EXTRA BAGGS: Buster Posey, the understated showman

732908.jpg

EXTRA BAGGS: Buster Posey, the understated showman

SAN FRANCISCO Great players know when the curtain rises.And although Buster Posey is still a pup when it comes to major league servicetime, there isnt a soul in the city who wouldnt call Posey a great player.

So when he steadied himself and dug into the batters boxFriday afternoon, his skin still prickling after absorbing the warmestwelcome-back ovation of his life, Posey did not surprise anyone with what hedid next.

He made a circle-sized pock mark on the center field wall, 390 feet away.His soaring double scored the Giants first run in a home-opening 5-0 victoryover the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I dont think Buster gets very nervous, said right-handerMatt Cain, who was in lockstep with Posey while throwing a one-hit shutout.Hes very even-keel. Even if he is nervous, he wont let you know it.

But you could definitely see he had some energy with him.

Posey played his first regular-season game at China Basinsince the night of May 25, when he clutched the dirt in agony after rippingthree ankle ligaments and fracturing his leg in a targeted collision at theplate.

The fans stood and applauded him like he was returning fromoverseas. In a sense, he was.

I tried to enjoy it as much as I could, Posey said. Itwas a lot of work to get back here. So I tried to soak it up.

--
You want Cain facts? You got Cain facts!

--He threw his fifth career shutout. This was the thirdone-hitter.
RELATED: Cain gives fair value on near-perfect afternoon

--Hes the first Giant since Hooks Wiltse in 1908 to beseparated from a perfect game by just one hit to the opposing pitcher. The lastmajor leaguer with such a game was the Padres Jimmy Jones, who gave up just atriple to Houstons Bob Knepper on Sept. 21, 1986. (Courtesy: Trent McCrotter,SABR.)

--Hes the first Giant to go the distance and yield his onlyhit to the opposing pitcher since Hal Schumacher in 1935. (And darn you,Orville Jorgens!)

--He joined Jonathan Sanchez (in his 2009 no-hitter) asthe only Giants in San Francisco history to throw a shutout, allow one hit orless, walk none and strike out at least 10. (Dave Feldman noodled that one.)

--The Giants have two complete-game shutouts in theirfirst seven games (Cain, Barry Zito) for the first time since Jim Barr and JohnMontefusco in 1975. Some guys named Marichal and Perry did it in 71, too.(Another Feldy gem).

--For the second consecutive day, a Giants pitcher lost a no-hitter in the sixth inning to the No.9 hitter. Spooky. A day earlier at Coors Field, Tyler Colvin (who entered on a double switch) tripled off Madison Bumgarner.

--
Cain said from the first interview of FanFest that he wasenthusiastic about the Giants new-look lineup, even if the outside view wasntso rosy. Cain kept telling anyone who would listen that he didnt expect to bechronically malnourished for run support, as hes been in the past.

Well, its early. But the Giants are now 7-for-7 in scoringat least four runs. Thats something they did in just 39.5 percent of theirgames last season.

Its huge and Ive said this from Day One: These guys weadded at the front of the lineup will be huge for us, Cain said of MelkyCabrera and Angel Pagan. You get Pablo (Sandoval) and Buster behind these twoguys and its going to be fun.

Pagan was 0 for 4 but made two hard outs and contributed afine running catch in center field. Cabreras contributions are lessunderstated. Hes hit safely in all seven games, and has multiple hits in fiveof them.

Cabrera also jammed his hand when he slid headfirst into catcherRod Barajas leg while scoring from first base on Poseys double. Shortly afterthat, he received instructions from the coaching staff.

I wont slide headfirst at home plate any more, saidCabrera through an interpreter. They told me not to.

Cabrera added that he was fine.

--
Last year, Aubrey Huff didnt hit his first home run atAT&T Park until May 11. This season, he only needed four plate appearancesto deposit one in the arcade.

Bochy is taking a lot of heat for the way hes handlingBrandon Belt, especially after promising to give his opening-day first basemana long leash. But Bochy likes the way Huff is swinging the bat, and he wantshis most confident hitters to stay out there.

Theres a lot of confidence in Huff right now.

Ive played the game long enough to know youll have goodyears and great years, Huff said. Last year was a terrible year.

Last years over.

--
It was noted that Hector Sanchez, not Posey, warmed up Cainin the bullpen. That might have had something to do with the case of shinglesthat Posey is fighting through. But Bochy also said its a way to speed upSanchezs familiarity with everyone on the staff.

Posey said the Giants had him skip a few pregame bullpenslast year, too.

Its just a matter of trying to save my legs through thecourse of the year, he said.

--
The Giants staged their second ever home opener on Fridaythe 13th. This one went better than the previous one a loss to thePadres in 1990.

--
Not surprised to see Mike Fontenot get picked up by thePhillies, even if its just on a minor league contract. Hes still got gameleft, even if he wasnt a fit with the Giants.

