The D'backs entered Monday night's game with the Colorado Rockies riding an 11-game winning streak, a simply incredible feat considering that they have 10 -- that's right, 10 -- players on the disabled list.
The Snakes were all but given up for roadkill after starting the season 8-15 then losing both Randy Johnson (knee) and Curt Schilling (hand) to injuries. But now Arizona, thanks largely to some amazing youngsters, finds itself just four games behind first-place San Francisco and one game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Rookie right-hander Jose Valverde, filling in for injured closer Matt Mantei, is nine-for-nine in save opportunities. Rookie second baseman Matt Kata has hit three doubles and two home runs since being called up two weeks ago. And third baseman Robby Hammock -- yes, another rookie -- knocked in three runs, including a two-run homer in the 10th inning, to beat the Detroit Tigers 5-3 on Sunday.
The kids have played so well that manager Bob Brenly will have some hard decisions to make when the regulars start returning from the DL in July. Of course, two easy ones will involve Johnson and Schilling, both of whom could be back by the middle of the month.
And that's got to give the Giants pause. Felipe Alou's team barely has played .500 ball since roaring to an 18-4 start. And until taking two out of three from both the Dodgers and the Oakland A's last week, San Francisco had won just one series all season against a team with a winning record.
But to their credit, the Giants are a nifty 21-10 against the NL West -- including 8-4 against the Dodgers and 4-1 against the Diamondbacks. Los Angeles, by comparison, is 14-17 in the division, Arizona just 10-16.
Arizona plays San Francisco seven times in July, with six games against Los Angeles.
Yep, looks like it's going to be a race.
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Seattle Mariners OK, the team with baseball's best record takes two of three from the Braves then goes 2-4 against the lowly Padres. You'd have better luck trying to explain Tom Green's career.
Atlanta Braves Manager Bobby Cox won his 1,500th game as a Braves manager over the weekend. It only seems like he's been thrown out of half of them.
New York Yankees They've hired former infielder Luis Sojo to mentor the team's Spanish players, notably struggling second baseman Alfonso Soriano. What's Spanish for "Chuck Knoblauch"?
San Francisco Giants They fielded a lineup of all black or Latin players in one game last week, believed to be a franchise first. "Right now, people don't notice those things." said manager Felipe Alou, shortly after noticing it.
Boston Red Sox Marlins manager Jack McKeon didn't like the way several Red Sox tried to score from third on short fly balls late in Boston's 25-8 victory. But referring to Grady Little as "Steve Spurrier" -- that was way out of line.
Oakland Athletics Reserve outfielder Adam Piatt was unhappy that manager Ken Macha blasted him publicly, saying Piatt is "at that point where he's got to start justifying to baseball that he's a player." Could be worse, of course. Piatt could be unhappy in Sacramento.
Philadelphia Phillies Reliever Dan Plesac says teammate Randy Wolf (9-3, 3.16 ERA) is "the best left-handed pitcher in baseball and nobody knows him." Considering Philly fans, maybe that's the way he likes it.
Los Angeles Dodgers The Giants' front office said it was going to bill Dodgers closer Eric Gagne $500 for ripping a dugout phone off the wall. Five hundred bucks? Geez, what was it -- an Alexander Graham Bell autograph model?
Toronto Blue Jays Carlos Delgado, who entered the week with 89 RBIs, could become only the third player to knock in 100 runs before the All-Star break. Or one of countless players who have not.
Montreal Expos Juan Gonzalez rejected a trade from the Rangers, saying he didn't want to play in Montreal. Well, that and the fact that he didn't want to learn the French for "disabled list."
Arizona Diamondbacks How young are their injury replacements? "I'm loading the guys up in a van and taking them for cookies and ice cream." said veteran outfielder Luis Gonzalez.
Kansas City Royals With the team still in contention, owner David Glass is apparently backing off his order to cut $5 million off the payroll this year. In other news, Wal-Mart has changed its slogan to "Occasionally low prices."
Minnesota Twins After they fell into a first-place tie with the Royals last week, infielder and Bulletin Board Material 101 professor Denny Hocking said, "If someone wants to keep first place warm for us, then that's great."
St. Louis Cardinals Rookie Bodhi "Bo" Hart, a 33rd-round draft pick in 1999, is hitting .460 (23-for-50) and fans at Busch Stadium haven't been so ga-ga over a player since, well, Joe McEwing.
Houston Astros Saturday's 2-0 victory over the Rangers was only their second shutout of the season. Perhaps you remember the first. It's a good bet that Joe Torre and the Yankees do.
Chicago Cubs They really, really would like to have third baseman Mike Lowell, but you can't blame them for not wanting to give up Carlos Zambrano. The last time they traded with the Marlins, they lost Dontrelle Willis.
Florida Marlins When first-round pick Jeff Allison and his family attended Friday night's game at Fenway Park, the Marlins paid for the tickets -- but not the parking. "Whatever Jeff ends up signing for, we'll make them put a '25' at the end," said Allison's dad, Bob. "We'll tell them, "Remember that time you didn't pay for parking?'"
Anaheim Angels After they decided to restrict Aaron Sele (4-6, 6.29) to just five innings per game in an effort to increase his effectiveness, he beat the Dodgers 3-1 on Sunday. The Rally Monkey could be next.
Chicago White Sox Esteban Loaiza (11-3, 2.83) is trying to become the first White Sox pitcher to start an All-Star Game since Early Wynn in 1959. And that may be the first time the words "Esteban Loaiza" and "Early Wynn" have appeared in the same sentence.
Cincinnati Reds Their No. 1 draft pick, pitcher Ryan Scott Wagner of Yoakum, Texas, is named after former Astros pitchers Nolan Ryan and Mike Scott. "I guess the odds were that I'd become a pitcher, huh?" Wagner said.
Baltimore Orioles They hoped Omar Daal (4-10, 5.86) would be their No. 2 starter when they gave him a two-year deal worth $7.5 million. Of course, that was before he allowed 118 hits in 86 innings. Suddenly -- and we never thought we'd say this -- Pat Hentgen looks real good.
New York Mets Whatever's going on in Shea, it appears to be contagious. Even normally steady Al Leiter, despite an 8-5 record, has a 5.57 ERA after giving up 17 earned runs in his past three starts. And the 38-year-old lefty is guaranteed $10 million for next season.
Pittsburgh Pirates What do you do if you get called up to the majors and show up late for a game the very next day? If you're Pirates pitcher Duaner Sanchez, you find out what time the next flight is back to Class AAA Nashville.
Milwaukee Brewers Oft-injured outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds was released earlier this season, but the team plans to go ahead with a Hammonds bobblehead giveaway on July 13. No word on whether extra dolls were ordered to allow for breakage.
Texas Rangers If they Rangers finish the season in last place -- and right now they're 9 ½ games out of third -- they'll be the first team other than the Devil Rays to finish in the cellar four straight years since the 1976-79 Braves. And Ted Turner hasn't even managed them.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays The good news: They've overcome deficits of three or more runs 17 times this season. The bad news: They've still managed to lose nine of those games. At least Lou Piniella is staying cool.
San Diego Padres How long has 46-year-old Jesse Orosco been around? He's been caught by two players who are now major league managers: the Padres' Bruce Bochy and the Rockies' Clint Hurdle.