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Opening Day for Arizona: a look back

The Reds and Diamondbacks line up for the National Anthem before the opening-day game on April 9, 2007 at Chase Field.
The Reds and Diamondbacks line up for the National Anthem before the opening-day game on April 9, 2007 at Chase Field.

When Dan Haren takes the mound on April 5th at Chase Field, he'll become the fifth Opening Day starter in franchise history, following in the footsteps of Andy Benes, Randy Johnson, Javier Vazquez and Brandon Webb. The Diamondbacks are 6-6 in Opening Day games, and our starters are 4-4 over that time with an ERA of 4.60. However, they have only one victory to their credit in the past seven attempts.

This will be the second time we've started off the season by playing the Padres - we've played the Dodgers three times, and are most familiar with the Rockies, opponents on five occasions. We have never faced the Giants on Opening Day at all; we've gone outside our division twice, beating the Phillies in 2000, but losing (horribly) to the Cubs in 2005. We've never been able to win by more than two runs in our first game, but have been on the receiving end of several blowouts, losing by 7+ runs three times.

After the jump, we'll go back through the history of Opening Day for Arizona, year-by-year.

Links for the date go to the box-score for the game
AZ starter Date Opp Rslt Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit Str GSc
Andy Benes 1998-03-31 COL L 2-9 L 6.1 9 5 5 1 1 1 104 64 35
Randy Johnson 1999-04-05 LAD L 6-8 ND 7.0 5 2 2 6 9 1 125 68 62
Randy Johnson 2000-04-04 PHI W 6-4 W 8.2 4 3 2 2 10 2 133 86 74
Randy Johnson 2001-04-03 LAD W 3-2 W 7.0 4 2 2 4 10 0 123 79 67
Randy Johnson 2002-04-01 SDP W 2-0 W 9.0 6 0 0 1 8 0 130 91 82
Randy Johnson 2003-03-31 LAD L 0-8 L 6.2 9 5 3 2 5 1 99 68 43
Randy Johnson 2004-04-06 COL L 2-6 L 6.0 6 3 3 3 6 1 114 76 51
Javier Vazquez 2005-04-04 CHC L 6-16 L 1.2 10 7 7 0 2 0 42 30 9
Brandon Webb 2006-04-03 COL L 2-3 ND 7.0 5 1 1 2 2 0 98 66 63
Brandon Webb 2007-04-02 COL W 8-6 ND 5.0 8 5 5 3 5 0 96 62 33
Brandon Webb 2008-03-31 CIN W 4-2 W 6.0 3 2 2 4 6 0 90 56 60
Brandon Webb 2009-04-06 COL W 9-8 ND
4.0 6 6 6 2 2 2 77 42 26

 

1998. Andy Benes got the privilege of the inaugural start in Diamondbacks history, with a million flashbulbs popping as he threw the first pitch to Mike Lansing of the Colorado Rockies. Though Travis Lee got the first hit, run and home-run in franchise history that night, producing half of Arizona's six hits, the visitors scored five runs in the seventh off Benes and Clint Sodowsky, to put the game away and win it for Darryl Kile.  It would take the Diamondbacks five more attempts to get a W.

1999. Randy Johnson made 14 Opening Day starts, a number beaten in recent history only by Tom Seaver's 16. Six of those were for Arizona, and this was the first [Trivia question: which AZ reliever has seen most Opening Day action for us?]. However, in what would become a theme, the bullpen blew it for him: he had a 6-2 lead when he left the game after seven solid innings, but a three-run homer with two outs in the ninth off Gregg Olson allowed LA to tie it, and they won in eleven innings.

2000. Finally, the Diamondbacks won on Opening Day. Damian Miller hit a three-run shot in the second inning, and Johnson came within one out of a complete game. He must have been feeling deja-vu, as Johnson left  again with a 6-2 lead, but Russ Springer and Dan Plesac failed to retire the next three batters - a walk and two hits put the tying run on base. However, Darren Holmes got Doug Glanville to line out to 3B Lenny Harris and preserve our first victory. Steve Finley went 4-for-4 with a homer.