--
They werent World Series champions (by the slimmest ofmargins), but I have to think the 1962 team is the best ever assembled in SanFrancisco. It was quite a gathering on the field during pregame ceremonies.Many folks forget that Don Larsen, who is better known for his perfect game forthe Yankees in the 1956 World Series, was part of that 62 Giants team.

Larsen was on hand. And if Cain had thrown a perfect game,how crazy would that be for coincidences?

--
The Giants found a fitting person to throw out theceremonial first pitch. It was Bryan Stows son, Tyler. Then the team made surethe moment was done right. All the players came out of the dugout and formed asemi-circle around him.

RELATED: Bryan Stow, son team up for Giants' first pitch
It turned even more emotional when Stow appeared live viasatellite with his mother, and held out a baseball to Tyler. Good luck, son,he said.

Tyler didnt stand in front of the mound. He threw a full 60feet, 6 inches. And it was a strong heave that snapped in the glove. He did hisdad proud, all right.

I dont think there was a guy on our team that wasnttrying to hold back tears, Huff said.

--
Something I didnt expect to see today: Groundskeeperswatering the infield an hour before the first pitch. What a gloomy forecast.What a glorious day.

Morse, Arroyo stun Dodgers, lift Giants to thrilling comeback win

Morse, Arroyo stun Dodgers, lift Giants to thrilling comeback win

SAN FRANCISCO — This spring, Hunter Pence briefly tried to cut back on his coffee intake. The experiment did not last long for a player who is pure caffeine on and off the field, but even Pence is occasionally in need of more than a large cold brew. 

Pence tried to stay upbeat throughout a sluggish start to the season, but around him was a clubhouse in need of energy. Christian Arroyo walked through the door on Monday. Two days later, Michael Morse arrived.

“That’s quite an energy jolt,” Pence said of Arroyo. “Morse, it’s been an energy jolt as well.”

The two recent River Cats sent a pair of jolts through a stadium that was sold out for the 499th consecutive time. Arroyo hit a two-run homer in the seventh, his first in the big leagues. Morse went deep in the eighth for his first big league hit in two years and first homer as a Giant since the 2014 NLCS. 

Pence is close friends with Morse and and admirer of Arroyo, the 21-year-old who has taken a locker a few feet away. He made sure neither jolt went to waste, hitting a walk-off sacrifice fly in the 10th to give the Giants a thrilling 4-3 win they hope they can build on.

“That was a shot in the arm,” Morse said.

The big slugger was just that earlier Wednesday. Morse agreed to terms on a minor league deal at Pence’s wedding last winter and he was on track for opening day before a hamstring injury. He was so excited by Wednesday’s call back to San Francisco that he beat Bruce Bochy to the park. The manager tried to lower expectations before the game, telling reporters that Morse would not be a regular starter, especially in left, where the Giants have watched a black hole open. 

Morse was here for the late innings, for the moment when Bochy looks at him and says simply, “Get ready, Mo.” For most of Wednesday’s game, it looked like that big moment wouldn’t come. Alex Wood took a no-hitter into the sixth but he was pulled in the seventh by a Dodgers staff trying to protect his arm. Sergio Romo entered and soon faced a kid who was 19 the first time he walked into Romo’s clubhouse. 

“He’s been doing the same thing in the big leagues with good results for a long time,” Arroyo said. 

Arroyo got the slider that’s always coming, low and away, and he drilled it deep to left-center. He hit only three homers last year but Giants management felt the 36 doubles at Richmond showed a developing power bat. The strength has come quickly, and the ball carried into the first row of seats. 

“I looked up and saw the ump waving and I was like, ‘I’ve got to slow down,’” Arroyo said, smiling. “I tried to slow down and take it all in.”

As Arroyo crossed the plate and looked to the sky, his family shared hugs — without spilling a nacho — in a section overlooking the home dugout. The ballpark roared. A 3-0 deficit had been nearly erased. 

“Now it’s a one-run game,” Bochy said. “Anything can happen.”

Even by that standard, Morse’s blast was improbable. This is a player who didn’t have a hit last season before being sent home by the Pittsburgh Pirates. A player who, at 35, was having a poor spring before he announced to a reporter one day that he was going to hit a homer -- and then promptly did. On a rehab assignment over the past week, Morse had a .250 average and no homers, but he insisted to general manager Bobby Evans that his swing was ready. 

Evans believed, and Morse rewarded him with a moment that had everyone in the park throwing it back to 2014. Just as in the deciding game of the NLCS against the Cardinals, Morse was sent up as a pinch-hitter in the eighth. Sidewinding Pat Neshek was replaced by fire-balling Pedro Baez, but the approach was the same. 

“Swing hard,” Morse said. “Just in case you hit it.”

