Could it be that the Diamondbacks have finally found the missing piece?
Well, let’s not get crazy, there are quite a few missing pieces on the D’Backs
right now, but at least one seems to fit, the closer.
The Diamondbacks finally broke their 14 game losing streak last night against
the flailing Houston Astros with a 4 to 1 win.
The bullpen has been just the latest in a series of weak links, and for
manager Al Pedrique the answer was pretty clear, go as long as possible with
starter Brandon Webb and then try some new blood at the end.
That new blood? Rookie Greg Aquino. Aquino pitched a perfect ninth inning to
get his first career save.
It’s been awhile, so I’ll give you the refresher course. A ‘WIN’ is
when the D’Backs score more runs than their opponents. A ‘PERFECT NINTH
INNING’ is three batters faced with none of them reaching base.
Like I said, it has been awhile.
In the top of the first inning Scott Hairston and Luis Gonzalez hit back to
back homers off Astro starter Andy Pettitte to give the Diamondbacks a lead,
something they’ve become accustomed to. But Webb, who has been victimized by a
combination of poor run support, and poor bullpen support, was fantastic giving
up only six hits and one run in seven and a third innings. While Webb walked
four he struck out five and most importantly he kept the sinker sinking, getting
twelve ground ball outs on the day.
Webb also threw 124 pitches, a season high, showing how little confidence
Pedrique has in his bullpen, but when the time came in the seventh, Pedrique
pushed the right buttons, bringing on Stephen Randolph to get the last two outs
in the eighth, and then Aquino in the ninth.
For Pedrique it couldn’t have been an easy decision to go to the rookie,
but in all honesty he was beginning to run out of other options. The
Diamondbacks have seemingly held open auditions for the closer’s role. This
season former manager Bob Brenley and Pedrique have used Matt Mantai, Jose Valverde, Mike Koplove, Randy Choate, Mike Fetters, Scott Service, and a host of
others, and with the exception of Valverde none have had continued success.
Aquino has one thing that none of the other would be closers have, and that’s
an overpowering fastball. With his heater running from 94mph to 97mph during
Monday night’s outing, he doesn’t have to make the perfect pitch that
Koplove, Service, or Choate has to make. He can just rear back and fire. Does he
have the closer’s mentality? That we won’t know until he does blow a save,
and has to come back the next day and try again, but Monday night he showed that
he has closer’s stuff.
Notes: Lance Berkman had reached base 10 consecutive times before Webb
retired him in the fifth inning; the D’Backs break their 14 game losing
streak, a streak which included an 0-11 homestand, the worst in MLB history;
Webb’s 124 pitches were the most he’s thrown in one outing all year, but the
longer he went, the more downward movement there was on his sinker; Astro
starter Andy Pettitte has been bothered by a sore shoulder all season, and it
flared up again Monday, forcing him to leave the game after five innings, even
though he’d only given up three hits; defense, which for much of the season
has been an Achilles heel for the Diamondbacks, came through big time Monday
night when Steve Finley corralled a long fly ball off the bat of pinch hitter
Mike Lamb and then strew a strike to Alex Cintron at 2nd base,
doubling off Morgan Ensberg, who will probably think twice before running on
Finley’s arm again; sources say the Randy Johnson sweepstakes is heating up,
and two teams have called the Diamondbacks, requesting they be given a ‘last
shot’ at pulling off a trade for Randy; Scott Hairston had a great day at the
plate, going 4-4 with a solo home run; the Astros left 15 runners on base.