Diamondbacks spoil Baker's debut as Reds manager

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Overpowering pitching, perfect defense and just enough runs. The Arizona Diamondbacks opened the season with the same blueprint that won them 90 games and a division title the last time around.

Why change what works?

Brandon Webb pitched six innings Monday and the light-hitting Diamondbacks piled up three solo homers in a 4-2 victory that dampened Dusty Baker's debut as Cincinnati Reds manager.

Unlike Baker's new team, the defending NL West champs have a knack for winning the close ones.

"That's exactly how we won a lot of them," said Chris Young, who hit the first of the three homers. "The starter goes six, then it's 7-8-9 and get it done."

Webb (1-0) allowed three hits and a pair of runs in six innings for a breakthrough victory. The right-hander had 34 wins the last two seasons -- tied with Carlos Zambrano for most in the NL -- but hadn't gotten a victory in his two previous Opening Day starts.

Pitching against the team he followed as a youth, the northern Kentucky native finally won an opener with a six-strikeout performance. More than two dozen relatives and friends found a way to get tickets for the sold-out game.

"Opening Day is so special here in Cincinnati," said Webb, who never got tickets to one when he was growing up in Ashland, Ky. "To do it so close here and have that many fans behind me, it was definitely sweet."

Even the Reds noticed.

"We had a lot of people, but I think half of them were from Webb's hometown," Baker said. "He pitched an outstanding game against us. That's not the outcome you want to have."

A new-look bullpen held on. Brandon Lyon, assuming the role of traded closer Jose Valverde, pitched a perfect ninth for the save, closing out a combined three-hitter. The Reds didn't get a runner into scoring position in the last five innings.

"I think we were trying to do too much," said Brandon Phillips, whose triple set up both of Cincinnati's runs. "It was like we were trying to prove something instead of trying to win the game. A lot of guys were swinging at balls they don't normally swing at."

Young and Eric Byrnes homered off Aaron Harang (0-1), and Jeff Salazar added his third career pinch-hit homer off Jared Burton in a rare show of power by the Diamondbacks lineup.

Ken Griffey Jr. made no progress in pursuit of his 600th career homer. He remained seven shy after going 0-for-3 with a walk. Griffey is second all-time in Opening Day homers with seven -- one behind Frank Robinson -- but hasn't hit one since 1999.

The Reds turned the opener into a tribute to former pitcher and broadcaster Joe Nuxhall, who died last November. A cold, misty rain was falling when Reds coaches and players took the field for pregame introductions wearing jerseys that had Nuxhall's No. 41 and his name on the back.

All but Harang switched into their regular jerseys for the game. Harang got permission from Major League Baseball to wear his during the game and then donate it to the team's hall of fame.

"They came to me and asked me to wear it, and I didn't think twice about it," Harang said. "I started knowing him in '03, and you're not going to find a better guy."

In different ways, both teams were looking for big change at the outset.

The Diamondbacks won the NL West despite one of the league's worst offenses -- a collective .250 batting average that ranked last. They're counting on the continued development of the majors' youngest roster to improve the offense.

For the Reds, it's about ending a seven-year losing streak, their worst in a half-century. Baker's job is to bring a winning attitude to a clubhouse that knows little about it.

In the opener, Arizona got exactly what it wanted.

Young, who set a club rookie record with 32 homers last season, sent a solo shot into the upper deck in left field in the third inning. One out later, Byrnes homered for a 3-0 lead.

Phillips' hit to center skipped off the slick grass and went to the wall for an RBI triple in the fourth. Phillips scored on Adam Dunn's groundout, making it 3-2 and putting the Diamondbacks on familiar ground.

Last year, Arizona led the majors with 32 one-run wins. Already, they're 1-0 this season in close ones.

"Similar to the way we semi-drew it up last year, at least at the end there," manager Bob Melvin said. "Big hits for our guys, albeit not too many of them."

Game notes
Rain delayed the first pitch by 59 minutes. It was the first rain delay in a Cincinnati opener since 2000, when Griffey made his hometown debut. ... Last year, mayor Mark Mallory was so far off target on the ceremonial first pitch that he became a national celebrity. County commissioner Todd Portune was down the middle with his toss on Monday. ... It was Baker's third season opener in Cincinnati as a manager. He had won his other three -- with the Giants in 1999 and the Cubs in 2004 and 2006.