2001. Arizona should probably have won by more, outhitting LA 12-5, but went only 2-for-12 with men in scoring position. Every starter bar Johnson had a hit, with Luis Gonzalez delivering the key blow, a two-run homer in the seventh which scored him and Mark Grace. That turned a 2-1 Dodgers' lead into a one-run advantage for Arizona. Byung-Hyun Kim and Matt Mantei posted zeroes in the eighth and ninth inning after the Big Unit left the game, and Miller gunned down two LA base-stealers.

2002. There have been only two Opening Day complete-game shutouts pitched in the National League since 1993, and the Diamondbacks were involved in both. This time, they came out ahead, Johnson out-dueling Kevin Jarvis and producing the best performance by a D-backs starter on opening day, throwing a six-hitter. That was one more hit than Arizona managed, but an RBI double from Danny Bautista and a Mark Grace solo blast was enough to give the home team victory.

2003. However, the boot was on the other foot the next year, as the Dodgers came town and blanked the D-backs, with Hideo Nomo pitching a four-hitter. Johnson didn't pitch badly: he still delivered a quality start, but two unearned runs and Stephen Randolph retiring one of five batters faced helped to pad the final margin and turn the game into a Los Angeles laugher. Luis Gonzalez was the only man to solve Nomo, getting two hits; Tony Womack and Matt Williams had the others.

2004. Randy delivered a quality start, but it was well short of enough on a day when the offense was held to three hits by Shawn Estes, who threw seven innings of two-hit ball, and the Rockies bullpen. Gonzalez did homer twise, in the first and last innings of the contest, but a two-run shot by Colorado catcher Charles Johnson gave them the lead in the fourth. Jose Vaverde padded the margin of Rockies victory, giving up three runs on four hits and a walk in the ninth inning.

2005. Worst. Opening Day. Ever. Not quite the way you want to rebound, coming off a 111-loss season. Javier Vasquez blew chunks and was gone before getting through two innings. We were 7-0 down by the middle of the second, and our pitching staff allowed 23 hits - only once in franchise history has that number been surpassed (and there, we had Grace pitching...). It was the most on Opening Day by any NL team in at least the past fifty years. And against the Cubs, too.

2006. Webb's first start on Opening Day proved unsuccessful, though he was left with a no-decision, as it took Colorado extra innings to put away Arizona at Coors. We struck first, with an RBI single by Conor Jackson in the opening frame, but opposing starter Jason Jennings helped his own cause, tying the game up in the sixth. The teams traded runs in the eighth, but AZ wasted a good chance in the ninth, failing to score after leadoff hits by Sean Green and Johnny Estrada. Jason Grimsley took the loss in the eleventh.

2007. The current streak of victories started in 2007, with this back-and-forth contest in which each team lost two leads. Webb faced Aaron Cook - not for the last time, and not for the last time were both ineffective, the staff aces combining to allow ten earned runs on 17 hits and seven walks over 11 innings. Orlando Hudson and Eric Byrnes each had three hits, and combined to drive in three runs during the Diamondbacks' eight. After a Todd Helton double, Jose Valverde struck out the Rockies in the ninth.

2008. Webb finally picked up a victory, becoming the only Diamondbacks starter since 2002 to get a W beside his name on Opening Day. He and three relievers - Chad Qualls, Tony Peña and Brandon Lyon - combined to three-hit the Reds, with the bullpen holding Cincinnati hitless over the final three frames. Chris Young, Jeff Salazar and Byrnes each had home-runs, while Jackson also drove in a run in the first. Both Webb and Reds' starter Harang went six innings, allowed three hits and two earned runs, striking out six.

2009. If you look up "Pyhrric victory" in the dictionary, you'll probably see some pictures from this game. For, while Arizona were victorious, it was the only time we'd see Brandon Webb take the mound. He left after just four innings of ineffectual baseball, but fortunately, Cook was just as bad. It was 7-6 when Webb left, and we blew four leads before hanging on to the fifth. Tony Clark and Felipe Lopez both homered twice, once from each side of the plate and Chad Tracy's 7th-inning shot provided the margin of victory.

[Trivia answer: Brandon Lyon is the reliever with most Opening Day appearances for the D-backs. appearing three times from 2006-08]