San Francisco Giants drop Home Opener: Chris Heston sparkles
By Mark ONeill
For the first time since 2008, the San Francisco Giants dropped a Home Opener, this one 2-0, to first-place Colorado Rockies. Rookie call-up Chris Heston (0.69 ERA) made his second start of the season, allowing two runs (1 earned) on seven hits, with two walks and three K’s. Eddie Butler started for the Rockies and went five-and-a-third rocky innings, to earn the win.
The Rockies scored once in the third and once in the seventh, as the Giants managed to load the bases in both the first and second innings, with nothing to show. They got two runners on board in both the third and fourth, but stranded three of the four. As Bruce Bochy said after the game on the post-game show, “It was just a matter of not getting the timely hit.”
The Giants have scored seven runs in their last five games, the last four for losses. Their record dropped to 3-5 behind the Rockies at 5-2.
The Giants left nine men on base in the first four innings. The lack of a timely hit left them 0-7 with runners in scoring position.
As frustrated as San Francisco is with its inability to score runs, there was still a lot of good to find in the Opener, primarily the second start by Heston.
He was ahead on the counts, allowing him to throw only eighteen pitches the first two innings and a total of ninety over seven, sixty of them for strikes. He recorded two outs via fly-ball, versus nine by grounder, the benefits of throwing a sinker. He induced two double plays, the second one to end a fourth inning, bases-loaded situation.
Again, as has been noted before, no one wanted to see Matt Cain start the year on the disabled list, but the emergence of Heston as a viable candidate for the rotation, could prove to be a pivotal move as the season unfolds.
Another good thing is the continued stellar work by Nori Aoki as leadoff hitter. He had two more hits and a walk tonight and is batting .412 with a .471 on-base-percentage. He continues to man left field very well, complementing the defensive skills of Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco.
Mar. 20, 2015; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants outfielder Nori Aoki against the Cincinnati Reds during a spring training game at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The Rockies totaled eleven hits, DJ LeMahieu leading the parade with three, all of them of the infield variety. I can’t remember a time when a player had three infield hits in the same game. Charlie Blackmon (2 singles), Justin Morneau (single, double), and Nick Hundley (single, double) accounted for nine of the eleven hits, Troy Tulowitzki getting the only RBI in the game, when he knocked in Blackmon with a single in the fourth inning.
The Rockies’ second run scored on a pitch that bounced in front of Buster Posey and got past him. After he tracked it down, he flipped the ball to Heston covering the plate on Hundley coming down the line. Heston caught the perfect toss, got the glove down in time, and Hundley was initially called out.
Unfortunately, when Heston emerged from the dust, he did not have the ball. His mistake was that in tagging the sliding Hundley, he did not get his glove back out of the way, and the Rockies’ catcher slid over the top, dislodging the ball in the process. In any case, since the Giants did not score, the second run did not factor into the final result.
For the Giants, who totaled five hits, only Aoki (.412/.471/.478) had two hits and only Gregor Blanco’s ground-rule double gave the Giants an extra-basehit. There were six walks and a hit batsman (Brandon Belt) to account for the rest of the twelve men left on base.
Jeremy Affeldt pitched a highly eventful eighth inning, in which the Rockies loaded the bases, but he got out of it when the dangerous Corey Dickerson grounded out to short. George Kontos started the ninth, allowed a pair of basehits, and Javier Lopez came in to slam the door.
San Francisco is now 12-4 in Home Openers at AT&T Park. Prior to the game both teams were introduced on the field and the Giants had the flag-raising ceremony. The high-point was Madison Bumgarner riding the horse, something he was not allowed to do last October in the Parade in downtown San Francisco.
The low point on the evening was the continued failure to score runs. Even considering that Hunter Pence and Casey McGehee were out of the lineup, a subject Bochy refused to use as an excuse after the game, the Giants had ample opportunities to score and did not. It happens and it goes in streaks.
Then one guy gets red-hot and ignites the rest, and it’s back to business-as-usual.
It would be nice to see some of that business-as-usual, starting tomorrow.