“It was a very emotional day,” said Bruce Bochy.
This wasn’t a manager overstating the importance of winning the first home game of the season after a lackluster road trip. Everything about this 4-1 victory over the D-Backs seemed to be fraught with pain, anxiety, and catharsis.
Pain: what happened in the first inning, when Taijuan Walker’s overall wildness culminated with a 94-mph fastball that drilled Buster Posey’s helmet.
Buster Posey hit in head with pitch, leaves field under his own power with trainer pic.twitter.com/CVgr6l7y8y
— KNBR (@KNBR) April 10, 2017
Posey’s head was protected by said helmet, but that didn’t prevent Posey from looking dazed as he sat in the batter’s box after getting beaned, or the Giants from removing Posey from the game in short order. We’re all a little smarter now — still probably not as smart as we could be (Remember Doug Fister’s heroic, yet probably unwise performance in this park after getting drilled in the head by a Gregor Blanco liner in this same park?) — but considering the position Posey plays and the ugly sound the pitch made on contact, and playing it safe was an easy decision.
Posey walked off without help and according to Bochy, a few of Posey’s teammates, and Posey himself, he feels fine. For now. The Giants know all too well how the effects of a blow to the head can be delayed.
The fans booed as Posey exited the game, mostly (one would think) at Walker. And who could blame them? The pregame scene was poignant, but not in the way odd years have often begun around here, with a championship banner raised toward the heavens.
The Giants released a statement during the game that described why Bochy felt today was more emotional than a normal game, or even a normal Opening Day:
Senior Chief Petty Officer Navy Seal William “Ryan” Owens and his family, wife, Carryn, and children, Brooke, Luke and Taryn were close friends of former Giants pitcher Javier Lopez and his wife, Renee. In honor of Ryan, who was killed during a mission in Yemen in January, Carryn and their children, threw out today’s ceremonial first pitch at the Giants home opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Through the Lopez family, Ryan became an avid Giants fan and friend to many Giants players during his regular visits to Spring Training.
“Having the opportunity to throw out the first pitch and honor Ryan was extremely special. Ryan was all about seizing an opportunity, and I know he would have wanted us to do this. Our children will never forget this day, and just as we were, Ryan, would have also been overwhelmed and grateful for the support expressed by so many people today.”
“Ryan was part of us,” Bochy said.
“He was a man who did so much for us to enjoy our freedom and, because of his dedication, he lost his life. To have (his family) over here, I thought it meant a lot to the players. The players were pretty close to Ryan. He would come in Spring Training, hang with us. They all knew him at the ballpark at Spring Training. He was such a big personality. So I thought it was important for us to play well and win this ballgame.”
I asked Brandon Crawford — who, other than Matt Moore, was the clear star of this game with a double, a LONG sacrifice fly, and Gold Glove-caliber defense — if he agreed with Bochy’s assessment.
“Yeah, with some of the pregame ceremonies, and we had Ryan’s wife in here and talking to us before the game. It was definitely nice to go out there and play well, and get the win obviously for the team but the visitors we had today also.”
So they started the afternoon with a tribute to people affiliated with the Giants who recently passed away (including MLB executive Katy Feeney and Andres Torres’ wife Soannie), then transitioned to the most heart-wrenching first pitch I’ve ever seen, and within 20 minutes Posey was sitting on the ground after one of the worst sounds in sports.
The game picked up from there …
It took a while, though. Giants fans finally got a chance to cheer in the fourth inning, when Crawford’s double was followed two batters later with a Joe Panik walk, then another walk from Jarrett Parker. Then Moore, after attempting to bunt earlier in the at-bat, swung and hit a ball the same length as a standard bunt. Walker fielded it and made an errant throw to catcher Jeff Mathis, who compounded the situation with a throwing error of his own back to the plate. By the time the ball got back home, a third run had scored.
Look up “ground attack” in your Giants dictionary, authored by Mike Krukow with a forward by Duane Kuiper, and you’ll get a description of this play.
Matt Moore swinging bunt = 3 runs ? pic.twitter.com/q7mO6oBAFc
— KNBR (@KNBR) April 10, 2017
“We call them RTIs, runs thrown in,” Bochy said. Better than UTIs, that’s for sure.
Anxiety: Moore had an outstanding day, giving up just two other hits other than a solo homer to Yasmany Tomas and striking out five over eight innings. That’s when the game broadcast might as well have splashed “TRIGGER WARNING” across the screen, as Moore was lifted for a pinch-hitter with a three-run lead.
Some differences here: Moore had only thrown 93 pitches today, compared to 120 in that infamous Game 4. And instead of a committee, this time Bochy had Mark Melancon.
Catharsis: Melancon gave up a double to Chris Owings. Then he got Paul Goldschmidt to line out, fell behind Jake Lamb before getting him to pop out to Eduardo Nunez, and Tomas hit a flyball caught by Hunter Pence to push the Giants’ record to 3-5.
— Bochy said that Posey would be reevaluated tomorrow. It’s a good sign that Posey felt OK afterward, but the Giants can’t afford to let these blows to the head compound and make the situation worse.
“Could we have taken a little time if he was a position player? Maybe. Being a catcher means he’s more susceptible to foul tips,” said Bochy, who knows that times have changed since he played. “I don’t know if they would’ve checked on me if I got hit in the head, to be honest.”
— Parker got his first hit! It bounced about 15 times and barely got past Owings before it was fielded by Brandon Drury, but it’s a start.
— Bochy said Moore’s initial bunt attempt wasn’t what he wanted to happen, but there was a miscommunication of sorts and Bochy took the blame:”I really didn’t want him bunting, but I won’t go into it.”
— Walker’s control was awful, at least early in the game. He threw pitches that were a little too high and too close to Joe Panik and Parker after hitting Posey. Bochy clearly wasn’t happy afterward, mentioning Walker going “up and in” more than once during his postgame press conference. Again, emotions were high today.
“Working up and in is a dangerous place, a dangerous area unless you have command of that pitch,” Bochy grumbled. “We saw a few of (those pitches) today.”
— Giants starters have combined to throw 23 innings over the last three games. Or, perhaps better put, the bullpen has only had to go three innings over those games.