TOP OF THE THIRD: 1-0 Diamondbacks
It’s Zack Greinke’s first start as a Diamondback, the crown jewel of the offseason’s top free agent sweepstakes, where he shows off the team’s newest revelation in design—uniforms that look more like team Globo Gym from “Dodgeball” than those of a proper major league club. And his golden locks are gone! Bad omen for Zack Samson Greinke.
Brief intermission from the baseball, as this is worth dissecting (ridiculing):
So they’ve got this red-purple gradient print occupying the shoulder area, and the same bevelled snakeskin pattern creeping around the ankles, beneath a half-finished stripe on the pants running to an awkward stop halfway up the leg.
Looks a bit like either a bee-keeper outfit or cricket uniform, with this white-one-white, no stripes thing going on.
And perched on the shoulder patch is the disturbed-looking head of a diamondback snake ingesting (apparently) a whole baseball, which suggests that…this team will…eat…the baseball better than the other team? Or that they’ll inject their venom into the baseball?
This team has only been in existence for about two decades, but wins for the most unnecessarily frequent design changes in any major-sport team I’ve seen. There’s the turquoise and purple of the 2001 championship team, then the burnt red of the Eric Byrnes / Brandon Webb era, and now, according to Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, who threw out the first pitch and is chatting in the broadcast booth, this latest number that is, “a fashion-forward look— it’s hot, you don’t see kids yet wearing it to school, if they get off to a fast start, it’ll start getting hot.”
Plus or minus two years before they change up the uniform design again.
Back to the game.
In this third inning, I quickly realize it’s like one of those disaster movies, the fans unknowingly stuck in a momentary eye of the storm, with consecutive losing seasons on both sides but a brief ray of hope in the middle, with the surprise signing of Greinke this offseason and an optimistic home opener.
Enter the Colorado Rockies (the storm), with D.J. Khaled LeMahieu up first in the inning.
I look away from the game for a minute (the UNC/Nova game took precedence), and then on my MLB Gameday feed, I see a something like a baseball sasquatch, a sequence so improbable with Greinke on the mound that it must be imaginary: Single, single, double, home run, home run, and then,“Game Advisory: Coaching visit to the mound.”
I roll back the tape. LeMahieu starts it off with a hard liner to right. Then the pitcher, Jorge de la Rosa, hits a ground-ball single, and Charlie Blackmon doubles on another hard-hit ball to center. All tied up, 1-1.
Then, 23-year-old rookie shortstop Trevor “what a great” Story comes up to bat, in his first MLB game.
Opposite-field HR to right. 4-1 Rockies. Wow. Bob Brenly chimes in on the broadcast: “This young man may make the rockies forget about Tulowitzki in a hurry!”
Then Carlos Gonzalez, the team’s more venerable, established slugger, comes up to bat.
“And it’s in the pool!” says Steve Berthiaume. “Back-to-back home runs and it’s 5-1 Colorado.”
Greinke, alone on the mound, suddenly wishes he were back in L.A., back at home, back somewhere far far away from the disaster that is Opening Day at Chase Field.
Then Gerardo Parra doubles, another crushed baseball.
Throughout this hits barrage, the crowd audio set up by Fox Sports Arizona seems to be situated immediately under the chins of two rowdy fans—home or away i’m not sure—screaming “Oooh!! Oohh!!!!” the second each player’s bat makes contact.
When Parra was up, he hit a sharp foul ball down the line, and I get this sharp, almost unintelligible ring in my ear: “eyyyyy look out!!” At some point in the later innings, they seem to pipe down (or get muted by a producer).
Back on the field, Nick Hundley walks, and Greinke somehow manages to record two outs.
Then D.J. Jazzy Jeff Lemahieu comes back up, batting around the order, and singles home Parra, continuing the strange trend of the Rockies starting off strong every April, only to shed the disguise by May and return to lowly (but loveable) Denver summer entertainment.
With the next batter up, Greinke, at long last, strikes out De La Rosa, his pitching rival for the day, and strides sadly back into the dugout, his opportunity to wow the Phoenix fans for the first time—from the more favorable side of an N.L. West score sheet—dropped from the day’s menu, the on-field equivalent of some fan, well, defecating in the hot tub pool out in right-center field.
This looks like Arizona G.M. Dave Stewart‘s nightmare scenario, likely having had proud, self-congratulating dreams all offseason after signing Greinke, with heavenly one-liners from announcers saying, “…And after 10 games, it’s the Diamondbacks in first place, Greinke no runs allowed over three starts, the Dodgers and Giants winless!”
And this game until the third inning had actually been great for Greinke—he recorded two near-perfect innings, gained a 1-0 lead, and drove in the lone run himself with an RBI single in the 2nd.
But he ends up leaving the game after the fourth, giving up a second home run to Trevor “what a really, really great” Story, and turning in his worst start in many seasons.
So… not an good time for Arizona fans. The Wildcats lost in the first round of the tournament, star center fielder A.J. Pollock broke his elbow, and their we’re-all-in offseason signing is blowing up under the lights-camera-action pressure of… Phoenix, Arizona? You’d think it would be an easy transition here, across the arid Arizona/California state line, for a guy finding a team setting more like his past homes of Kansas City and Milwaukee, and not the brights lights of L.A.
But maybe he’s injured. We’ll find out.
BOTTOM OF THE THIRD: 6-1 Rockies
With this game, the greater Phoenix area completes the transition from spring-time second home for half the league’s teams, saying goodbyes to scores of vacationers and die-hard baseball fans, replaced by the excitement of the big-league team taking the field for Opening Day.
And what we have here is a battle for overlooked America—if ESPN and east coast media put too much attention on tradition, history, Boston vs. New York storylines, then the strange purple uni’s, swimming pools and teams founded in the 1990s are the new version of baseball reimagined, the less famous but still very appealing sequel to the historic run from Civil War ball to the early steroid era, and everything in between.
Back on the field: Jorge de la Rosa is on the mound for the Rockies, the typical Opening Day pitcher for them (over 1,000 innings thrown for the team), and the journeyman they hope will give up few enough runs to allow that hot-in-April offense to reel in some early wins.
He gets out of the inning cleanly. 6-1 Rockies, soon to be 7-1—after the second home run from Story.
In the end, that six-run half inning ended up being enough for Rockies, with the game finishing 10-5, going down in the early-season books as a major blemish for Greinke, and a big shake-up in the 2016 Cy Young race.
And it’s not how I usually think of the Opening Day image—cold, numbing conditions and low scoring, chilly day games in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, where here you have warm weather, an indoor dome, swimming pool, hard-hit fly balls.
And a player named Socrates Brito—name of the year??