With 17 games remaining in the season you hate to start labeling individual contests as “must win” but after a disastrous 0-6 road trip that took the Diamondbacks out of first place and put them 3.5 games behind the suddenly red-hot Dodgers this game tonight would definitely rank right up there in importance to the Diamondbacks season. It was not just important to the team, it was equally important to Brandon Webb.
Webb has been dominating all season and has been listed in the top file of most major pitching statistics categories. He has recently had a couple of very bad outings that have made people begin to question whether he is the best pitcher in the National League. What was once seen as a foregone conclusion that Brandon Webb would earn his second National League Cy Young was not being talked about as a long shot. It was therefore paramount that Webb show the nation and the voters that he truly is the best pitcher this season in the National League.
The Diamondbacks would be facing Aaron Harang who has struggled this season. Harang came into the game with the second highest home runs allowed total in the league. For all intents and purposes this looked like a game that the Diamondbacks should win and win big. Instead Arizona gave every indication that they had left their bats at the airport. Harang allowed only 4 hits during his 7 innings of work. I am sure if you would have asked Aaron Harang or Reds manager Dusty Baker how they would feel about 4 hits in 7 innings they would have jumped at that. With those 4 hits the Diamondbacks managed to score 1 run that being unearned after Harang threw wildly to first base allowing the runner to move all the way to third.
Arizona was able to scratch out one more hit on the Cincinnati bullpen but again made the most of a bad situation scoring 2 runs when Reds pitchers walked 3 batters including a bases loaded pass to Adam Dunn. They followed that up with a wild pitch to give Arizona a 3-0 lead.
Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin made an interesting call in the eighth inning. With Brandon Webb at 96 pitches and clinging to a 1-0 lead he chose to lead off the eighth inning with a pinch hitter. Normally you wouldn’t question that call but considering that Webb was going for his 20th win and the bullpen has been absolutely horrible over the last 6 games you really had to wonder why Webb would not be allowed to go back out there. The move seemed to pay off when pinch hitter Jeff Salazar hit a triple in place of Webb. The Diamondbacks would end up scoring as a result of the gifts of the Reds pitching staff.
Arizona sent “closer” Brandon Lyon out in the ninth inning to protect a 3-0 lead and break the 6 game losing streak. Lyon started by getting Joey Votto to fly to centerfield for the first out. Reds third baseman Edwin Encarnacion then singled on a slow moving grounder up the middle. Outfielder Jay Bruce struck out swinging to give Lyon his second out. It looked as though things would go smoothly but pinch hitter Javier Valentin hit the first pitch through the left side of the infield to bring the tying run to the plate. Cory Patterson came up and Lyon was able to get ahead in the count. Patterson fought back to bring it to 2-2 then hit a grounder just outside the reach of second baseman David Eckstein to load the bases and bring the go-ahead run to the plate. Jeff Keppinger singled to right field scoring 2 runs and putting the tying run at third. Manager Bob Melvin had no choice but to remove Lyon and replace him with Chad Qualls. Qualls would come in and get Jerry Hairston Jr. to strike out ending the game.
What should have been a shutout for Brandon Webb with the Diamondbacks blowing out the Reds ended up being a nail biter. This game raised more questions than it provided answers. Who will step up offensively and carry this team down the final 3 weeks? Late in the game who can Bob Melvin rely upon to maintain the lead? While I am extremely excited about the win, I am left with a really uneasy feeling about this team’s chances of getting to the post season.
As I got home last night I parked the car and made my way into the house. Standing in the doorway was my family. They were all looking at me with this funny look on their faces. I stopped looking at each one of them wondering what was up. Trina then held out a brand new package of razor blades along with instructions that I needed to shave. I am not sure whether my family was more excited about the Diamondbacks winning or the fact that I would no longer have this scraggly looking beard.