The Arizona Republic
The Arizona Republic
CINCINNATI – The calendar might have flipped, but the Diamondbacks went about their business on Opening Day in Cincinnati as if nothing had changed, following the same dance routine that won them 90 games last season and carried them to within four wins of the World Series.
“We had a typical D’backs win,” center fielder Chris Young said after the Diamondbacks beat the Reds 4-2 at Great American Ball Park, getting solid starting pitching, hits when they counted and lockdown relief work.
“It’s still the same strategy.”
Of course, it’s a lot easier to watch game plans turn to reality when you have Brandon Webb on your side. The pitcher has finished first and second in Cy Young voting the past two seasons, but looked downright shaky in spring training.
That’s why they call it spring training. Webb’s signature sinkerball was darting and his change-up diving as he held the Reds to just two runs on three hits and four walks in six innings.
“You look at spring training numbers and you can throw them out,” Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said, referring to Webb’s 8.50 ERA in the Cactus League. “It looked like from the minute he went out there, he had his good stuff.”
Reds starter Aaron Harang wasn’t too far off, but the Diamondbacks took advantage of early opportunities. After an error in the first by third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, Conor Jackson grounded a single through the middle to give Arizona a 1-0 lead.
In the third, Young got ahead in the count 2-1 and crushed a high fastball from Harang, sending it into the top deck in left field. Two batters later, Eric Byrnes got the first-pitch fastball he was looking for and didn’t miss it, lining a solo shot to make it 3-0.
That turned out to be enough for Webb, who had a guest list of 28 friends and family members for his fifth career start in Cincinnati, a three-hour drive from his hometown of Ashland, Ky.
The only runs Cincinnati scored came in the fourth inning. With a runner on, the Reds’ Brandon Phillips lined a ball to Young’s left that skipped past him on the wet outfield grass, rolling to the wall.
“When the grass is cut short like it is and it’s wet, you can’t read that,” Young said.
It went for a triple, and Phillips scored one batter later on a ground out.
Pinch-hitter Jeff Salazar got one of the runs back with a solo home run with two out in the seventh, his third career pinch-hit homer.
The rest of the script played itself out in familiar fashion, only with a new face and a rearranged order of appearance. Newly acquired Chad Qualls pitched a scoreless seventh and handed off to eighth-inning man Tony Peña, who gave way to new closer Brandon Lyon.
Lyon, who also endured a rough spring training, looked as dominant as his predecessor, Jose Valverde. He threw a high fastball past Adam Dunn and got Encarnacion fishing on a curve in the dirt for the first two outs before Scott Hatteberg popped out to end it.
“Those guys set the tone,” Lyon said. “Chad coming in and setting the tone, then Tony, I just tried to follow it up and be aggressive.”
UP NEXT: Arizona (Haren) at Cincinnati (Arroyo), 4:10 p.m. Wednesday. TV: FSNA. Radio: 1490 AM
• UA notes and box score, 6C