So far, so good … once the game started. The Giants released a worrisome Matt Cain update before the game, along with the expected announcement that Ryan Vogelsong would start in place of Jake Peavy.
The Giants looked lively in the first, but Joe Panik and Angel Pagan were stranded after reaching base with one out. But Madison Bumgarner lulled the D-Backs to sleep with his slider, the hitters wearing gray kept slapping the ball all over Chase Field where Arizona fielders weren’t, and the Giants started the season with a 5-4 victory.
It wasn’t easy. They rarely are. Bumgarner didn’t look as sharp as usual early on, plunking two guys and allowing a deep run-scoring triple to Mark Trumbo in the third inning on a fastball. That’s how spoiled we’ve gotten with Bumgarner that we can nitpick the early innings of a seven-inning, one-run outing.
Bumgarner left with a 5-1 lead after throwing 93 pitches — a prudent Opening Night decision regardless of Bumgarner’s 2014 workload. Bruce Bochy went with Javier Lopez, who gave up a single to Ender Inciarte. That led to Jean Machi, who had a pretty decent Spring (3.21 ERA). Machi wild-pitched Inciarte to second on his way to a walk to Paul Goldschmidt, and gave up a one-out single to Aaron Hill. In came a guy who looked like one of the Giants’ best at the end of Spring Training, Sergio Romo (2.16 ERA). Jake Lamb saw a juicy fastball from Romo and sent a drive to the center field wall to clear the bases. Romo struck out Tuffy Gosewich and walked Cliff Pennington, and Jeremy Affeldt (5.40 ERA during an exhibition season where Bruce Bochy called him out for not pitching smart enough) got David Peralta swinging on a curveball.
Santiago Casilla came in and notched a clean save, despite throwing a hanging curve to Goldschmidt with two outs that would’ve been crushed 480 feet if Tim Lincecum had thrown it. Instead Goldschmidt fouled it back and ended the game with a strikeout on the next pitch.
Player of the game: Angel Pagan
Pagan looked like a No. 3 hitter, with three hits (including two doubles), two runs batted in and a walk. He also seems to have added a “two finger guns in the pretend holsters” gesture to his trademark salute, unless he used to do that before and I either didn’t notice or forgot. Which is certainly possible. Anyway, Pagan looked pretty good after starting out 3-for-23 or whatever in the Cactus League.
He also did a good job preventing Hill’s single from getting by him after it took a tough hop. It ended up not mattering with Lamb’s double, but it was still a decent play. This play was better.
— In case what I’ve written up to this point isn’t clear, Spring Training stats have the predictive value of horoscopes.
— Maybe the news on Cain isn’t so bad after all:
Cain has flexor tendon strain. Said he’ll take a few days off but team trainers are optimistic. — Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) April 7, 2015
— The offense was a flurry of jabs that knocked Collmenter out before he could get through five innings. Nori Aoki had two hits after a sharp lineout in his first at-bat of the season. Panik had three hits in his first three plate appearances. Casey McGehee went 2-for-3 with a walk and Brandon Crawford went 2-for-4 and knocked in two on a double that scooted by Trumbo. Matt Duffy had a pinch-hit single on a chopper to right. And that’s how the Giants scored five runs despite no hits from Buster Posey or Brandon Belt.
— The Giants were 5-for-13 when they hit the ball to the opposite field. That has to please Hensley Meulens, since this is not a team that’s going to get very far if they get too pull-happy.
— This is might cause an unwanted visual for some readers, considering the guy’s mustache, but D-Backs reliever Andrew Chafin should put an apostrophe after the “N” on his jersey.
— I wrote a big ol’ season preview earlier today that contains a bunch of silly predictions.
— If every game goes like this one, the Giants will be in good shape. They just need to go back to their one-Bumgarner rotation and get multi-hit games from five players and they’ll be just fine.
— A lot of people brought up the return of “snotrockets in flight,” but I’ll remember the tantrum Bumgarner threw after striking out with two on and two out in the fourth (angry at himself, not the umpire). We don’t get to see it too often because things generally go so well for Bumgarner, but his temper is legendary.