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Diamondbacks 6, Giants 7: And They're Off!

First pitch by Joe Saunders this afternoon at Scottsdale Stadium. I cropped it so you couldn't see the unsightly logo on the grass just behind home-plate. [Pic courtesy of the Arizona Diamondbacks]
First pitch by Joe Saunders this afternoon at Scottsdale Stadium. I cropped it so you couldn't see the unsightly logo on the grass just behind home-plate. [Pic courtesy of the Arizona Diamondbacks]

The 2011 Cactus League season officially got under way at Scottsdale Stadium this afternoon, with the Giants just coming out ahead, in a game which say 38 position players used - 18 by Arizona, 20 by the San Francisco - as well as eight pitchers on each side. Ah, spring training: it's just like little league, in that everyone gets into the game, nobody cares at all about the final score, and both sides go off for dinner at Chuck E. Cheese afterward.

Okay, I may be exaggerating that a little. Nobody cares very much about the final score. Details of this afternoon's opener after the jump

If today was any kind of indicator - and it probably isn't - of what to expect from "The Diamondbacks Way" in 2011, it doesn't seem to be very much different from The Diamondbacks Way in 2010. Particular points of familiarity from this afternoon's contest: our bullpen's struggles with inherited runners (a total of three, all of which came around to score), too many walks (five, just one less than the number of strikeouts by Arizona pitchers this afternoon), and sloppiness on the base-paths, with Justin Upton getting picked off first-base. Might as well hang a sign on the locker-room door, saying "No entry: work in progress."

And it started so well, too. The Diamondbacks had their hitting shoes on early. and used them to administer a good kicking to Timmeh, greeting him with four consecutive hits top open the game. That included a nice hit and run executed by Melvin Mora and Willie Bloomquist respectively, which set Justin Upton up for an RBI single. Miguel Montero immediately followed up with a repeat performance, and a Brandon Allen sacrifice fly completed the scoring for the Diamondbacks. Joe Saunders delivered a 1-2-3 bottom half of the inning, and with Lincecum yanked before completing his second frame, things could only really go downhill for us from there.

Unfortunately, that was exactly what they did. For the Giants then got to Saunders, in much the same way as we had got to Lincecum, opening up their half of the second by going single, single, RBI double, RBI sac fly, RBI double, and the lead was gone, never to return. Saunders, too, failed to get through his allotted two frames, and his replacement Yunata 'Empire State' Ortega proved little better, giving up a walk and a pair of RBI singles before finally getting the third out of the inning. A 3-0 lead had suddenly turned into a 5-3 deficit.

We should have tied the game back up, however, Xavier Nady's Tommy John'd elbow apparently not stopping him from cranking the first Diamondbacks home-run of 2011 into right-field. [According to eye-witnesses, you could hear a Bionic Man sound during the swing...] That should have been a two-run shot, with Justin Upton on first, after getting his second hit with a lead-off single. Unfortunately, Upton was no longer there, having been picked off and caught stealing second base. Cynics may suggest that we should have spent more time working on recognizing pick-off moves, rather than just throwing them.

The much-heralded debut of Wade Miley followed for Arizona in the third, which went well enough, getting two ground-balls and a K around a walk. However, more wildness proved more serious in the fourth, as he walked two more batters, both of whom came around to score after Miley had been replaced by Zach Kroenke. A typically-quirky spring training line resulted for Wade: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 2 ER. But walking three of the seven batters he faced is not going to endear his to Kevin Towers or Kirk Gibson, and Miley's chances of a dark horse run to the rotation certainly took a step closer to the glue-factory this afternoon.

Highlights the rest of the way? Hitless innings by our two new bullpen guys, David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio, though each allowed a free base-runner, with a walk and a hit batter respectively. And Esmerling Vasquez and Rafael Rodriguez each pitched perfect frames, though by that stage you couldn't tell the players for the Giants, even with a score-card. A late exception was former D-back Casey 'Mr. Jennie Finch' Daigle, who came in with a three-run lead for San Francisco. And left with the tying run on third-base, as Arizona made a game of it, thanks to RBI from Ryan Roberts and Matt Davidson.

All told, probably what you'd expect, though I'd have expected a bigger crowd than the 9,500 who showed up at Scottsdale Stadium. After all, I thought these were the W*rld Ch*mp**n Giants? First Friday of the 2010 Cactus League, they drew almost 8,300 at the same venue, and that was against the Rockies, f''heavens sake.. The "special pitch" Joe Saunders is working on adding to his repertoire turns out to be a cut fastball, and he delivered three of them to the Giants today. He said afterward, "I didn't throw any of them for strikes, but they had some decent movement, so it's a work in progress."

Thanks to those who showed up for the opening baseball GDT of 2011 [I suppose we had the Super Bowl one]. Clefo, snakecharmer and blue bulldog were out top three performers, but also present were dbacks25, justin1985, myself, Bryan J. Boltik, kishi, jinnah, emilylovesthedbacks, Wactivist, longshorts, Counsellmember, BattleMoses, IHateSouthBend, pygalgia, 4 Corners Fan, Baseballdad, Jargamus Prime, Baja F1, hotclaws, Wimb and Prosopis. We'll be running another one tomorrow, since the game is on TV, though I know some of those listed will actually be in attendance.