The Inside Pitch


Posted Aug 16, 2005


Bob Melvin is having meetings behind closed doors, and Scout.com is going all Mission Impossible to get you the Inside Pitch. This week 'BoMel' is tired of the talk and looking for action, Craig Counsell talks about a stellar year, we update the injuries, and everybody loves Tony Clark.

The Diamondbacks have held so many meetings this season, they'd be a target of the Congressional Reform Committee if they did their business on Capitol Hill.

But all the talks and discussions have been needed, especially during the first half of a season-long, 12-game road trip that saw Arizona stumble to a 2-4 mark with some fairly embarrassing outcomes in Miami and Atlanta.

They were the victims of a hidden-ball trick and committed a rash of errors against the Marlins. Their pitchers got lit up in a pair of losses to the Braves, and Atlanta rookie RF Jeff Francoeur made them look silly on the basepaths.

Yet somehow, despite the Diamondbacks being seven games under .500, they still managed to find themselves in contention in the National League West.

"That's an amazing thing, the one constant, really," Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said. "No matter if we play good, we play bad or play in between, we're still there. ... We're not going to give up, that's for sure."

Melvin's meetings probably aren't going to subside anytime soon, either, although even he is growing tired of chat after chat.

"I always try to be proactive and talk about where we're at," he said, adding the time for talk has ended and it's time to start getting results.

Arizona hasn't won as many as three games in a row since May 18-20, thereby never getting on much of a roll. Asked if his club can contend with the Padres for a division title without putting together the hot streak his club has been seeking all year, Melvin said, "If you win two out of three every series, it is."

That would be a stretch for this group, but even if that were the case, it still wouldn't "feel" like a hot streak.

"We need to get that streak going to where you feel you're invincible every time you go out there," Melvin said. "That's what really is missing, and it's had an affect on what our record is."

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Diamondbacks surpassed last year's total of 135 home runs (with 45 games left to play) during Friday's 8-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves thanks to a solo shot by Shawn Green, his 17th, and a pair of two-run blasts from Tony Clark, which gave him 21 on the season in only 228 at-bats.

Clark had driven in 61 runs with just 74 hits, which underscores his vital worth to the Diamondbacks. Arizona signed the free agent for the low price of $750,000 and a week ago inked him to a two-year contract extension that most would still call a bargain.

"He's been incredible all year," Green said. "From the latter part of spring training on, he's been a machine. I've never seen a guy with as limited number of at-bats put up the numbers he's been putting up, with consistency and in key situations."

Green hit both of his homers off Jorge Sosa, against whom he is now 4-for-4 in his career with three clouts.

"Sometimes the sun shines on a dog's rear end," Clark said.

--RHP Brandon Webb thinks a slight adjustment to his mechanics is all that's been keeping him from pitching to his potential and after his third straight solid outing, he hopes the problem is behind him.

It was a simple matter of realigning his arm slot and keeping his elbow high to force a sharper downward angle on his patented sinkerball. After allowing just four hits and one run in a 3-1 victory over the Florida Marlins on Thursday, Webb became Arizona's first 10-game winner.

Webb is 2-0 with a no-decision in his past three starts and has allowed just four earned runs in 22 innings over that stretch for a 1.64 ERA. Opponents are hitting .135 against him (10 for 74).

Webb said he never felt comfortable before the game while warming up in the

bullpen. He said he was rushing his pitches and missing his target badly.

"It was probably the worst 'pen I've ever had," he said. "I was like, 'Man, this is changing right now!' "

--"It could have happened to anybody."

That was Mike Lowell's explanation for the hidden-ball trick that the Florida Marlins third baseman pulled off to perfection on Arizona's Luis Terrero on Wednesday.

But the truth is, he and reliever Todd Jones couldn't have picked a better ruse on a better patsy at a better time. Terrero is still an over-aggressive, inexperienced baserunner. He was in position to score the tying run for Arizona in a game the desperate Diamondbacks couldn't afford to lose.

It was the perfect setup and not only did it change the course of the inning, it virtually won the game for the Marlins and dropped a disillusioned Diamondbacks team to even deeper depths. They've now lost six of their past eight games since moving into a first-place tie in the NL West with San Diego and are going nowhere fast.

"It was just a culmination of a poorly played gamed by us. Our worst game of the year," manager Bob Melvin said. "We didn't deserve to win that game. You make errors, you don't do things offensively, defensively. We don't deserve winning a game like that."

Arizona has been suffering through this type of rag-tag play since they took three of four games from the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Wednesday, in addition to the Terrero gaffe, the Diamondbacks committed four errors, threw four wild pitches and went 2 for 10 with runners in scoring position. They also issued seven walks, typifying all the problems that have been biting them in the backside as of late.

"I'm very surprised," Melvin said. "And I don't have any answers for it right now. We're going to have to do some soul-searching and dig deep here because we're going to be in tough shape. At a time when we should be focusing and concentrating at a very high level, we're not and that's discouraging."

--RHP Russ Ortiz (stress fracture in right rib cage) was activated off the disabled list and got a no-decision, allowing five runs in six innings, in his first game back Saturday. C Koyie Hill was optioned to Triple-A Tucson. The club also transferred LHP Shawn Estes (stress reaction in left foot) from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL. He is eligible to return on Sept. 5 but probably won't be ready to pitch until later than that.

--RHP Claudio Vargas, after pitching a two-hit shutout through seven innings Friday, has made nine consecutive starts without allowing more than three earned runs. He retired 14 Atlanta batters in a row at one point Friday and also hit a two-run single for the first two RBIs of his career.

--CF Shawn Green on Friday had a telephone conversation with the Boca Raton, Fla., woman who suffered a rupture spleen when she was hit Aug. 9 in Miami by the barrel of Green's broken bat that sailed into the stands at Dolphins Stadium. Karen Wellmeyer is out of intensive care and told Green it doesn't appear she will need surgery, just several weeks of bed rest.

--C Kelly Stinnett made three consecutive starts behind the plate in place of regular Chris Snyder, who is struggling offensively.

--Manager Bob Melvin received a phone call from a member of the Colorado Rockies staff expressing regret over an incident that occurred in Sunday's game with Arizona in which Jamey Wright threw a pitch that nearly hit the head of Chad Tracy.

The Diamondbacks felt it was intentional because it came one pitch after Craig Counsell stole second base with a 6-0 lead in the sixth inning. Arizona's Luis Gonzalez, meanwhile, contends he saw something in the Rockies' dugout that made him believe the pitch was intentional.

"Sometimes you get emotional in a game," Melvin said. "Boys will be boys."

--1B Conor Jackson was charged with two errors in Wednesday's game against Florida, his first back-to-back starts since being promoted from Triple-A Tucson in an effort to inject some offense into the lineup.

--2B Craig Counsell matched his single-season, career high with 17 stolen bases. He also had 17 last year with the Brewers.

"A big part of it is 'Bo Mel' giving me the freedom, more than anything," Counsell said, referring to manager Bob Melvin.

BY THE NUMBERS: 241 -- Runs scored by Arizona opponents in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings in 2005. 165 -- Runs scored by the Diamondbacks in those same innings this year.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "That guy's unbelievable. That's some serious pop. The guy's huge. I felt like a little girl standing next to him at first base. No offense to girls." -- Braves 1B Adam LaRoche on the Diamondbacks' 6-foot-7 first baseman Tony Clark, who had 21 home runs in just 230 at-bats.



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