09/23/08 1:40 AM ET
D-backs continue to chip away
Arizona (79-77) at St. Louis (80-76), Tuesday, 5:15 p.m. MST
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
Arizona enters its game with the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night two games behind the Dodgers in the National League West. The D-backs, who have won seven of their last eight, have cut 2 1/2 games off that deficit over the past six days.
"We're real relaxed right now," said ace Brandon Webb, who picked up his 22nd win Monday night. "We're playing with a lot of confidence; guys are doing a great job of moving runners, producing some runs like we did [Monday]. The clubhouse is in good shape right now."
With six games left to play -- three more against the Cardinals and three to close the year at Chase Field vs. the Rockies -- the D-backs know that they can ill afford any losses.
The Dodgers' magic number is five, which means any combination of Dodgers wins or D-backs losses that equals five would eliminate Arizona.
If the Dodgers go 3-3 the rest of the way -- they have three games at home against San Diego and three at San Francisco -- the D-backs would need to go 5-1 to tie and force a one-game playoff. As a result of an earlier coin flip, the tie-breaking game would take place at Chavez Ravine.
"Everybody is doing their job," shortstop Stephen Drew said, "coming out and playing hard. We'll see what happens these last six games."
The D-backs will send Randy Johnson to the mound Tuesday. The left-hander had a rough time of it against the Cardinals earlier this month, as he allowed five runs on six hits in just 3 2/3 innings.
Four days following that outing, the club announced that the Big Unit would skip his next start because he was experiencing fatigue in his shoulder.
"I felt it in my last start against St. Louis, pitched through it and the results were what they were," Johnson said back then.
Without the 99-mph fastball of his youth, Johnson relies more on command. Against the Cardinals, he fell behind hitters and had to come in with his upper 80s/low 90s fastball, which the Cardinals feasted on.Pitching matchup
ARI: LHP Randy Johnson (10-9, 3.99 ERA)
Johnson escaped a first-inning jam in his last outing by giving up just one run after the first three hitters of the game got on base. That was all the Big Unit ended up allowing the entire game, as he matched Giants ace Tim Lincecum pitch for pitch. He was in line for his 295th career win until Juan Cruz allowed a game-tying homer in the eighth. Johnson took an unconventional approach, throwing several breaking balls to retire the Giants' hitters, the most breaking balls manager Bob Melvin said he has ever seen Johnson throw in a game. STL: RHP Kyle Lohse (14-6, 3.76 ERA)
Lohse finally got a win to show for his solid efforts recently, giving him 14 victories to equal a career high. Over his last six starts, he's averaged 6 1/3 innings per game with a 3.08 ERA, yet he has only one win. There's a lot to like about the way Lohse is pitching, though, with or without the victories. He's struck out 23 against seven walks in his past four starts. And on Thursday against the Reds, he did the one thing he hadn't been doing: he avoided the one big hit when he got in trouble. Tidbits
Third baseman Mark Reynolds is one strikeout away from tying Philadelphia's Ryan Howard for the all-time single-season strikeout mark of 199. Reynolds struck out twice Monday to draw closer. ... Webb was easily thrown out trying to score from first on a double by Drew in the fourth inning Monday night. Webb said he was surprised that third-base coach Chip Hale waved him in, and that he was gassed about halfway up the line from home plate. ... Infielder David Eckstein received a loud ovation from the crowd before his first at-bat Monday. Even the Cardinals' bench got in on the action, including manager Tony La Raussa. Eckstein tipped his helmet to the crowd and also acknowledged his former teammates. ... Despite good career numbers against Todd Wellemeyer, first baseman Chad Tracy was out of the starting lineup. Instead, Justin Upton got the nod after two days on the bench. "I didn't want [Upton] to sit around for too long," Melvin said. ... First baseman Josh Whitesell hit his first Major League homer against the Rockies on Sunday. "It was definitely cool to be able to call my parents, call my wife, my in-laws and celebrate with them," Whitesell said. "They bought the Major League package, so they were able to watch it." Rockies security was able to retrieve the ball for him. "I'm going to keep it with my first-hit ball and start hopefully a collection of balls from good moments," Whitesell said. Tickets
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Wednesday: Diamondbacks (Max Scherzer, 0-3, 3.00) at Cardinals (Adam Wainwright, 10-3, 3.21), 5:15 p.m. MST
Thursday: Diamondbacks (Doug Davis, 6-8, 4.25) at Cardinals (Joel Pineiro, 6-7, 5.21), 11:15 a.m. MST
Friday: Diamondbacks (Dan Haren, 16-8, 3.27) vs. Rockies (Aaron Cook, 16-9, 3.96), 6:40 p.m. MST
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.