D-Backs Show Up With Big Offense and Stellar Bullpen Chops Against Bucs. We Had to Pinch Ourselves to See if it Was Real
|Blast of the night: Chad Tracy rockets another pinch-hit homer, this one high into the seats down the right-field line.|
If the offense showed up more than once out of every two or three games.
If the bullpen showed up at all.
Both showed up big-time Thursday night, as the Snakes started a four-game series with the Bucs in grand fashion.
We know, we know . . . we've all seen this before. The D-Backs look impressive in a game and then go on to disappoint us, lose the series. Which is why they're 41-55 and headed nowhere this season.
The Pirates are in the same situation, with a 42-53 record. Because they play in the tough National League Central, we figured they'd handle the D-Backs. And it sure looked like they would when they surged ahead 4-1 off Arizona ace Dan Haren, one of two 2009 All-Stars on the team.
Haren, the best pitcher in the National League this year, maybe in baseball, proved he's human, giving up more than three runs in a game for the second time this season. He left after five innings, and that's when D-Backs bats began to sizzle.
In the bottom of the fifth, second baseman Augie Ojeda singled, shortstop Stephen Drew tripled off the wall to drive Ojeda home, and left fielder Gerardo Parra hit a two-run homer.
For a moment there, it looked like Haren (10-5, 2.15 ERA) could notch another win. But the inning ended with the score tied.
In came reliever Blaine Boyer, who pitched a perfect inning. The D-Backs were unable to muster another run in their half of the sixth. In came reliever Juan Gutierrez in the seventh. One, two, three.
The Diamondbacks' seventh was a thing of beauty.
Third baseman Mark Reynolds smacked a double to left field, followed by Miguel Montero -- the best hitting catcher in baseball right now -- lasering a double to right field, scoring Reynolds. First baseman Josh Whitesell then blistered a ground-ball hit up the middle and Montero -- building up speed like a runaway freight train down a steep incline -- slid home just ahead of what appeared to be a deadly accurate throw from Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen.
The Pirates dugout couldn't believe the burly catcher had actually scored, but from where we were sitting at the ballpark, it was clear that he was safe by a hair.
The score was 6-4, and we Snakes fans were breathing a little easier. But after what happened next, we sat back and chugged the rest of our big beer. Ojeda walked and then Chad Tracy, pinch-hitting in the pitcher's spot, blasted a line-drive homer down the right-field line into the seats, and it's 9-4.
Big Jon Rauch pitched three up and three down in the the eighth, and the offensive fun contnued for Arizona. Parra walked, and All-Star right fielder Justin Upton hit his 17th homer of the season to left-center, making it 11-4.
Clay Zavada continued to redeem what has been one of the worst bullpens in baseball this season by retiring three in a row in the top of the ninth, and it was over. It had to be the first time this season that D-Backs relievers showed up Dan "The Man" Haren.
Speaking of pitching: The Pirates' Zach Duke (8-9, 3.38 ERA) is scheduled to face the D-Backs' Yusmeiro Petit (0-4, 7.15 ERA) tonight. As can be seen from his ERA, Petit's been awful. But if D-Backs hitters stay even close to as hot as they were Thursday night, even the seven-plus runs Petit could give up won't be insurmountable.
First pitch is at 6:40. TV: Fox Sports Arizona. Radio: KTAR-AM 620. More info: www.dbacks.com.