was that the Diamondbacks made a choice to sign Eric to a three year extension thereby closing the door on Carlos Quentin who was subsequently dealt to the Chicago White Sox. And while Byrnes is now wallowing trying to keep his batting average above .200; Quentin is turning out to be a gold mine for Chicago. He is hitting .293 with 10 home runs and 34 RBI. In the last month he is doing even better hitting .320 including a grand slam last night to beat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. And let’s not forget that Quentin has now been hit by pitch 7 times this season furthering his quest for the all-time record. It’s one of those trades that makes you cringe every time you think about it. Hopefully Byrnes will be able to work his way out of this otherwise it is going to take more than Orlando Hudson’s stern words to keep the fans in check.

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