Well, the competition is already a week old but it isn’t until today that we will see the Diamondbacks play at home for the first time this season: it is Home Opening Day.
Feels weird, to not see your team play at home for the first time until after a week, but in Diamondbacks’ history where the team started Opening Day somewhere else, most Home openers were played more or less a week after that.
The shortest span of time between Opening Day and the Home Opener was in 2001, when we started in Los Angeles against the Dodgers on April 3 and started the season in Arizona some days later on April 6 against the Cardinals.
The longest time you fans had to wait to see this lovely team play at home for the first time was in the dreadful 2006 season when Opening Day was on April 2 and 9 days later the first pitch would be thrown at Chase Field.
This year’s season home opener is against the Dodgers again, just like Opening day itself, so that’s pretty shit. That will be the 6th time the Diamondbacks start their season at home against the Dodgers and blue nation shares that honour with the Rockies, who have already been our season home opener opponent 6 times.
That means a team from the NL West will be our opponent for the 17th time. If it is not for the NL West to play us in the home opener, we have always had another team from the NL to visit us except for one year: in 2019 the Boston Red Sox showed up for a non-forgettable experience and a 15-8 win.
Playing at home for the first time in a season means: runs!
The game against the Red Sox in 2019 is the game with most runs (23), a 2011 win against the Reds the game with the biggest positive run differential (9, and a 11-2 win), while that damned game against the Cubs in 2005 was the worst run differential (10, and a 16-6 loss). But an average of 11 to 12 runs per game means guaranteed fun. With 13 wins and 12 losses, it also means that the Diamondbacks are like a box of chocolates because you never know what you’re gonna get.
You want my prediction on this home opener game against the Dodgers? Based on the past games against the Dodgers in a season opener at home, I’d say a narrow loss by 1 run with most likely 10 or 11 runs scored, so probably a 6-5. Let’s hope I am wrong and if we do win, I long for it to be a 6 run differential like in the previous home wins against them (12-6 in 1999 and 9-3 in 2008).
Tough to pitch in the home opener.
At the moment of writing Merrill Kelly lines up for pitching the first game at Chase Field this season. Whomever it may be, if it isn’t Zach Davies, who pitched last season’s home opener, that starter will join 14 other pitchers who have inaugurated the baseball season in Phoenix.
Just three pitchers pitched more than once the first game at home: Randy Johnson (4), Ian Kennedy (2) and Zack Greinke (2).
Randy Johnson’s 2000 and 2002 performances are still the best performances ever of a starter at Chase Field in the home opener. We already mentioned the 2002 shutout and complete game, but in 2000 he got close to a complete game as well, leaving the field with just one out left. Ian Kennedy was also terrific in his two home opener performances, pitching 8 and 7 innings and picking up the wins in those as well. The top 5 is completed by Dan Haren’s 7 innings in 2010, that we already mentioned last week.
On average the starter gives up 4 runs in the home opener and doesn’t make it out of the 5th inning, so being the first one to start at Chase Field is a task that isn’t for the light-hearted. It is a tough task to keep the game close in the home opener: just 3 times in 25 games there was a save, the last one being in 2012 when J.J. Putz was able to shut the door although he gave up a run before doing it. Jose Valverde (2007) and Chad Qualls (2009) were the only other closers to have wrapped up a close game.
Andrew Chafin’s name is inked in gold as well, because he stands alone at the top of relief appearances in the home opener with 5, leaving Brad Ziegler at second place with 3. But seeing Chafin appear isn’t necessarily guarantee for success as he gave up 3 runs in those 5 appearances and if we take a closer look at them we see he was only really successful in just two of them, loogying one batter in 2019 and pitching 2.1 scoreless in 2015.
That 2015 performance is probably the best relief appearance in home opener history, closely followed by Will Harris’ scoreless 2.0 innings in 2014.
The worst outing ever for a reliever goes to Greg Aquino, who gave up 4 runs in 1 inning in 2004, that disgusting loss against the Cubs, and was lucky to not have given up more, because he faced 9 batters in that inning. Other terrible outings are Clint Sodowsky’s and Steven Randolph’s we mentioned last week. If we look purely at runs given up, Caleb Smith’s 5 runs over 3.0 innings in last year’s 2022 belongs to the worst outings ever, although none is as bad as Matt Koch’s (there he is again!) in 2019, when he gave up 7 runs in 2.1 innings. It didn’t hurt that much, because the Diamonbacks had been cruising to a 14-1 lead but he got lifted by Yoan Lopez for the final out in the 9th inning just in case.
Lot to celebrate as a batter!
David Peralta is the batter to have appeared in most home opener games (8), followed closely by Paul Goldschmidt (7). Surprisingly, Goldschmidt wasn’t such a great hitter in home opener games (.250) as others.
A.J. Pollock started quite some games too (5) and was actually one of the best, with a .364 batting average that resulted in 3 runs and 4 RBI. Ketel Marte replicates does numbers in 5 home openers as well, with a .353 and 3 runs and 6 RBI. But they didn’t cross home plate as much as Chris Young, Justin Upton, Paul Goldschmidt and Nick Ahmed, who all scored 6 times. Surprised to see Nick Ahmed, right? Me too, but for some reason Nick always plays great in the first game of the season at Chase Field: his batting average of .412 is one of the best.
Luis Gonzalez’ .421 is one of the best batting averages as well and his 7 total RBI is worth mentioning, although noone mustered as much RBI as Jake Lamb with a 9 RBI total. Justin Upton’s and Gerardo Parra’s .455 batting average at home are impressive and so is Miguel Montero’s .500 but if we look at players who appeared in more than just one home game, no one has been as good as Jarrod Dyson who in 2018 and 2019 batted for a .556 combined.
But just like last week we also mention the worst batters. Chris Owings is amongst them, of course, but he already took a razzie home last week so we don’t need to nominate him again. No, the worst of all batters playing in the first game of the season at home is none other than our current first baseman Christian Walker. In 13 plate appearances he was able to get just 1 hit, which amounts to a miserable 0.077. Time to step up this Thursday against the Dodgers, Christian!