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.