“He threw me two sliders that were unhittable. Babe Ruth couldn’t have hit those pitches. I couldn’t see them out of his hand,” Byrnes said. “Then, for whatever reason he came back, with a fastball on 1-2 that caught the middle of the plate.”
Byrnes lined the fortunate fastball over second baseman Kaz Matsui’s head for a two-run single in the eighth inning that allowed Arizona to rally past Colorado 8-6 on Monday, snapping a four-game losing streak on opening day.
“He has a wicked slider,” Byrnes maintained, shaking his head at his good fortune not to see another. “He had thrown two perfect pitches. The ball is coming out of his hand looking like a fastball on those first two pitches and they were breaking about 3 feet at the end.”
This one didn’t move one iota.
“It was just a fastball, outer half of the plate, we were trying to go a little farther out with it,” Colorado catcher Chris Iannetta explained. “We had thrown him a few breaking balls. We were going to go fastball away, off the plate for a ball, set it up to come back with a slider.”
Instead, Byrnes’ based-loaded, one-out single erased the Rockies’ 6-5 lead and Colorado lost for the first time in five season openers at Coors Field.
Byrnes’ big hit made a winner of right-hander Juan Cruz (1-0), who struck out the only batter he faced, and a loser of Hawkins (0-1), the Rockies’ new setup man who spent last season in Baltimore.
“I was thinking ahead,” Hawkins explained. “I was going to throw him a fastball away because I hadn’t thrown him a fastball, I was trying to get it away. Then come back and make another good pitch. It got too much of the plate.”
Orlando Hudson followed with a sacrifice fly to center that made it 8-6 and sent Hawkins to the showers with a chorus of boos from the sellout crowd.
The Rockies put two runners on base against Brandon Lyon in the bottom of the eighth, but new leadoff hitter Willy Taveras failed twice to get the bunt down and then looked at strike three for his fourth whiff of the afternoon. Matsui grounded out to second and Garrett Atkins capped an 0-for-5 day by lining out to left.
Rookie Jeff Baker had given the Rockies the lead when he broke a 5-5 tie with a pinch-hit homer off Brandon Medders leading off the bottom of the sixth. The ball barely cleared center fielder Chris Young’s glove and Baker had to stop his home run trot near third base to make sure Young, sprawled out on the grass, didn’t have the ball in his possession.
Both starting pitchers started out shaky and labored through tough outings.
Arizona right-hander Brandon Webb, the reigning NL Cy Young award winner, allowed five earned runs on eight hits in five innings, and Colorado right-hander Aaron Cook, who made his first opening day start nearly 2 1/2 years after life-threatening blood clots were discovered in his lungs, surrendered five earned runs on nine hits in six innings.
“Neither one of us was on our `A’ game today,” said Cook, who gave up three singles in his first six pitches.
Webb was one pitch away from escaping a bases-loaded jam in the first when Hawpe lined his 36th pitch into right field for the Rockies’ first hit, a two-run single.
The Diamondbacks and Byrnes were actually lucky that he was still in the game for his eighth-inning hit. Manager Bob Melvin thought long and hard about yanking him in the fourth when he rolled an ankle chasing down a double by Tulowitzki.
“I thought I was going to have to take him out of there because he really rolled that ankle, but he was saying `There’s no way I’m coming out of this game,”’ Melvin recounted. “He’s a tough guy and to see him hobbling around like that I was sure I’d have to take him out, but he stayed in the game and played a phenomenal game on top of that.”
The Rockies signed GM Dan O’Dowd and manager Clint Hurdle to two-year extensions through 2009. … The D-Backs, beginning their 10th season, are 729-730 all-time.