The Giants had what they wanted – the top of the lineup starting the ninth inning down two runs. After a Gregor Blanco single eventually followed by a Pablo Sandoval RBI double, Buster Posey came to the dish with the game tying run on second with two out, but grounded out to short ending the Giants solid rally. The 5-4 loss wasn’t the way Giant fans wanted to open the season, but there were plenty of bright spots to take away from the game.
Improved offense: When it comes to breaking down reasons for the Giants’ loss, offensive woes wont be any place near the top of the list. The G-Men out-hit the Snakes 11 to 7, not to mention added two baserunners via walks and looked very competent offensively. Melky Cabrera looked fantastic at the plate once again, clubbing two shots to both right and left field, the first falling a few feet short of the wall for a double, the second a screaming liner that just cleared the right field fence, resulting in a two-run shot. Brandon Crawford added a solid RBI groundout as well, given the circumstances as runners were on both second and third with Tim Lincecum on deck and he wasn’t in a situation where he was going to get much to hit. Smart and timely hitting – almost hard to believe. I had to blink twice….
Lincecum’s first inning struggles: Tim Lincecum has been known to have first inning struggles and his performance tonight was no different. Lincecum’s command seemed spotty, sometimes completely lost, other times wildly effective. Tiny Tim hung a pitch to the wrong batter in the first as Chris Young sent a moonshot into the left field bleachers which gave the D’Backs a 2-0 lead right out of the gate. Apparent Lincecum nemesis Paul Goldschmidt, who seemingly has some unprecedented knowledge of what and where Timmy’s next pitch is going be, hit a solo shot (his 3rd in what was his 10th career at-bat versus Tim) to cap the first inning. Lincecum settled down after that, baffling D’Back hitters for the next few innings before a questionable check-swing (on Goldschmidt) went the wrong way for the Giants, followed by a Buster Posey error that was capped by a Ryan Roberts two-run double. It certainly wasn’t Lincecum’s finest hour and his location was clearly off, but he battled tough. Some bad luck and poor location did him in and against good teams with powerful offenses, those things are magnified.
Giant strengths do them in: The last thing you were expecting was a Giant loss to be blamed on poor defense and spotty pitching, but that was the case tonight as some ill-timed mistakes from Lincecum combined with three errors was simply too much to overcome, despite the Giants late rally. The normally sure handed Brandon Crawford botched a second inning ball (though nothing came of it) as did the gold glove talented Pablo Sandoval in the bottom half of the eighth. Buster Posey’s inability to pick up a ball (he tried to grab the ball mid-air with the glove rather than bare hand) was the only costly error of the night from a runs scored standpoint, but watching three elite defenders botch somewhat routine plays isn’t something you’ll be seeing very often.
Other notes: The pen was very effective, both Guillermo Mota and Clay Hensley along with Jeremy Affeldt tossed three shutout innings. Brandon Belt had his struggles offensively, but made a handful of excellent plays at first base defensively. Aubrey Huff looked, well, um, well let’s just hope it was a bad day. Leadoff hitter Angel Pagan looked every part Andres Torres that he could and Ryan Theriot, well, he was in the box score but I’m not sure he even played in the game.
Overall, despite the loss, the offensive positives were there and over the course of a season, combined with the normally sound pitching and defense, it looks like the Giants are primed for a very solid season.