It was like the offseason never happened. One season ends, the other begins … tomorrow!
Madison Bumgarner did bigger and badder Bumgarner things than ever before, Conor Gillaspie came through with an outstanding at-bat to give the Giants a late lead, and the bullpen gave up leads in both the eighth and ninth.
Once again, a parade of hitters reaching base against Giants relievers. Once again, fans questioning Bruce Bochy’s decision to replace his starting pitcher.
It was bad. The D-Backs went 7-for-11 against Bochy’s bullpen to earn a walk-off 5-4 victory. The scab from Game 4 hadn’t quite healed, but that didn’t stop Arizona from taking a blowtorch to the wound.
Maybe the Giants tempted fate when they had Comcast SportsNetBC (the station’s new name is taking some getting used to) air that “meet our closer” commercial a couple dozen times, in which Mark Melancon sneaks around, closing things. Melancon’s good, but it’s not like he’s Barry Bonds, the only free agent who was just about guaranteed to exceed expectations the moment he signed with the Giants.
It’s possible that the Giants’ evil bullpen fairy sprinkled toxic cheese dust on Melancon during the Bay Bridge series and he’ll be awful for the next four years. Or, Melancon will be fine. Seeing as he got the first two outs pretty quickly, after allowing no runs and four hits in 10 spring appearances, that’s probably a safer bet than assuming he’ll give up four hits in the ninth inning in his next opportunity as well.
In that same spirit of positive thinking, the pain of yesterday’s loss — and we can rest assured that Bochy and Bobby Evans felt just as rotten as any fan after that two-out, four-hit rally off the Giants’ new closer — could be paired with a bright side of sorts.
The false confidence we saw a bit of last year shouldn’t be a problem this season. Last year the Giants routed the Brewers on Opening Day. The 12-3 win would represent the least Giants-y game of the season in this respect: four home runs were hit, one each for Matt Duffy, Denard Span, Joe Panik and Buster Posey. Those four would combine to hit 36 home runs for the Giants the rest of that season, and the sad thing is how much higher that total sounds than you thought it would’ve been.
The 2016 Giants would fall to 7-10, but thanks to a May stretch where they’d win 13 of 14 games (while scoring more than five runs just once), and another eight-game winning streak in June, they shot to the top of the NL West and things couldn’t look better. All while masking an offense built for postseason play (clutch hits during low-scoring games) and a bullpen that would undergo the kind of collapse that, well, leads to a team spending a ton of money on a closer.
They didn’t think the bullpen was a dead-serious problem until after July, when it was too late to make any significant upgrades. Now, after allowing 11 hits in its last three innings of work, no one will have a spare moment to worry about the angle of Brandon Belt’s shoulders and neck after strikeouts.
Scrutiny will be reserved for the relievers.
It’s not the greatest news that the bullpen looks dumpy after losing Will Smith, as it not only means they’re going to have to scramble to plug multiple holes (not sure what’s going on with Derek Law, but it ain’t good), but offensive weaknesses will have to be tolerated for the time being.
So even though it’s only been one game, I think it’s safe to say that the Giants’ bullpen is going to look far different from the Opening Day configuration in a relatively short period of time. Law and Cory Gearrin were hit pretty hard in the Cactus League. Matt Cain is currently the fifth starter. The Triple-A roster is stocked with four guys who pitched for the Giants last year, as well as Kyle Crick (who had a great spring).
Last year the pitchers mostly stayed the same, but the roles changed. This year we’re probably going to see a lot of different pitchers. Other than the guy who has his own commercial, no one in Bochy’s bullpen should feel like their job is totally safe.
— Eduardo Núñez and Panik jumped off the screen yesterday. Núñez looked like the most athletic Giant in recent memory. Maybe Vince Coleman’s influence will pay off. Panik looked like a completely different player than the one we saw after Matt Moore beaned him.
— It seems like we can thank Buster Olney for motivating Denard Span, who went 14-for-31 after Olney said the Giants were concerned with his play after a 4-for-28 start to his spring. It seemed like Span, who went 2-for-5 yesterday, was trying to do a little too much on the basepaths, however.
— It wouldn’t surprise me at this point if we found out that Bumgarner spent his offseason throwing oxen into the bed of his F-150 and towing the truck up a hill with a chain attached to his belt buckle. He’s almost like some mythical creature at this point.