PHOENIX The plan seemed to work well enough Friday night.Newcomers Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera conspired to put two runs on the board.Brandon Crawford made a productive out to score a runner from third base.
Against Ian Kennedy, a pitcher who held all the bakerytickets last year, the Giants managed to munch a cookie or two.
But the plan crumbles when the Giants dont get what theyneed from their rotation especially ace Tim Lincecum. With the Giants tryingto make a statement on opening day against the Arizona Diamondbacks, their ace seemedto pitch from his heels in a 5-4 loss at Chase Field.
Arizona pounded two home runs in a three-run first inningagainst Lincecum. The Giants made it a new ballgame after Cabreraswall-skipping, two-run shot in the fifth and Crawfords roller in the sixth.
But Lincecum, whose fastball topped out at 91 mph, fell outof the groove hed found. Ryan Roberts screamed and pointed to his dugout afterhitting a tiebreaking, bases-loaded double, and a Sedona-red clad crowd got toenjoy more than just a perfect April afternoon with the roof open.
Lincecum entered with a 1.59 ERA in three opening-daystarts, but he pitched like he was barely holding it together. With hisfastball topping out at just 91 mph, he made plenty of location mistakes andthe Diamondbacks hit them hard.
He never got a chance to settle in, as Willie Bloomquist ledoff the first inning with a defensive swing that resulted in a punched singlethrough the right side. Bloomquist took off with the 2-2 pitch to Chris Young,which was no surprise. Arizona manager Kirk Gibson all but told the media priorto the game that he planned to run wild against Lincecum, who has troubleholding runners.
Lincecum worked on a slide step all spring and might haveshortened up his delivery on the 2-2 pitch a breaking ball that hovered atthe belt. Young cranked it for a two-run home run, and two batters later, PaulGoldschmidt launched a solo shot on a 3-1 fastball.
It was Goldschmidts ninth career home run and his third offLincecum, in just 10 at-bats against him.
One other fact: Lincecum entered the game having allowed twoor more home runs just 10 times in 156 games. In his season debut, he served uptwo to the first five hitters he faced.
Suddenly, Arizona held a 3-0 lead and the Giants were backto making outs at their 2011 pace. They mounted a couple of early chancesagainst right-hander Ian Kennedy, who was 3-0 with a 1.22 ERA in five startsagainst them last season. But after two innings, they were 0 for 2 with twoouts and runners in scoring position. Whats worth, the out makers (AubreyHuff, Angel Pagan) both popped up first pitches.
Thats not how the Giants retooled lineup wanted to beginthe season especially after their .173 average with two outs and runners inscoring position (in more than 600 at-bats) ranked as the worst by a majorleague team in the 37 years for which data is available.
But Lincecum began to settle down, mixing in his slowercurveball with his harder one while striking out five consecutive. From thesecond inning through the fifth, he retired 12 of 14 batters and one of thosewho reached base came on shortstop Brandon Crawfords error.
The Giants finally got the scoring rally they needed in thefifth, when Angel Pagan took an ugly hack but managed to line a double andMelky Cabrera followed with a low-clearance shot that hit the top of the wallin right field and skipped over for a two-run home run.
It was quite a debut for Cabrera, who also doubled in hisfirst at-bat as a Giant.
The Giants tied it in the sixth with a couple of hits and aproductive out. Huff and Brandon Belt both singled and moved up on RyanTheriots sacrifice. The bunt play was a vote of confidence in Crawford, theNo.8 hitter, who looked solid with the bat all spring. But curiously, withLincecum on deck, Gibson did not have Kennedy pitch around Crawford. Gibsonplayed his infield back, too. That decision didnt work out, as Crawfordmanaged a grounder to shortstop that brought home Huff with the tying run.
It was a brand new game for Lincecum, but it didnt take longfor him to give it back. Justin Upton led off the sixth with a ground-ruledouble and took third on Miguel Monteros fly out that Cabrera caught with hisback against the right field wall. Lincecum, now totally out of rhythm, pitchedcarefully while walking Goldschmidt.
Then Arizona got its break. Jason Kubel hit a nubber infront of the plate that was about to spin foul, but catcher Buster Poseypounced on it, intending to look back the runner at third and then throw forthe force. But Posey bobbled the ball for an error and Kubel barely beat thethrow, loading the bases.
Lincecum had nowhere to put Roberts and threw a gutsyfirst-pitch changeup that the excitable third baseman waved through. But thenLincecum followed a great pitch with a horrible one down the middle and Robertsyanked it down the line for a two-run double, putting Arizona up 5-3 andsending out Giants manager Bruce Bochy for the baseball.
The Giants could not rally all the way back. Huff, facingsidewinding left-hander Joe Paterson, grounded out to strand two runners in theseventh.
In the ninth, pinch hitter Gregor Blanco singled and PabloSandoval plated him with a two-out double off Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz.With pinch runner Emmanuel Burriss representing the tying run at second base,Buster Posey grounded out sharply to end it.
Aside from the final at-bat, the saw positives from Posey.He didnt take long to shake off 10 months worth of rust, drawing a walk in hisfirst plate appearance and singling twice. As they announced in the press box,Posey extended his hitting streak to 14 games.
Yes, its true: Posey had a 13-game hitting streak when hegot blown up in a home-plate collision that ended his season on May 25.
But Posey couldnt be the hero on opening day. Instead, theGiants needed more out of their ace.