PHOENIX For all the talk about this retooled Giants lineupand its ability to start fast, its the top of their vaunted rotation that isstumbling at the outset.
Less than 24 hours after the Arizona Diamondbacks shockedTim Lincecum in the first inning on opening day, their power-packed lineup senta pair of early jolts through young Madison Bumgarner. Aaron Hill took the22-year-old left-hander deep in each of the first two innings and the Giantswerent able to rally all the way back in a 5-4 loss at Chase Field onSaturday.
BAGGARLY: Giants come up short again, fall to D'Backs 5-4
Itll be up to Matt Cain -- once the Brinks truck finishesdelivering the signing bonus from his 112.5 million extension -- to help theGiants avoid being swept to open the season.
A clean first inning would help. The Diamondbacks havescored five runs in the opening frame against Lincecum and Bumgarner. Thistime, Hill connected for a solo shot and Chris Young pelted an RBI double offthe wall before Bumgarner could get back in the dugout after throwing 32pitches.
Hill launched a two-run shot off Bumgarner in the secondinning, putting the Giants in a 4-0 hole.
Pablo Sandoval and pinch hitter Brett Pill hit two-run homers,but for the second consecutive night, the Giants couldnt rally all the wayback.
Similar game, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. These guysare trying to get settled in and (Arizona) is taking advantage of mistakes.Its a good sign the way were coming back, but thats a tough challenge aheadof you.
Itll be tough all season if their rotation doesnt begin topost some zeroes early. Then again, this is just two games. And althoughLincecum didnt exactly look great while hovering between 89-91 mph in theopener, he and Bumgarner both settled down and pitched effectively after theearly turbulence.
Theyll be fine, Bochy said. Bumgarner was just missingspots and this is a good hitting ballclub. You never know what youre going toget, but with our starters, Ill say this: We like our chances.
Bochy pulled Bumgarner for pinch hitter Nate Schierholtz inthe top of the fifth; the left-hander allowed seven hits and walked two whilestriking out three in his four innings. Bochy said Bumgarner wanted tocontinue, and if it were later in the season, he wouldve stayed with him.
"Its not the time to overtax him, Bochy said.
Although Lincecums shaky start shouldnt have come as acomplete surprise given the way he looked this spring, Bumgarner had givenevery impression that hed be ready to blow the doors off the station wagonfrom the first pitch. He was dominant most of the spring while posting a27-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
He said his pitches were just missing up in the zone aproblem he doesnt expect to continue.
Id like to get started off on a good note, but I feel wayahead of where I was at this time last year, said Bumgarner, who was 0-6 afterhis first eight outings in 2011. Today, early, I was off. But I had a goodspring. I dont think itll carry over.
Even through his rough April and May last season, Bumgarnerdidnt give up many homers. His two gopherballs to Hill matched the number hethrew in his first 13 starts last season.
Bumgarner also lost for the first time in seven careerappearances against the Diamondbacks; he had been 3-0 with a 2.41 ERA againstthem.
If youre searching for positives, here are seven of them:The number of runs theyve scored against Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson, theDiamondbacks top two starters who shut them down last season.
Hudson had allowed just a single to Bumgarner until thefourth, when Melky Cabrera singled and Sandoval hit what appeared to be a good,down-and-in pitch deep into the right field seats.
Arizona made it 5-2 after scoring a run off right-hander DanOtero in the fifth, but Brandon Belt drew a leadoff walk in the seventh andPills pinch homer knocked Hudson from the game.
It was the first pinch homer of Pills career. It alsomarked the second time he homered in his first big league at-bat of the year.Youll recall that last season, Pill became the first Giant since Will Clark (aquarter century earlier) to homer in his first big league plate appearance.
The first pitch was a slider and I looked pretty dumb onit, so I thought hed throw it again, Pill said. I guessed right and he hungthat one.
The Giants werent keen on putting Pill in highly leveragedsituations off the bench; they might be ready to reconsider now. Hes done itbefore, as he explained.
My freshman year in college, thats what I did mostly waspinch hit, said Pill, a product of Cal State Fullerton. That was a long timeago, but mentally, youre watching the pitcher and watching what hes doing.You know youve got to be aggressive out there. Youre not going to see toomany pitches. Other than that, its just staying loose.
The Giants managed just one baserunner in the final twoinnings against David Hernandez and closer J.J. Putz, who recorded his secondconsecutive save.
And still, Buster Posey hasnt caught nine innings. TheGiants hope to force the Diamondbacks to bat in the ninth in the series finale.
Posey, for one, doesnt expect to play from behind allseason.
These guys know what theyre doing, Posey said. Our guyshave a track record and we know how good they are. Its just the first couplegames, so, you know you keep going.