The 5: Best Diamondbacks Opening Day performances
The Arizona Diamondbacks enter a new era of baseball Thursday when they face the Dodgers in Los Angeles without Paul Goldschmidt on the roster for the first time in eight years.
With a 1:10 p.m. first pitch, the D-backs’ Opening Day for the 2019 season will air on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station, and as the new year begins, the question of which players step into bigger roles with the former face of the franchise gone can start to be answered.
As we project who might parlay a strong debut into a big year, here is a look back at some of the more memorable Opening Day performances from the franchise’s first 19 years.
April 2, 2017: Pollock starts the year off right
Following an All-Star season in 2015 and an injury-riddled 2016, Opening Day in 2017 for A.J. Pollock was about getting back to the player he was in 2015.
He did so against the San Francisco Giants, hitting 3-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored in the 6-5 win.
Pollock hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning to tie the game at 3 and would score off Paul Goldschmidt’s single in the eighth to tie the game at 4. After the D-backs gave up a run in the ninth and answered with one in the bottom-half, Pollock’s single advanced Daniel Desclaso to third, who would score on Chris Owings’ walk-off single. — Kellan Olson
April 3, 2001: Gonzo goes deep in D-backs win
Luis Gonzalez’s two-run homer off of Dodgers reliever Jose Nunez in the top of the seventh inning proved to be the difference in the Diamondbacks’ 3-2 win in Los Angeles.
It was only fitting that Gonzo would homer on Opening Day — the first of 57 long balls he’d hit during a magical season that ended with the team’s one and only World Series championship. — Vince Marotta
March 31, 1998: The game that started it all
The very first game in D-backs’ history wasn’t a win, but the first face of the franchise had a nice debut in a 9-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies.
Travis Lee was the second overall pick in the 1996 Major League Baseball Draft of the Minnesota Twins, who failed to offer him a contract. Lee instead signed a $10 million deal with the Diamondbacks, two years before their first game.
He started at first base in the team’s inaugural game and quickly made history. His first inning single off of Colorado starter Darryl Kile was the first ever for the Diamondbacks. He would also hit the franchise’s first-ever home run — a solo shot off of Kile in the sixth inning.
Not a bad start. — Vince Marotta
April 1, 2002: Picking up where he left off
Randy Johnson won the 2001 National League Cy Young Award and was the World Series Co-MVP, along with Curt Schilling.
On a day where Phoenix’s first MLB pro championship was celebrated, Johnson once again showed his dominance.
The fire-balling lefty threw a six-hit shutout while striking out eight in a 2-0 win over the San Diego Padres at Chase Field. He ended the game with a punchout of San Diego shortstop Deivi Cruz, much to the delight of the 47,025 fans in attendance. — Vince Marotta
April 6, 2009: Switch-hitters paradise
Switch-hitting lead-off man Felipe Lopez set the tone for what was to come in his first at-bat as a Diamondback. Batting from the left side, Lopez took Colorado starter Aaron Cook deep to left field to give Arizona a 1-0 lead.
In the third inning, switch-hitter Tony Clark connected on a two-run shot off Cook. Leading off the fourth, Lopez turned around to the right side and jacked a solo shot to right-center off of Rockies’ reliever Glendon Rusch. In the seventh, Clark did the same thing, giving the D-backs an 8-7 lead. They would go on to win 9-8.
Lopez and Clark became the first switch-hitting teammates to each homer from both sides of the plate in a game since Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams did it in 2000, and the first duo to accomplish the feat on Opening Day.
The win was a bittersweet one, however. Starting pitcher Brandon Webb left the game after four innings with discomfort in his shoulder. It would be the last time he’d ever pitch in a big league game. — Vince Marotta