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AZ 8, Rockies 6 - The Undefeated

Record: 1-0. Change on last season: +1

Quote of the day: "The first inning, I think I started off on the wrong foot, almost 40 pitches, and I was just kind of getting out of my rhythm. I was rushing things and just wasn't throwing strikes. I was probably excited and was wanting to get the ball there before I was ready to get the ball there, and so, mechanically, probably wasn't very sound." -- Brandon Webb

I want to start of by thanking everyone who showed up for the Gameday Thread. 177 comments is an incredible turnout: that's more than three times what we managed for Opening Day last year, against the same opponents - and I was responsible for a good chunk of those! [Today, I was mostly occupied working out what was the smallest application I could use to monitor the score: the top-left corner of Yahoo's Gameday window proved the winner] Let's namecheck all those who were present: Ben, AZDarkKnight, unnamedDBacksfan, DiamondbacksWIn, VIII, npineda, trevjohnson, andrewinnewyork, MisterTinDC, dahlian, Zephon, icecoldmo and suitsmetoATnT. Though, dammit, Purple Row managed 226, so try harder tomorrow, folks. :-)

Probably helped that today's game wasn't easy and uneventful, to say the least: we blew two leads, and a third looked decidedly wobbly over the last two frames. It certainly wasn't pretty. Nor was it quite the expected, or at least, hoped-for dominating pitching performance from our Cy Young winner. However, it still goes into the books as the Diamondbacks' first Opening Day victory since 2002. As such, it's certainly welcome, and far better than some recent first results I might mention: the 16-6 loss to the Cubs from a couple of years back comes immediately to mind.

It's perhaps worth mentioning that Opening Day results since 2001 have turned out to be a perfect predictor of the D-backs' season as a whole: win, and we go to the playoffs; lose, and we stay home in October. You heard that here first, folks. And it's probably too early to be sure, but it certainly looks like Coors Field has returned to its ways of old, the teams combining for fourteen runs and twenty-three hits. That's significantly more than last year, when the average contest we played in Denver resulted in only nine runs per game [if we count the 18-innings affair as two, which seems fair!].

The tone was set from the top of the opening inning, as our first three batters all got hits, and we looked set for a big start, with one man already in, and runners in the corners with no outs. However, Tracy popped up, Hairston struck out, and though Jackson walked, Young could do nothing either. That brought back unpleasant memories of some stretches last year, when it seemed we couldn't buy a hit with runners in scoring position.

And the inefficiency came right back to bite us, thanks to Webb's uncharacteristic wildness, as he walked the bases loaded with one out: he almost escaped, with the help of a strikeout to Holliday, but Hawpe slapped a single through the infield to right, and the Rockies were ahead. Both sides went down in order in the second; Arizona jumped on top in the third. As in the first, Tracy came up with runners on the corners and no outs - this time he singled, and a Jackson RBI groundout made it 3-2 to Arizona.

We plated two more in the fourth: Tracy was walked with two out to get to Hairston, and Scott made them pay for this insolence, doubling home both runners. However, the Rockies hit back with three runs on four hits in the bottom of the innings, to tie the game at five. After a scoreless fifth, Webb was relieved by Medders, who promptly gave the Rockies the lead again, on a leadoff homer by pinch-hitter Baker: Young had it, but his glove and the ball both ended up over the fence. And that remained the score until the eighth.

Young and pinch-hitter Callaspo singled to open the top-half for Arizona, putting runners on the corners with no-one out for the third time [is this a symptom of the aggressive base-running?] Clark flew out, but a smart, heads-up play by Callaspo saw him advance to second. Drew was intentionally walked to get to Byrnes - but that tactic worked about as well as it did with Hairston, and Eric promptly singled home two runs. A sacrifice fly by Hudson doubled the lead, with the score now 8-6 to the Diamondbacks.

Lyon pitched the eighth, and an ugly error by Drew, then a walk, put the tying run on base with no outs. However, Lyon got a key strikeout of Taveras, after two failed bunt attempts, and though a Matsui groundout advanced both runners, Atkins lined out to end the threat and leave Helton in the on-deck circle. He doubled off Valverde to start the ninth, but then Papa Grande bore down, fanning Holliday, Hawpe and Tulowitzki in order, to get the save. Cruz vultured up the win for his one batter of work - a particular delight, since he's on my Fantasy Team...

Melvin's reliance on Hudson and Tracy in the 3+4 spots proved a mixed bag: Hudson did go 3-for-4 with 2 RBI, but Tracy only managed one single in his four at-bats. Byrnes was 3-for-5, and Drew, batting leadoff, had a hit and a walk. All told, the top three were 7-for-13, with five runs scored and four RBI, so that seemed to work out okay. And a special note of thanks to our bullpen. After Medders' home-run to the first batter in the sixth, our relievers allowed just two hits and a walk over four innings the rest of the way - and nine of the twelve hitters were retired by strikeout.

All told, this was...a win. The hitting seems as good as advertised, and when you look at the lineup, it's hard to point your finger at a spot and say, "Easy out." Webb settled down after the opening inning - I have to say, the Rockies' line-up is going to score runs against a few good pitchers this year. And at least Webb was far from being alone in his lacklustreness. Indeed, all told, this was not a good Opening Day for superstar pitchers. Here are a few lines from expected stud arms in their first outings:

  • Brandon Webb: 5 IP, 8 H, 3 BB, 5 ER, ND
  • Carlos Zambrano: 5 IP, 6 H, 5 BB, 5 ER, L
  • Chris Carpenter: 6 IP, 9 H, 1 BB, 5 ER, L
  • Derek Lowe: 4 IP, 8 H, 5 BB, 5 ER, L
    And things are no better in the American League
  • Curt Schilling: 4 IP, 8 H, 2 BB, 5 ER, L
  • Johan Santana: 6 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 4 ER, W
  • Jose Contreras: 1 IP, 7 H, 1 BB, 7 ER, L
  • Carl Pavano: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 4 ER, ND

Bit of a mixed bag for the former Diamondbacks today. Vizcaino got the victory for the Yankees, but in the Brewers-Dodgers game, which pitted Estrada against Gonzalez, J-Strada came out clearly ahead of Gonzo. Our former catcher went 2-for-3 and scored twice, while our former left-fielder went 0-for-3. Worse yet, Milwaukee "broke open the game in the fourth thanks in part to a misplayed fly ball by Gonzalez. Geoff Jenkins then hit a high fly ball that Gonzalez lost track of near the wall. The ball bounced near the warning track, allowing Prince Fielder and Estrada to score and make it 6-1... Gonzalez said the window panels in Miller Park's roof can make fly balls an adventure during day games." Welcome to the delight which is Gonzalez in left, Dodger fans!

But today is about Arizona, winning its Opening game for the first time in my blogging career. As a result, we sit, lofty and alone, atop the National League West, as the only team in the division with a W to their name. Of course, that won't last [not least because the Padres and Giants face off tomorrow], but for the moment, all is about as damn-near perfect as one could ever hope for.