We're 1-0! Matt Holliday, who was identified in a Baseball Prospectus 2005 study as one of the best baserunners in baseball, went from first to third on a Jason Smith pinch-hit single in the 11th, then aggressively took home on Brad Hawpe's grounder to win the game for Colorado. Brian Fuentes faced four hitters and struck out three of them. Ray King, Mike DeJean, and Jose Mesa all predictably got themselves into jams, but surprisingly, got out of them (Mesa allowed an unearned run on a Todd Helton throwing error). Jason Jennings matched Brandon Webb's seven innings with one run allowed, and struck out an uncharacteristic six hitters while walking only one. Longtime readers of mine may remember that I obsessively tracked the Rockies' team walk totals versus their opponents' last year, and I am pleased to say that in this game Colorado "won" that category, 3-2.
Baseball is much beloved for its unpredictable nature. Who foresaw Scott Podsednik's inexplicable 2005 postseason power surge, or the out-of-nowhere run of the 2003 Marlins? But then again, there are some things in baseball as reliably predictable as San Diego weather. When Todd Helton came up to bat in the eighth against Terry Mulholland with a runner on, an inning after Helton's rare fielding gaffe gave Arizona the lead, the probability of Helton's clubbing a game-tying double was very near 100% (not exactly 100% only allowing for the possibility of Todd's hitting a game-winning homer). Likewise, when Jason Grimsley entered the game for the Diamondbacks after Mike DeJean successfully manuevered around some trouble in the top of the 11th, it seemed a foregone conclusion (at least to me) that the game wasn't going to last into the 12th. The Rockies bullpen beat the D-Backs bullpen, and that warms my heart. I'm not sure what exactly it was I did to offend the baseball gods to deserve having Jose Mesa pitching high-leverage innings for my favorite team, but I certainly can't complain about the end result.
I'd forgotten since last Opening Day how much of a nightmare parking around Coors Field is when people actually come to the games. Maybe it's selfish of me, but from a personal convenience standpoint things would (will) be much smoother if (when) the park goes back to its more customary half-empty state. In order to avoid paying $20 to park in a lot that's usually four bucks, I ended up walking about two miles through scenic east Denver. Consequently, I didn't get into the park until the fourth inning, but I did manage to psyche the scalper outside into giving me my upper deck (three rows above the purple) seat for face. Nothing scares a scalper more than the back of a guy looking for a single ticket in the fourth inning. Happily, I arrived just in time to see the Rockies score their first run of the year, on a single by none other than Jason Jennings.
Which brings me to the critical part of my game recap. Webb in his seven innings allowed eight baserunners, five hits and three walks. Helton, Brad Hawpe, and Luis Gonzalez were the recipients of the bases on balls. Holliday, Jennings, Hawpe (twice), and Cory Sullivan had the hits. So six of the eight guys who reached against the D-Backs' ace were lefthanders. (Jennings hits lefty.) Webb's platoon splits are a matter of public record. I belive I made reference to them just last night when I was typing up my series preview. So why, then, when it came time to pinch hit for Jennings in the seventh with a runner in scoring position, did Clint Hurdle send up righthander Eli Marrero to face Webb with lefty Jason Smith eminently available? You owe me two innings, Clint.
Danny Ardoin gunned down Craig Counsell trying to steal while I was fighting through traffic. Brad Hawpe (2 for 4 with a walk, plus the game-winning RBI) was the offensive star. If Cory Sullivan is going to stick hitting leadoff, he needs to take some more pitches. The Rockies outfielders as a group had a terrific game holding Arizona runners. Sullivan nailed the cutoff man with one out and a runner on third in the eighth. Hawpe held a pinch runner at second after a fly in the ninth. The man of the match, however, had to be Jason Jennings. The member of the Rockies' front three whom I am the least sold on outpitched Arizona's #1 guy and should have come away with the win if not for Hurdle's weird Marrero decision.
I savor Coors Field pitching duels, as rare as they are. That said, I'd like to see the Rockies put the hurt on Orlando Hernandez in game two and save me further Mesa-induced heartburn. One more thing: people who go to Rockies games, quit wasting so much food. Some of us are very poor and can't afford ballpark food or parking within a two-mile perimeter of the stadium. It's in very bad taste to buy six-dollar Cokes and eight-dollar hamburgers and leave them unconsumed all around a poor journalist who walked a long way to get to the game and has a long walk and a considerable drive ahead of him before he reaches the spicy buffalo wings in his freezer. Sigh. Trouble is, Opening Day isn't really for the hardcore. If there weren't 80 games left, I guess I would be more agitated about it.