David Sabino
Tuesday June 9th, 2009

This week's Diamond Digits dissects the Diamondbacks' pitching staff's very uneven yet eventful week, a century-long record falling in the Windy City and the Big Unit's big moment -- and how his final steps along the way to 300 wins compare to other recent club members.

Earned run average last week by the Diamondbacks' starting staff, after it allowed three earned runs over 37 innings in six games in Southern California.

That streak lowered the team's starters' ERA from 4.54 to 4.13, which ranks ninth in baseball -- not bad for the team with the 27th-best record. However, all of that excellent starting pitching only resulted in three wins because of a bullpen that gave up 16 earned runs in 23 innings. It was that same bullpen, though, which rose to the occasion in an 18-inning win at San Diego on Sunday. The quartet of Jon Rauch, Esmerling Vazquez, Clay Zavada and Leo Rosales held the Padres hitless over the final nine innings of a game won on a Mark Reynolds three-run home run. Those nine hitless relief innings marked the longest such stretch since the Royals bullpen group of Gregg Olson, Jeff Montgomery, Billy Brewer and Hipolito Pachardo helped beat the Tigers in 16 innings on July 29, 1995.

Leadoff home runs this season for Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano, after his blast off of Atlanta's Kenshin Kawakami on Tuesday, ending a 12-game homerless streak.

The shot put Soriano ahead of Craig Biggio and into sole possession of second place on the alltime leadoff home run list, with 54 in his career for the Yankees, Rangers, Nationals and Cubs. Only Rickey Henderson (81) started off his team's games with more explosiveness than Soriano, who also moved into sole possession of the Cubs' team record with the same jack, his 21st leadoff homer for the North Siders. The old record lasted for more than a century and was set by Jimmy Ryan, who patrolled the outfield for Cubs' predecessors, the Orphans, Colts and White Stockings, from 1885 through 1900.

Thankfully the road to 300 victories wasn't drawn out for Randy Johnson, as he rode a hot streak to Nos. 299 and 300 in back-to-back starts. In those two consecutive wins Johnson pitched 12 innings, allowing a single earned run, five hits and two walks against the Braves and Nationals. In the historic game at Washington last Thursday, Johnson pitched six innings and gave up just two hits and no earned runs, becoming the first pitcher since Phil Niekro to hold an opponent scoreless in route to the 300th career win. Johnson was also the first pitcher since Tom Seaver in 1985 to win Nos. 299 and 300 in back-to-back starts. The previous three men to reach the lofty goal -- Tom Glavine (one no-decision), Greg Maddux (one no-decision) and Roger Clemens (two losses, one no-decision) -- each had to wait for the thrill of the milestone. Coincidentally, Niekro, who shut out the Blue Jays for his 300th while a member of the Yankees in 1985, also had the longest wait for 300 of the last 10 to get there, suffering through three losses and a no-decision between wins 299 and 300.

For the last three seasons, the Rockies have been looking for a regular spot in the lineup for Ian Stewart, and this week new manager Jim Tracy may have found it, at third base, in place of the slumping Garrett Atkins. Stewart did all he could with the bat to force Tracy's hand, batting .480 with four home runs, a major league-leading 12 RBIs and a slugging percentage of 1.080. He had at least two hits in each game from Wednesday to Sunday and drove in three, four and five runs in games, including three home runs and nine RBIs in the first two games of a four-game road sweep of the Cardinals.

Honorable Mention: Vin Mazzaro, Lyle Overbay, Prince Fielder, Chipper Jones, Roy Halladay, Brian Wilson, Antonio Bastardo, Matt Holliday, Laynce Nix.

Russell Martin will tell you that as long as his Dodgers, holders of the best record in baseball, continue to win, his numbers don't matter. But the slumping backstop, who has yet to hit a home run this season, went into a prolonged slump this week, garnering just one hit and one walk without driving in or scoring a run in 19 trips to the plate. His batting average fell from .272 to .251, which ranks 62nd in the NL, while his slugging percentage slipped below .300, and ranks 165th out of 170 major league qualifiers.

Also would like to forget the week that was: Manny Parra, Brian Roberts, Gary Sheffield, Matt Wieters, Joel Hanrahan, Brad Lidge, Randy Wolf, Joe Saunders.

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