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Go Figure

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PHOENIX, Arizona -- Luis Gonzalez hit three home runs today.

Ordinarily, that'd have been great news for Diamondbacks fans. But today, the Rockies trotted out their own Luis Gonzalez, starting at second base in his major league debut (and it confused some of the Dback fans, who cheered for him when he was introduced), and Gonzalez #2 hit a two-run homer in the 9th inning, turning a close game into a blowout and your intrepid reporter, who can't pass up a ballgame when one is available, watched the Diamondbacks lose their opener to the Rockies 6-2.

If the Gonzalez thing wasn't screwy enough, I went expecting to see a low-hit, well-pitched performance by a veteran lefthander.

Little did I realize that lefty would be Shawn F. Estes, the guy who drove us Cub fans nuts all last year. The last time Estes pitched in a game that counted, he pitched a four-hit shutout against the Reds last Sept. 24, a game that was absolutely critical in the Cubs' drive for the Central title last year.

He picked up where he left off -- the Diamondbacks were pounding the ball into the ground for almost the entire seven innings Estes threw (13 groundball outs), the only exceptions being Luis Gonzalez #1's homer in the first inning and a ground ball single by Steve Finley. The only other D'back hit was Gonzalez #1's second homer of the game in the 9th inning off closer Shawn Chacon. No, not every pitcher on the Colorado staff is named Shawn. They also trotted out a guy named Brian today.

I dunno. Maybe it's the palatial home that Estes and his wife have built in the Phoenix area over the winter. Maybe it's just to spite us Cub fans.

Randy Johnson did keep the game reasonably close, allowing three runs and striking out six in six innings of rather laborious work, throwing 114 pitches. Bob Brenly was forced to pinch-hit for an effective Oscar Villareal in the 8th and that's when Jose Valverde gave up the homer to the Rockies' Gonzalez and turned the game into a blowout.

What that accomplished is sending most of the 49,213 (though the box score reported the attendance as 46,949 -- I guess maybe the total announced at the park was including freebies) home, which allowed us to bypass not only the ballgame traffic but rush hour traffic as well.

As for the rest of the game, it was the usual festivities you come to expect with Opening Day, with what has become almost a cliche, the jet-flyover, this time from Luke Air Force Base, which is west of Phoenix. It's pretty cool, but with a half-enclosed stadium with the roof open, they flew over so fast that I only spotted them out of a corner of the open roof. I kept telling my dad, who's also visiting here and came to the game today, how interesting it was to watch the roof open, but he missed the entire event by choosing that time to go to the men's room.

Meanwhile, a woman billed as "Suzy V" sang the national anthem -- I guess she got her 15 minutes of fame on "American Idol". She sang OK. Now go back to your day job, will you?

My son Mark, who also was with us, decided he was going to try to get autographs, so we went to the Dbacks team store to buy a baseball and a Sharpie -- only to find out that there were about 75 people in line and not nearly enough cashiers, which you would have expected to not be the case on Opening Day. Luckily, the line moved pretty fast, but that didn't help get him any autographs.

I also give kudos to the scorecard vendor ($1 got you a scorecard and program, a much better deal than almost any major league park); I had handed him what I thought was $2 to buy one for me and one for Mark, but accidentally handed him a $10 folded inside the two ones. He called me back and gave me the $10 back, for which I thanked him profusely.

Biggest applause of the pregame announcements was reserved for Johnson, but the D'back fans never really got a chance to cheer for much of anything after Gonzalez #1's homer in the first inning gave them a brief lead. You know, I still can't get over the fact that it was Shawn F. Estes pitching this well.

I love Opening Day and I love seeing the players lined up on the sidelines and being introduced, and this was a terrific baseball diversion on a Cub off day. I tried to stop myself thinking this, but couldn't: a little over six months from now, I hope I'm in the same ballpark seeing the Cubs lined up along the first-base line.

Mark just walked into the room and I offered him a spot for a quick commentary here, and all he said was, "Not right now."

Go figure. Not always that easy to make an 8-year-old speechless!

Oh, and break up the Tigers. They won again tonight, 7-3 over Toronto, going 2-0 for the first time in 18 years. Last year it took them 19 games before they won their second.