Record 4-5. Change from last season: -2
I only got to see two of the eight things I wanted to last night: Russ got out of the first inning unscathed thanks to yet another Garret Atkins double-play (he had two on the night, to add to the two yesterday), and Valverde was not called upon to pitch the ninth innings, albeit for all the wrong reasons, such as us being behind. The first game of the season thus ends with a score of 25% on the Satisfactionometer. Not so great, but we still had a fine time, nonetheless.
A sense of doom and futility swept over the crowd as soon as Russ Ortiz allowed a double to the very first hitter he faced. Oddly, the next Rockie up was trying to bunt, which made no sense at all: if you were facing Pedro Martinez, yes, but Russ Ortiz is not the kind of guy against whom you need to play for one run. [There'll be plenty more along later!] But Ortiz escaped the first inning, thanks to Garrett Atkins, who has hit into four double plays over the past two games.
Tony Clark lets one go past him.
Seen a lot of that this year...
However, while Ortiz had a decent breaking ball, far too many of the outs were very loud ones, and it was simply a matter of time before the Rockies broke through. Hell, even the foul balls were pinging into the upper deck - if you were in the right spot there, you had a shot at half-a-dozen. I suspect some irony was present in the use of Whip It as a tune between innings, which might just have been directed at Ortiz:
Now whip it, into shape
Shape it up, get straight
Go forward, move ahead
Try to detect it
It's not too late
To whip it - whip it good...
Bob Melvin asks Russ, "Who ate all the pies?"
Ortiz was finally pulled with one out in the fifth, having given up eight hits - only one of which was a single - walked two and allowed four earned runs. Pretty much the level of mediocrity we expected from him, and seeing Grimsley following him to the mound felt like Bob Melvin waving the white flag. However, Grimsley did his job, apart from managing to walk the opposing pitcher, and held the Rockies scoreless through the fifth and sixth. He was then replaced by Cruz, who was very, very impressive, hitting 97 mph with his fastball, then dropping an 80 mph breaking ball in there for a strike. He looks like a real pickup.
Meanwhile, we clawed our way back into the game, first on a massive Tracy home-run, and then in the sixth when we finally got to the Rockies starter. The Fogg was lifted (hohoho) after allowing three hits, but we couldn't do anything against the bullpen, and Colorado added an insurance run off Brandon Lyon in the ninth, on doubles which were both down the line, past a diving Chad at third [while his glovework was good, I'm wondering if this perhaps indicates a problem with his positioning?]
Three hits for Tracy - including the homer which went 441 feet, and a 60-foot squib to third - and three for Counsell, but spots 4-8 were a combined 1-for-18 with no walks and five K's. Green was 0-for-4 with two K's, to take his average down to an appalling .111: it took Clark's ninth-inning single, to save his average from dipping below .100. Why Shawn was left in to bat for himself in the ninth inning, with the tying run on base, against a left-handed closer, beats me: the resulting strikeout was as irritating as it was predictable.
The game drew 18,745: better than last night, by just over a hundred, but still the second-smallest attendance in franchise history. Can't say I'm surprised, as our offense contines to slumber the lumber: thanks largely to Ortiz, the Rockies had more extra-base hits than we had hits in total. We didn't show much of the much-lauded patience at the plate, failing to get a single walk. Last year, the 7-8-9 slots were easy outs, but this year, they said, things would be different. And they are: now, it's the 5-6-7-8-9 slots. Witness this shot of the scoreboard at Chase, late in yesterday's game:
The bottom half of that order is hardly going to strike fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers, is it? I know, it's still only nine games: I don't really expect Shawn Green to flirt with half the Mendoza line for the entire season. But if this doesn't get sorted soon, the heroic struggles of the bullpen are going to be entirely pointless, and the enthusiasm of fans here - already, very clearly, skating on thin ice - will end up entirely diverted to more productive outlets.
The National Anthem is best when the "land of the free" is not treated like you are a semi-finalist on American Idol, with an attempt to hit every note in your repertoire during the word "free". Well done to last night's singer for avoiding this pitfall.
I noticed that the attempt to put off opposing hitters by playing cheesy music had rapidly met an early grave. No great loss there.
The wraparound ribbon display boards are kinda cool, when used for baseball-related stuff, like the snake which crawled around them in the 6th, while we staged our comeback. When the entire stadium is ringed in an advert for Truly Nolen, it's less impressive.
Why does everyone who appears on the Jumbotron, wave at the screen, and not the camera?
The new concessions this year include 'Cold Stone Limited'. It's a bit like Cold Stone Creamery, but you don't get to select your mix-ins, and they have only about four flavours. Still very pleasant though.
Most bizarre to hear Gary Glitter's song Rock and Roll still being played, as he is totally persona not grata in Britain. I guess word of his recent issues has not reached Chase Field.
They announced that the first 25,000 people on Saturday would receive a free fridge magnet schedule. "Ooh, best get here early," said Mrs. SnakePit sarcastically. For the first 25,000? They could jack up today's crowd by a third, and still have magnets left over...
They did briefly put the Noise Meter up on the screen, but it never passed three, and was rapidly replaced by something that made the lack of crowd enthusiasm less humiliatingly obvious.
The "Dugout danceoff" is entirely crap, and I speak as a member of the section that won a coupon for a free McGriddle Sandwich (with purchase of a cup of McCoffee).
On the other hand, the Poore Brothers Human Potato Chip Cam - which turns members of the crowd into potato chips, is surreal enough to be, occasionally, very amusing.
It's kinda cool that they play the sound of a lion roaring whenever Brandon Lyon takes the mound. However, they missed an opportunity, by not having the sounds of excuses being mumbled, whenever Russ Ortiz starts...
Tracy taps home-plate after his long bomb.
Gonzo stares at his shoes
[Click to enlarge]
Thanks to Devin, 4 Corners Fan, William K, and andrewinnewyork for keeping the fires burning at home, while I was on the front line. ;-) Heroes and Zeroes for the series will follow, later in the morning. I'm off to bed!