PHOENIX, Arizona -- It's always strange to walk into a major league stadium for the first time in any baseball season after attending several games at spring training parks, which are small and intimate, have a close-in-to-the-game feel, and (generally) have all day games.
Instead, last night I walked into what the locals call the "airplane hangar" in downtown Phoenix, a huge edifice that seats nearly 50,000 -- although it wasn't anywhere near that many last night -- for my first night game of the season. The roof at Chase Field stayed open for the game; that surprised me, as in the past Diamondbacks pitchers have always wanted it closed, to have more controlled conditions (no wind, although there wasn't any during last night's game).
It was also the first time I'd set foot in Chase Field since the disaster there that was otherwise known as the 2007 NLDS. Unlike those games, the park was far less than sold out Friday night. Announced attendance was 20,025, but it seemed like little more than half that in the park, maybe 12,000-13,000, just about enough to make a full house at HoHoKam Park. Nearly half the "throng" consisted of Cubs fans.
Both teams played like they had a plane to catch; the first five innings were zipped through in little over an hour, punctuated only by Mark Reynolds' two-run homer after a walk to Ryan Roberts. Other than that, Ryan Dempster had a good tuneup outing, striking out five. I'm still a bit puzzled as to why, after starters get stretched out in each spring start, adding an inning at a time, they then throw only four innings in their final preseason start; Z did this and so did Randy Wells.
The Cubs managed only three hits through the first seven, one of them a triple by spring hitting machine Tyler Colvin. In the eighth they broke through with Kosuke Fukudome's first HR of the spring; three more hits (including another XBH from Colvin) produced two runs to tie it 3-3.
Yet another walk (Cubs pitchers walked four), this one from Mitch Atkins, preceded the game-winning homer. The D'backs had only five hits, but made two of them count for four runs. And that's why walks are good, if you are the team getting them. Giving them up? Not so much.
Lou mixed and matched in the field; Colvin wound up playing all three OF positions, Xavier Nady (who made one throw, again, no detriment to the team) saw time at both RF and 1B, and (some here will be pleased to know) Jeff Baker played a couple of innings in left field. He made one putout, which turned into a sacrifice fly.
Since there's a game this afternoon in just a few hours, after the jump you'll find today's game preview info.
Randy Wells will start this afternoon for the Cubs; like Z and Demp, Wells is expected to go no more than four innings. The Diamondbacks will counter with mostly minor leaguers; Barry Enright will get the start for them.
Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today. At last, WGN radio and WGN-TV will do a game on the same day; you can hear either Len & Bob, or Pat & Ron.
For today, the first pitch thread will post at 3 pm CDT, and with the slightly later start (3:10 instead of 3:05), the overflow thread at 4:30 pm CDT.
Discuss amongst yourselves.