Estes allowed two hits in seven innings, Charles Johnson hit a two-run homer off The Big Unit and the Rockies beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 6-2 Tuesday night, their first opening-day victory in three years.
It was a big day for Luis Gonzalez, no matter which team he was on. Arizona’s Gonzalez hit a pair of solo home runs, and Colorado’s Gonzalez hit a two-run homer in his major league debut.
Todd Helton was 4-for-4 with a double and scored two runs as Colorado snapped an eight-game losing streak against Randy Johnson.
After going 13-23 the past two seasons with three teams, Estes had become a baseball castoff—discounted much like the Rockies.
“No one is giving us a whole lot of credit. I mean, zero credit up to this point,” Estes said. “Sometimes they don’t even mention the Rockies as part of the NL West. Hopefully, after today they will.”
Randy Johnson was encouraged despite the loss.
“Overall I felt pretty good,” he said. “I felt my velocity was there. The command of most of my pitches was there, especially my slider and my fastball. I made basically one mistake, and that was the home run.”
Johnson hit 97 mph on the radar gun, but threw 114 pitches in six innings, allowing three runs on six hits. He struck out six, walked three and hit a batter.
“He was throwing great,” Arizona manager Bob Brenly said. “His stuff was good. That’s all I can say. If he takes that same stuff to the mound the rest of the year, we’ve got no problem.”
Estes, who struck out three and walked two, retired 14 of the first 16 batters he faced. The exceptions were Gonzalez’s home run with two outs in the first and a leadoff walk to Roberto Alomar in the fourth. Alomar was quickly erased when Gonzalez hit into a double play.
The only other hit off the Colorado lefty was Steve Finley’s two-out single in the sixth.
“He’s been really, really good against us or really, really bad,” Brenly said of Estes. “Unfortunately, today he was really, really good.”
It was a meek start for what is supposed to be a much-improved Arizona offense.
“We just couldn’t get our offense going, but we’re going to score a lot of runs around here,” Arizona’s Gonzalez said. “We’re confident that we’re going to do that. It just didn’t happen today.”
Estes often fell behind in the count, but induced the Diamondbacks into 12 ground outs.
The Rockies’ starter said he took advantage of the Arizona’s aggressiveness.
“Nobody likes to walk. They like to drive the ball. I just wasn’t going to give in today,” Estes said. “I knew I had a moving fastball today. Even though I got behind in the count a few time, I still had confidence that I was going to make the pitch, and they beat it into the ground a lot.”
Johnson, coming off a 6-8 season interrupted by surgery on his right knee, pitched on opening day for the 12th time, and sixth in a row.
The 40-year-old left-hander struck out Kit Pellow to start the fourth, but hit Jeromy Burnitz with a pitch. Charles Johnson followed by sending the first pitch into the left-field seats to make it 2-1.
Colorado added a run in the fifth when Helton doubled, stole third and scored on Preston Wilson’s double.
The Rockies made it 5-1 when their Gonzalez hit a two-run homer off reliever Jose Valverde in the ninth.
Chacon, the Rockies’ new closer, allowed Gonzalez’s second home run in the ninth.
Arizona took a 1-0 lead in the first when Gonzalez fouled off three pitches,then lofted Estes’ 2-2 pitch over the right field fence.
When Arizona was beaten by Los Angeles 8-0 last season, it marked the first time Johnson had lost an opener. … Retired ex-Diamondbacks Matt Williams and Jay Bell threw out the ceremonial first pitch. … Arizona placed RHP Shane Reynolds on the 15-day DL (right rotator cuff) and recalled RHP Andrew Good from Triple-A Tucson. … Even though it was 81 degrees outside, the roof at Bank One Ballpark was closed because of the heat and glare on portions of the stands. … Estes is one of eight non-roster invitees to makethe Rockies’ opening-day roster.