DENVER -- It wasn't very pretty, it took longer than they hoped and it certainly wasn't easy, but the resulting win -- a 7-6 victory in 11 innings -- was what the D-backs were hoping for in Friday's season opener against the Rockies.
"It was just a battle all day," said closer J.J. Putz, who recorded his first save in an Arizona uniform. "What an Opening Day."
The D-backs held a 6-4 lead through six innings, and reliever Juan Gutierrez was one out away from getting out of the seventh inning with the lead intact.
The right-hander got Ty Wigginton to swing and miss for strike three, but the ball was in the dirt and catcher Miguel Montero was forced to throw to first base in an attempt to record the final out of the frame. As he stepped in front of the plate to get a clear sight line to first, Montero stumbled just a bit and his throw bounced past first baseman Juan Miranda and into right field.
"My cleat got stuck," Montero said. "I was off balance at the time I threw."
One run scored on the play and another soon followed when Jose Lopez beat out a little dribbler to third. Suddenly the game was tied at 6, and the D-backs had to be having flashbacks to last season when a shaky bullpen doomed their season.
Instead, the relievers held it together and kept the Rockies off the board until the offense could finally push across a run in the 11th.
"We've said we didn't want to panic in situations, and I don't feel they panicked at any time," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said.
D-backs left fielder Gerardo Parra led off the 11th with a single to left and advanced to third one out later when he took off for second and Willie Bloomquist grounded a ball through the hole vacated by the second baseman covering the bag.
"Willie just saw the hole over there," Gibson said of Bloomquist, who started in place of injured shortstop Stephen Drew. "He puts the bat on the ball. He's been great all spring, very scrappy. He takes what's given to him. He's a very smart ballplayer."
With Kelly Johnson at the plate, reliever Matt Lindstrom uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Parra to scamper home.
The D-backs then turned things over to Putz, who was limited to just 2 2/3 innings this spring because of a back injury.
There didn't seem to be any rust, though, as he retired the Rockies in order, striking out a pair to seal the win.
"I was just trying to get ahead," Putz said. "Miggy and I were on the same page today, and I was able to throw all three pitches for strikes today ... inside, outside."
Both of the strikeouts came via his split-finger fastball, a pitch that Putz worked on just prior to coming into the game.
"Even in the bullpen I figured a little bit of it out, and I was able to take it into the game and get some swings and misses off it," he said.
The D-backs roughed up Colorado ace Ubaldo Jimenez for six runs (five earned) in six innings. Justin Upton's three-run homer in the fifth and Montero's two-run blast in the sixth were the key blows. The right-hander's velocity seemed down during the game.
"My fastball wasn't there," Jimenez said. "My off-speed wasn't there. My movement wasn't there. I didn't have anything."
"I was like, OK you better take advantage of that because he's a pretty tough pitcher to face, and today I don't think he had the greatest stuff," Montero said. "He wasn't throwing nearly as hard as he used to, and we were able to hit him pretty good."
D-backs starter Ian Kennedy allowed three runs in the first two innings before settling in and allowing just one more before departing after six innings. The right-hander was making his first Opening Day start and said that things improved for him in the third after his initial adrenaline wore off.
The bullpen allowed the two unearned runs thanks to Montero's error, but otherwise did not allow another blemish in five innings of work.
"They all did a good job, and with the exception of when I threw the ball away, it would have been a shutout [for the bullpen]," Montero said. "They did a great job. Threw a quality pitch when we needed it."
Given the way Montero swung the bat and his play behind the plate, Gibson was not going to criticize Montero for his error.
"It's baseball," Gibson said. "We dealt with it. Miguel Montero played his heart out today. He made a mistake. We all picked him up. It's as simple as that. I'm not going to sit here and beleaguer someone who is busting their butt."