It happened again to the San Francisco Giants.
After coming off a 2016 season when the San Francisco Giants blew a major-league leading 30 saves, including one that ended their season in Game 4 of the National League Division Series, the Giants did nothing to quell fans’ bullpen concerns on Opening Day 2017.
It was shaping up to be a great day for the Giants. Madison Bumgarner was pitching a perfect game through 5 1/3 innings, he hit two home runs in the game (the first time a Giants’ pitcher has done that on Opening Day), and the Giants showed resiliency by battling back after two separate game-tying Diamondbacks rallies.
In the top of the ninth, with the score tied 4-4, Joe Panik tripled to start the inning. The next batter Connor Gillaspie lined one into the right-center field gap, but center fielder A.J. Pollock robbed him with a diving catch. Nevertheless, the lead run scored and the Giants were on top 5-4 heading into the bottom of the inning.
With a one-run lead and their big-money free agent closer, who did not allow a run all spring training, taking the hill in the bottom of the ninth inning, Mark Melancon got the first two outs. The second out was recorded after a brilliant diving play from Panik, who robbed David Peralta of a base hit.
Fans then instantly took to Twitter thinking, “Here we go again?” or saying, “this is the Giants’ rendition of the Chicago Cubs’ Billy Goat Curse.”
Not so fast.
The Giants had a golden chance to extend their one-run lead they took in the top of the ninth inning. With the bases loaded and one out, Buster Posey came up but popped out to right on an inside, 95 mile-per-hour fastball. Brandon Crawford then got out on an infield dribbler to the catcher.
End of threat.
“We don’t expect anything negative to happen with Mark out there, but hey, it happens,” San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy told NBC Sports Bay Area. “You’re not going to be perfect. We had a chance to put the game away a couple of times. We just couldn’t do it. In this ballpark, anything can happen.”
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While the Giants would convert — and should convert — many of those saves in the future, a one-run lead is almost like a crapshoot in the open-air Chase Field. Think Coors Field, with thin air and a big outfield where little bloops are more prone to falling for hits. When the roof is closed, the Arizona ballpark plays a bit fairer.
Diamondbacks closer Fernando Rodney was on the ropes. He couldn’t find the strike zone and had another one of his wild hairs up his sleeve.
The Giants failed to capitalize as Posey just couldn’t square up to that fastball. On another day, Posey turns on that inside fastball and launches it into the upper deck past left field, a la against Matt Latos in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds.
Instead of a 9-4 Giants lead heading into the bottom of the ninth, it’s 5-4 in a field where anything can happen.
And it did.
The good news? There’re 161 more games to go.