Yesterday was a complete aberration at Chase Field. It felt as though I had somehow escaped reality as we know it and was instead transported into another dimension where nothing seemed to follow logic. It started when I began reading the local newspaper. By reading the newspaper I mean the sports page since that is about the only section I read from April through October and even then I limit my reading preferences to only baseball specific stories. And just for the record I don’t classify Roger Clemens dating 15-year-old girls as baseball specific. That’s more Jerry Springer with cleats which I understand is very popular with the Country-singing, trailer-park living, tequila-drinking demographic that still believes Clemens did not use any performance enhancing substances. Perusing the newspaper I was not prepared that the front page would contain a picture of Astros closer and former Diamondbacks pitcher Jose Valverde hugging a Diamondbacks fan accompanied by a story talking about how surprised Valverde was that he was traded. Did I somehow mistakenly pick up a Houston newspaper? No, it said Arizona Republic at the top. I chalked the story up to poor editorial decision making by the paper and let it go. If that had been the only thing strange I probably would have just dismissed it but it just kept getting more bizarre.
As I arrived down at Chase Field I got there later than usual (another strange thing). The Astros were taking batting practice and there was a crowd of people at the bottom of sections 111 and 112. They were all yelling and cheering as Jose Valverde shagged fly balls in the outfield. As batting practice ended the fans began calling Valverde’s name until he came over and began signing autographs. People were clawing over one another trying to get to Valverde. I could have seen this behavior if the fans were wearing Astros hats or shirts but the majority of these people had on Diamondbacks jerseys. Granted brick red sometimes looks like Sedona Red especially if you are trying to get dressed in the dark but they are not the same color nor are they the same team.
When the Diamondbacks took the field to begin the game things appeared to be back to normal. At least the fans in the stands were cheering for the right team. I looked around the ballpark during warm-ups and my heart sank at the sparsity of the crowds. Here we have the hottest team in baseball who own the best record in all the major leagues filled with young and exciting homegrown talent and yet the stadium was filled to less than half capacity. A little over 20,000 people decided that Chase Field and the Arizona Diamondbacks deserved their attention. Oh sure, you could blame the fact that the Phoenix Suns were playing in the play-offs but the Suns had been blown out of there series pretty much after game 1 so it wasn’t like that team was going anywhere. Besides, the game was in San Antonio and highlights were shown on television monitors all around the stadium. The lack of fan support at last night’s game was appalling and I was embarrassed to try and explain it when asked about it by a fan from Texas who was sitting next to us. He said that he purchased his ticket through Craig’s List and paid much less than face value for the ticket. He could not believe how pathetic the crowd was especially for a team as good as the Diamondbacks were. I honestly had no answer to his questions.
Edgar Gonzalez started for the Diamondbacks but his outing looked more like a relief appearance than a start. He lasted a mere 2 2/3 innings but that was long enough to give the Houston Astros a 6-2 lead. Bob Melvin took Edgar out in the top of the third inning and brought in rookie Max Scherzer to make his major league debut. It took me longer to explain to everyone sitting around me who Max Scherzer was than it took for him to dispatch the Astros to mercifully end the third inning. I never did get through to the little old lady sitting behind me who for the next 4 innings would yell, “Let’s Go Mack Sherbet!” I wanted to bang my head against the seat in front of me. Sherbet, I mean Scherzer looked incredible. He set down every batter he faced in order striking out 7 in 4 1/3 innings of work. He was ahead in every count. In fact only one batter ever got three balls against him. Scherzer’s fastball hovered at 94-98 miles per hour and you could clearly see the late movement it had on it. Batters were wildly swinging at balls missing badly. When Scherzer left after the 7th inning he did so to a mildly enthusiastic crowd. Those above the Diamondbacks dugout and some diehard fans spread around the stadium stood and clapped but most of the fans just sat there. I have no idea what they were waiting for.
Oh wait; I do know what they were waiting for. In the bottom of the ninth inning with the Houston Astros up 6-4 Jose Valverde sprinted in from the visitor’s bullpen before coming to a crawl at the edge of the infield dirt. Fans all around the stadium burst out in cheers and stood and clapped. I sat there incredulously wondering if these people realized that Valverde was being brought in to nail down a victory for the opposing team. When Justin Upton struck out there were loud cheers as Valverde reacted to the out. Jeff Salazar hit a double down the right field line and the fans weren’t sure how to react. They got back into it when Chris Burke struck out for the second out of the inning. Eric Byrnes came up as a pinch hitter which seemed to bring the crowd back to the home team’s side. But after getting a 1-2 count the fans in the stands stood and began cheering on Valverde to get that last strike. Do these people not understand this is Arizona and you don’t stand and cheer the third strike against the home team? Before anyone could explain this Valverde blew a pitch by Byrnes and the game was over. The Astros defeated the Diamondbacks by a score of 6-4 as people clapped at their former closer finishing off the D-backs. Just when you think that Phoenix is starting to turn into a baseball town you witness stuff like last night and you begin to dread this weekend’s three game series against the New York Mets. This could get really embarrassing.