Former Wildcat Closing in on History

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 at-bat, 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 two-hitter 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 five-hit, 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."
Webb got a bit of a scare in the final inning. Not wanting to
walk speedy Willie Harris, he left a pitch over the plate and
watched it sail toward deep right.
"I was like, 'Just go right after him. I don't think he can hit
one out.' And, boom, he got a good piece on it," Webb said.
"Luckily, there was the humidity here and it's a fairly deep park,
so it stayed in."
Justin Upton settled under the long fly, a few feet short of the
warning track.
"Things are just going my way," Webb said.
He started his streak nearly a month ago, in a defeat of all
things. Webb didn't allow a run in the final inning of his 6-2 loss
to the Chicago Cubs on July 20.
He's won five in a row since, going seven innings apiece in wins
over Florida and San Diego before beginning his stretch of shutouts
with a 3-0 win at the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Hershiser was with the Dodgers when he set the record. The only
other pitchers since 1940 to put together a longer streak than Webb
are Don Drysdale (58), Bob Gibson (47) and Sal Maglie (45).
Over the last five starts, Webb has worked 41 innings, giving up
23 hits, seven walks and striking out 35. He's tied with Rube
Foster at No. 12 on the scoreless list.
"It's a little weird," Webb said. "When I do give up a run,
I'm sure I will be a little down. It's going to happen sometime."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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