Record: 1-0 - Pace: 162-0 [!] - Change on last season: 0
On the basis of this game, it looks like 2008 is going to be just like 2007, with Arizona winning games on a basis of brilliant pitching, defensive solidity and just enough runs to frustrate the opposition. Brandon Webb and three of the New Relievers of the Apocalypse combined to three-hit the Reds, while Chris Young, Eric Byrnes and Jeff Salazar all went deep for Arizona. While it may not have been the longest bomb of the day - that'd be Young's upper-deck blast - it took Salazar precisely one 2008 plate-appearance to match his home-run tally for all of 2007, swatting a pinch-hit homer in the top of the seventh, which gave us a very welcome insurance run. Jeff is now on pace to hit 162 homers this season. I love early-season projections. :-)
Brandon Webb was his regal self, despite the odd control issue which saw him issue more walks than hits in his six innings of work. His change-up was particularly impressive, and responsible for five of his six strikeouts, including a pair of particularly-impressive K's of Ken Griffey Jr. Webb also used his curve-ball effectively, and that was enough on a day when he sometimes struggled to find the zone with his trademark sinker. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter after having thrown 91 pitches. That's in line with his first outings of the previous couple of years, which ran 96 and 98 pitches. No point in overexerting him in Game #1.
Equally good was the bullpen: first Qualls - we're still working on an appropriately apocalyptic name for him - then Peña and Lyon, combined to throw a trio of hitless innings, with no walks either, and the only base-runner a hit batter by Qualls. I was particularly impressed by (and, truth be told, somewhat relieved to see) Lyon's outing. It looked a bit flaky, as he fell behind Adam Dunn 3-1, but he came back to get him with a venomous bit of high heat, then nailed Encarnacion by getting him to flail at a beautiful curve. Hatteberg popped up, and Lyon had nailed down the save with a 1-2-3 ninth. That will go a long way to settling nerves caused by his poor spring and the departure of Jose Valverde - Papa Grande only had one perfect outing in our first 22 games last year.
On offense, this remained a generally underwhelming part of our game, as we managed only five hits, with Aaron Harang doing a fine job of tying up our bats with his off-speed pitches. His fast balls, on the other hand... Young and Byrnes went deep in the third, and the only other hit that we got off him, was Jackson's RBI single in the first, that drove in Hudson. He'd reached on an error, and went to second on a wild pitch, so it was good to see the D-backs making the most of the chances offered by the opposing pitcher. Jackson and the promoted Snyder, hitting in the 5-spot, reached twice, each getting a hit and a walk. However, our young trio of Young, Reynolds and Upton struggled, going a combined 1-for-12 with 7 K's.
The defense also deserves credit for an almost-flawless performance, the only mistake probably being Young misplay of a ball that skidded past him on the wet outfield grass, all the way to the wall for a triple that drove in the Reds' first run, and set the table for the second, making it a 3-2 game. Apart from that, the defense was solid, with Reynolds making an early highlight-reel play, a bare-handed grab and throw on an infield squibber, and Orlando Hudson's play at second was, frankly, brilliant. He vacuumed down a pop-up in shallow right-center that would have left Young dead in the water, and also made a brilliant diving stop and throw on a ground-ball by Griffey. His best play was not rewarded by an out, but his effort on a ball up the middle off Harang's bat, which he stopped and threw to first from shallow left-field, was astonishing.
The start of the game was delayed almost an hour by rain - having taken the day off work, I would have been royally peeved had the game then been postponed, and I heaved a sigh as we reached the last out of the fifth, and the game finally became official. It was a solid way to start the season, putting to rest any concerns about Webb and Lyon caused by their spring form, and proved a good way to mark the 10th anniversary of the franchise's first-ever game. With a somewhat happier ending than that game, it has to be said!
[click to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Brandon Webb, +17.9%
[Honorary mention, Jeff Salazar: +13.9%]
God-Emperor of suck: Mark Reynolds, -7.3%
This was the first full test of the Gameday Threads on v2.0, and the result was a stunning 672 comments, setting a new record for a regular season-game. The new platform largely kicks ass, though it experienced slowdown and some timeouts towards the end - though, by most accounts, we escaped the worst of the effects, which were seen on sites like Bleed Cubbie Blue. We will be launching new overspill Gameday Threads if we hit 500 comments, to try and alleviate this problem: it also, curiously, seems to work better if you preview and then post, rather than just hitting post.
Thanks to all those who took part today, whether they took the day off, were commenting from work or just popping in. Participating today were seton hall snake pit, unnamedDBacksfan, TwinnerA, Wactivist, hotclaws, dstorm, kishi, 4 Corners Fan, Azreous, foulpole, LucaMaz3, Craig from Az [welcome!], visiting fan Fat Vegas Alan, Wimb, Mr. Philosophical, mikeb, snakecharmer, leemellon, Stile4aly, Huxtable Reunion [welcome!], bcloirao, DiamondbacksWIn, ncdbackfan, soco, Muu and azshadowwalker. I'd like to thank unnamedDBacksfan, in particular, for introducing me to the hell which is the band Ozone and their song, Dragostea Din Tei. YouTube is your friend. Just don't expect to close your eyes, for catchy Rumanian Europop will keep you going all night.
Always fun to spend the entire day watching and following baseball: going back to work tomorrow is gonna suck! My personal highlight was seeing the Cubs score three runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game, then lose it in the tenth - the winning run was scored by Craig Counsell, so even when they leave us, our players are still Cub killers. The Mets behind Santana rolled over the Marlins, and the Braves scored five in the bottom of the ninth to tie it, but still lost to Pittsburgh in 12 innings.
In the NL West, the Giants are what we thought they were - sucky - and the Rockies were very lucky to escape with a weather-beating, their game being called off before becoming official, with Colorado in a 5-1 hole. Their incredible luck from the end of the 2007 season, is clearly carrying forward to 2008... Penny and the Dodgers shut out the Giants on five hits, and Peavy and the Padres are three-hitting the Astros. Not really any surprises there. Peavy, however, had two RBIs, and has had a better night at the plate than Scott Hairston, 0-for-4 with 2 K's.
A very satisfactory day, all told. Kinda weird having an off-day already, but at least we can enjoy it from a winning perspective, which makes any day better!