Snakes Hang On by the Skin of Their Fangs
"Good thing the ballpark’s big enough for that hit."
–Brandon Lyon, on Rod Barajas’ deep fly ball to Carlos Quentin that ended the game.
Doug Davis pitched great. This was perhaps his best start of the season. And he got some run support. Eric Byrnes led off the game with a single and was promptly driven in by Conor Jackson, who homered. So Davis had a lead before he even stepped out onto the mound at Citizens’ Bank Park in Philly.
Carlos Quentin hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth to bring in another run. And in the eighth inning, Tony Clark walked and moved to third on an Eric Byrnes double. (Byrnesie had no RBI, but he went 2-5 with two runs scored). They both scored when Conor Jackson doubled. CoJack had four RBI yesterday. At the end of eight, the score was Arizona 5 Philadelphia 1.
But they play nine and in the last inning everything threatened to unravel. Tony Clark had batted for Doug Davis in the eighth, so José Valverde took the mound. Manager Bob Melvin anticipated a save situation when he took Davis out for the pinch-hitter in the eighth, but it no longer a save situation when Valverde took the mound. But he let a couple of runners on and gave up a three-run homer to Greg Dobbs. Oh well, it be’s that way sometimes with him. He also got two outs. Brandon Lyon came in to get the third out but first added a little drama of him own by giving up a single to Pat Burrell. Then Connor Jackson picked decided to do his best Bill Buckner imitation, letting a routine grounder by Carlos Ruiz go through his legs.
"I wasn’t expecting a ground ball from a right-handed hitter in that situation," he later said.
Uh, CoJack, weren’t you taught in Little League to always be ready for the ball to be hit to you?
Lyon got Rod Barajas to fly out to deep right and it was all’s well that ends well for Davis, Jackson and the D’Backs.
But as Davis came out of the dugout to congratulate his teammates, Livan Hernandez at his side, I wondered if Hernandez was saying something to Davis about the virtues of complete games. Maybe Livan needs to talk about those virtues with Bob Melvin.
"We have a guy that’s leading the National League in saves," said D-backs manager Bob Melvin. "We get in that situation, [Davis] is up over 100 pitches already, send him back out there, potentially a couple guys get on, you’re in a position to take a loss. You got a two-run lead, you turn it over to the guy that’s leading the league in saves and you give him the ball."
That kind of automatic thinking in May can lead to a tired closer by August or September. With the way Davis was going this particular day, it might have been worthwhile to give him a chance to finish. Or at least, once the decision to lift him had been made and the Diamondbacks scored more runs in the eighth, why not bring in Lyon first?