Another Long Night at Chase Field

“Please keep your arms and legs inside the car at all time”, after the first eleven games of the 2011 Major League Baseball season I’ve come to the conclusion that the Arizona Diamondbacks should have printed this on the back of their tickets.

The finale against the St. Louis Cardinals was more like a turn on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride than it was a baseball game. For the third straight night the game ended in a blowout.

Going into this series my expectations were high given the way the Diamondbacks played against the defending National League Central champion Cincinnati Reds. The Cardinals have seen more than their fair share of adversity from the beginning of Spring Training and I’m a firm believer in kicking a team while it’s down.

Sorry if that sounds cruel but you tend to get that way after being in the National League Western Division cellar for two straight years. I was hoping for a series sweep or at the very least taking two of three from St. Louis.

The sweep theory disappeared rather quickly in the first game of the series, which was like watching someone kick your dog. It was brutal and gut wrenching and you just wanted to go home and curl up in the fetal position.

Game two of the series was the exact opposite. It saw the Diamondbacks score early and often making a mockery of the Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter. Although Arizona’s pitching was not good, you don’t have to be when the opponent gives you 13 runs in the first six innings.

To a Diamondbacks fan, the final game of the rubber match had to favor the home team. While Ian Kennedy would likely not be the ace on many major league rosters he had pitched pretty well in his first two outings and he looked a lot more stable than Jake Westbrook who the Cardinals were sending to the mound.

This game pretty much proved the theory that no matter how a game looks on paper nothing is a given. Kennedy looked like a lost puppy on the mound. It didn’t matter what he threw the Cardinals hitters seem to anticipate it.

In the first three innings he had given up nine runs on seven hits. I didn’t even know that was possible outside the Sunday afternoon softball beer leagues. By the time it got to Kennedy’s spot in the batting order manager Kirk Gibson mercifully pulled Kennedy from the game for a pinch hitter.

You could almost hear the sighs of relief from the meager announced crowd of 17,660 at Chase Field. That peaceful feeling was short lived as Aaron Heilman entered the game and in just 1.2 innings gave up six runs on seven hits giving the Cardinals a double-digit lead.

With just six home games completed on the schedule fans are already starting to murmur about the team and whether they are any better than those teams in 2009 and 2010.

I find myself constantly drawn into conversations where I propose blind faith and a little patience. There are still 75 home games and 151 total games on the schedule for the 2011 season. It’s way too early to give up.

Phoenix has never been known to have a strong and loyal fan base regardless of what sport you watch but the level of apathy exhibited so far in the early baseball season echoes like the cheers for the opposing team in a near empty stadium.

Hopefully the Diamondbacks will find a few early successes that will entice fans into returning to the ballpark. If not, this is going to be a very long summer that will feel like we’ve been transported to Montreal to watch the demise of the Expos.

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