Webb of In­trigue

Can Ari­zona pitcher match Her­shiser’s fa­mous streak?

The Covington News - - SPORTS - By Paul New­berry

AT­LANTA ( AP) — Bran­don Webb was 9 years old — and not much of a ballplayer — when Orel Her­shiser threw more score­less in­nings in a row than any­one in base­ball his­tory.

“ That was my first year in Lit­tle League,” Webb re­called. “ I was prob­a­bly sit­ting out there in right field, be­cause I was aw­ful.” Aw­ful? Re­ally?

“ Oh, yeah. I was ter­ri­ble,” Webb replied. “ I was get­ting in the min­i­mum in­nings I had to play in the game, two or some­thing, and get­ting my one min­i­mum at­bat, then go­ing to sit down on the bench for the rest of the game.”

He took up pitch­ing the fol­low­ing year. Now, he’s clos­ing in on Her­shiser.

The Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs ace tossed a twohit­ter Fri­day night for his third straight shutout and stretched his score­less streak to 42 in­nings, the 12th- long­est in base­ball his­tory.

Af­ter beat­ing the At­lanta Braves 4- 0, Webb finds him­self 18 in­nings away — two more shutouts ex­actly — from break­ing Her­shiser’s record of 59 straight score­less in­nings in 1988.

“ Just two more shutouts? Oh, I should have that no prob­lem,” Webb said face­tiously, rolling his eyes. “ It’s in the back pocket.”

It will be if he keeps pitch­ing like this. The Braves came into the game with the NL’s best av­er­age (. 278) and third in the league in runs scored ( 4.96 per game), but they never had a chance against last year’s NL Cy Young win­ner.

Kelly John­son blooped a dou­ble to cen­ter in the fourth. Jeff Fran­coeur went the op­po­site way for a fifth- in­ning sin­gle, and was promptly erased with a dou­ble play. Mark Teix­eira drew a walk in the sev­enth.

That was it. Webb faced two hit­ters above the min­i­mum, got ahead in the count 21 of 29 times and went to three balls on just two bat­ters.

“ He threw what he wanted when he wanted,” Fran­coeur said. “All night he was a step ahead of us.”

Chris Young, who home­red twice for the Di­a­mond­backs, had more fun watch­ing Webb pitch from cen­ter field.

“ I’d much rather be on his team than fac­ing him,” Young said. “ You see the way his ball moves, and now he’s got his off- speed pitches work­ing bet­ter than ever. As a hit­ter, you just don’t know what to think up there.”

Webb ( 13- 8) isn’t one of those guys who claims ig­no­rance of his stats. He knows how many score­less in­nings he’s thrown al­ready, and how many it will take to catch Her­shiser.

“ I know where I’m at,” Webb said. “ It’s go­ing to be real tough to do, but I’m go­ing to go out there and try to throw up ze­ros as much as I can.”

He be­came the first pitcher since Her­shiser to go at least 40 in­nings with­out giv­ing up a run and just the 21st pitcher in base­ball his­tory to reach that level of stingi­ness.

It’s not like the Di­a­mond­backs are scor­ing a lot of runs for Webb, ei­ther. His pre­vi­ous start was a five­hit, 1- 0 win over Wash­ing­ton, and he was cling­ing to an­other 1- 0 lead when Mark Reynolds gave Ari­zona some breath­ing room with a mam­moth two- run homer off Lance Cormier in the eighth.

“ It doesn’t re­ally af­fect me what the score is,” Webb said. “ I do know if it’s 1- 0 that I need to bear down and not make too many mis­takes. When you get those sec­ond, third and fourth runs like we did, you can breathe lit­tle bit. It’s lets you go right at ‘ em and at­tack the hit­ters.”

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