A Freaking Nightmare

The last two games with the Atlanta Braves have been a complete disaster. Before the season began everyone pointed to the Arizona Diamondbacks pitching staff as the strength of the team. In particular the starting rotation was expected to be one of the best in all of baseball. The bullpen returned roughly intact from last year where they were very good at maintaining a lead late in the game. In the past week that strength has shown a very real weakness. But if the 2008 season has taught us anything it is that the Diamondbacks are resilient enough to not panic. After all, with staff co-aces Brandon Webb and Dan Haren at the front end of the rotation it is doubtful that there will be an extended losing streak. So when Dan Haren was listed as the starting pitcher for tonight and Webb going tomorrow it looked like the Diamondbacks would at least earn a split with the Braves. Well at least that is how it looked on paper; unfortunately I don’t take that paper.

For the second straight game Dan Haren put his team in a hole giving up 2 runs in the first inning. After that first frame he settled down and kept the Braves scoreless through the next four innings. The Diamondbacks bats again bailed out their ace scoring 1 run in the fourth and adding two more in the fifth to give the Diamondbacks a 3-2 lead. At the end of 5 innings Haren had thrown 94 pitches so I immediately expected that we would see the bullpen take over. Since the trade for Jon Rauch we’ve been told that the order we could expect would be Tony Pena in the sixth, Chad Qualls in the seventh, Jon Rauch in the eighth, and Brandon Lyon in the ninth. It was therefore a surprise to see Bob Melvin send Haren back out to face the Braves in the sixth. That decision would prove costly on many levels.

Haren was able to get Casey Kotchman to hit a line drive to Right Field for the first out and everyone hoped for a short inning with the bottom of the Atlanta order coming up. Omar Infante then singled to third base when Mark Reynolds was playing to deep to field the ball. Center fielder Mark Kotsay then hit a double to left field giving the Braves runners at second and third. Kelly Johnson hit what looked like a routine ball to Orlando Hudson but first baseman Chad Tracy deflected the ball giving Johnson a double and scoring Infante and Kotsay. Pitcher Jair Jurrjens then singled to right field moving Johnson to third. And just like that the 3-2 Diamondbacks lead turned into a 4-3 deficit with runners on the corner.

Manager Bob Melvin relieved Dan Haren and brought in Juan Cruz. Cruz is generally a good reliever but for whatever reason he left his brain back in the clubhouse. He walked Gregor Blanco on 4 straight pitches to load the bases with 1 out. He then hit Yunel Escobar with a pitch bringing in Kelly Johnson for a run and leaving the bases loaded. After a visit by pitching coach Mark Price Cruz struck out Chipper Jones for the second out. It looked as though the Diamondbacks might get out of this inning down by only 2 runs.

What happened next is almost beyond words. Braves catcher Brian McCann hit what looked like a routine ball to Mark Reynolds at third. Reynolds let the ball get through him into the outfield. Jurrjens scored, Blanco scored, and Escobar scored. The throw from left field was cut off by Juan Cruz who threw wildly to second base and the ball sailed into center field. Orlando Hudson attempted to dive for the errant throw and fell on his wrist breaking it. He was removed from the game and it was clear that the injury was significant. With Brian McCann on second Cruz went to sleep and did not pay attention to the runner. McCann broke for third and Cruz panicked throwing the ball wildly to Reynolds. As a result there is a collision between Reynolds and McCann. McCann scored on the errant throw and a second Diamondback player lay on the ground hurt. After a brief delay Reynolds stayed in the game. Cruz finally got the third out when Casey Kotchman popped out to Reynolds to end the inning.

The Braves would tack on an additional 2 runs in the eighth inning off reliever Tony Pena and the game would end with the Braves beating the Diamondbacks 11-4. Besides losing the game the Diamondbacks also have an injured third baseman who is day-to-day with a leg injury. That news would be topped by the announcement that for the second straight year Orlando Hudson would watch the remainder of the year from the bench with a hand injury. Hudson would undergo surgery after the game to fix the broken bone and will be scheduled for a subsequent surgery to repair ligament damage caused by the injury. His season is over and there is no chance of him coming back even if the Diamondbacks reach the post season.

Fans everywhere in Chase Field just stood there after the game still attempting to understand what had transpired in that sixth inning. It was like a bad dream. Balls were flying everywhere and no one seemed to be able to catch or throw. The thoughts of a consecutive NL West crown are fading like the sun on the Arizona horizon. This was definitely a nightmare and it wasn’t even time for bed yet.


  1. Baseball fan

    maybe some good news is that the http://www.battingstanceguy.com just did a video on the D-backs. funny stuff…

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