A funny thing happened this afternoon during the Arizona Diamondbacks' first home regular season opener since 2005. A college baseball-like game in terms of offensive firepower and unpredictability broke out. (All that was missing were those annoying aluminum pings.)
The storyline at Chase Field included the Colorado Rockies, the D-Backs opponent, knocking 2006 Cy Young Award-winning ace Brandon Webb out of the game after just four innings; eight combined home runs; a leadoff hitter, making his Arizona debut, connecting on two opposite-field long balls; and a result that was in doubt until moments after the seventh-inning stretch when Chad Tracy (starting for Mark Reynolds) hit his first homer of the season -- and the team's fifth of the game -- to give Arizona a 9-8 lead they would not relinquish.
With 48,799 (including Muhammad Ali) in the sold-out, closed-roofed crib, Arizona (now 1-0) started the 2009 campaign as fast as a team can hope, thanks to newly acquired infielder Felipe Lopez, who led off the bottom of the first with a jack to right-center field off of Rockies' starter Aaron Cook. An RBI double by Tracy in the second made the score 2-0.
The lead didn't hold up for long, because of a tight strike zone that Webb -- who sports an 18-2 record in March and April regular season starts -- struggled with through his four innings of work. A 22-game winner a year ago, Webb ran into serious trouble in the third when Brad Hawpe's bases-clearing, three-RBI double gave Colorado (now 0-1) a 4-2 lead. (Overall, eight Rockies came to bat that inning.)
But in the bottom half of the third, Tracy brought home Chris Young with a no-out, RBI single. Following Eric Byrnes' short-ish sacrifice fly to center field that was good enough to score Stephen Drew, Tony Clark's two-run job to right center made the tally 6-4, and chased Cook in the process.
Troy Tulowitzki connected on Webb's first offering of the fourth to cut Colorado's deficit to one. The next hitter, Chris Iannetta, knotted the score at six -- and basically ended Webb's afternoon -- when he jacked another one out of the park.
In the bottom of the fourth, Lopez homered for the second time, giving Arizona a short-lived 7-6 lead, while Clark's second dong surged the D-Backs ahead 8-7 in the fifth. (The switch-hitting Lopez and Clark each homered from both sides of the plate, the first time that two teammates had accomplished that feat since 2000, when Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada did it in Yankee pinstripes.)
Seth Smith's long ball in the top of the seventh off of 10-year veteran reliever Scott Schoeneweis, making his first appearance in white and Sedona red, would tie it in the top of the seventh before Tracy's game-winner off of Jason Grilli (0-1).
Tony Pena (1-0) claimed the win thanks to 1.1 innings of goose eggs. Chad Qualls pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning -- retiring tough-as-nails Todd Helton to notch his first save of the season -- and, thus, sending D-Backs' fans back to their vehicles and the light rail very jazzed about the new season.
The D-Backs and Rockies square off at 6:40 Tuesday night for the second matchup of a three-game series at Chase Field. Scheduled starters are Dan Haren of Arizona and Ubaldo Jimenez of Colorado. See www.dbacks.com.
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