Stacking the Deck

Going into this season everyone agreed that the Arizona Diamondbacks strength would be their starting pitching. With the addition of Dan Haren to the rotation the D-backs would have what many were describing as the best 1-2 punch in all of baseball. Add to that the improving Micah Owings and the workhorse Doug Davis and the snakes were pretty solid. At the beginning of the season everyone questioned whether Randy Johnson would even be able to pitch let alone be successful. As the season has worn on the Big Unit has shown that he is deserving of the moniker of number 3 starter. While Micah Owings has struggled as of late and was sent to Tucson to try and work through the mental block he seems to have in trusting his mechanics; the team as a whole has proven everyone right who proclaimed they had one of the best pitching staffs in the National League.

You hear a lot about setting the pitching rotation and setting the proper order but quite frankly after the first week of the season it rarely if ever works out the way you had envisioned it in April. Some pitchers such as Brandon Webb like to work every 5 days regardless of how the order falls or whose turn it is. Likewise the number 5 starter is at times skipped due to schedule nuances.

By the time the all-star break arrives the rotation of who is pitching when is rather jumbled. The three days off for the break does allow teams to try and restore some order to their pitching staff but depending on who pitched in the mid-summer classic a manager’s choices are sometimes overridden. This was definitely the case with Arizona as their two top starters were named to the All-Star team and both saw action in the game meaning Bob Melvin had to rearrange things slightly when the second half the season started.

So while the Diamondbacks would have loved to have their top 3 starters face the Los Angeles Dodgers last week it wasn’t necessarily a given. Instead, the dice were rolled and the Dodgers missed Dan Haren. Instead, the order rolled out so that the Diamondbacks aces would instead face the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first three games of this home stand.

If you were a Pittsburgh Pirates player or fan, you had to be looking at the probable pitching match-ups and wonder what you did to deserve facing Dan Haren, Brandon Webb, and Randy Johnson in consecutive days. This must have been especially frustrating considering that the Pirates had just traded away their top two hitters last week meaning they would have a line-up filled with inexperienced players who were trying to make an impression on the manager hoping for extended playing time.

The first two games of the series went just as planned if you were a Diamondbacks fan. Dan Haren struggled a bit in the early innings but the Diamondbacks hitters bailed him out scoring a season high number of runs and hits. Game 2 featured Brandon Webb who completely dominated the Pittsburgh hitters throwing a complete game and nearly getting the shutout. Finally the Pirates will have to deal with the third ace in the deck when Randy Johnson goes out to try to inch closer to his 300th career win. If this were the world series of poker, I think it would be time for the Pirates to fold and hope for a more favorable deck.

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