Baez kept pumping fastballs and Morse turned on one at 97 mph. He raised his arm the same way he did three years ago, an inning before Travis Ishikawa’s heroics. 

“I’m not going to lie,” Bochy said. “I was thinking about that game against St. Louis.”

All the Giants were. 

“You kind of just sit there and shake your head a little bit because it was very similar to his last homer here,” Posey said. “Even his excitement out of the box was similar.”

Morse said he didn’t intend to strike the same pose. 

“I was like, ‘I hope I didn’t strike out and I’m just running around the bases,’” he said, laughing. “It was cool, man. Not only for me, but for the team.”

For four innings, the surging bullpen made sure the homers would not be a fun footnote to another loss. Gorkys Hernandez kicked off the winning rally in the 10th with a single. He was pushed along by a stolen base, walk and bunt. Pence stepped in with no outs and engaged in one of the strangest battles of a career full of them. 

Ross Stripling, a starter with a deep repertoire, kept pumping 94 mph fastballs up near Pence’s eyes. Pence swung through one, fouled off five, and took three more for balls. Only one of the pitches he saw was in the strike zone. In the dugout, Posey shook his head in amusement. 

“It was kind of hard not to laugh,” Posey said. “He’s probably the only guy who can do that.”

Some Giants couldn’t hold the laughter in, even in a tense spot.

“He had that ‘Thou shall not walk’ going in that at-bat,” Bochy said. “He probably expanded as much as I’ve ever seen. If he would have walked it would have gone down as one of the more amazing walks with all the balls he swung at.”

On a night full of so much energy, a walk would have been an anticlimactic ending. Pence, who had been expecting a curveball the whole at-bat, lofted a 10th fastball deep enough to left to score Arroyo and send the Giants streaming out of the dugout. 

Arroyo, the youngest of them all, went sprinting across the infield. Morse followed, and soon he had Pence wrapped in a hug. Hours earlier, he had promised that at the very least, he would bring energy to the clubhouse. He delivered more than anyone could have imagined.

“To do that is one of those special moments that can change a season,” Pence said. “It was electric ... Morsey being Morsey.”

Instant Replay: Arroyo, Morse go deep, Giants walk off on Dodgers

Instant Replay: Arroyo, Morse go deep, Giants walk off on Dodgers

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — Michael Morse hoped to bring a little levity to a battered clubhouse Wednesday. On his first day as a Giant since the 2014 World Series, he ended up bringing the most thrilling win of the season. 

Morse’s pinch-hit homer in the eighth shook AT&T Park and tied the game. His good friend Hunter Pence won it with a sacrifice fly in the 10th, giving the Giants a 4-3 win over the Dodgers. 

The 10th-inning rally started with Gorkys Hernandez’s single off Ross Stripling. Hernandez stole second and Conor Gillaspie drew a walk, and both runners were safe when Adrian Gonzalez went to third on Nick Hundley’s bunt. Pence flied out to deep left on the 10th pitch of his at-bat. The Giants had been 0-13 when trailing after seven. Morse  helped change all that.

Morse’s homer came an inning after Christian Arroyo’s first career homer. The newcomers saved a night that started with nothing but failure. 

The Giants entered with four games this month where they failed to put a runner on the first time through the order. Lefty Alex Wood stayed with the theme. Brandon Belt finally touched first with a one-out walk in the fourth but it wasn’t until the sixth that a Giant — Drew Stubbs — picked up a hit.

By that time, the Dodgers led 3-0. Johnny Cueto worked around some early trouble but Corey Seager got to him in the sixth. The young shortstop led off with a mammoth blast on a 3-2 pitch that landed a couple dozen rows up in left-center. The homer was tracked at 462 feet per Statcast, tied for the longest in the Majors this season.

The Dodgers went up 2-0 when Chase Utley blooped a single to left with the bases loaded. Utley was 1-for-31 at the time. Andrew Toles beat out a grounder to bring home a third run. 

The Giants looked dead in the water, but Wood — the Dodgers’ swingman — was pulled after 77 pitches and old friend Sergio Romo immediately opened the door. Buster Posey hit a one-out single and Arroyo lined a slider just over the fence in left-center.

Morse’s first at-bat as a Giant in three years sent an even bigger charge through the park. He got a 97 mph fastball from Pedro Baez with two strikes and blasted it to left. Morse held his arm up right away and screamed as he rounded first.

Starting pitching report: Cueto was charged with three runs on seven hits and two walks. He’ll finish April with a 5.10 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. After holding opposing hitters to a .238 average last year, he’s getting hit at a .271 clip this season. 

Bullpen report: Steven Okert did a great job of settling the place down, throwing a scoreless inning before Arroyo’s homer and retiring two more immediately after. 

At the plate: The 21-year-old Arroyo calmly clapped his hands once as he rounded first. He was pushed out of the dugout for a curtain call as the park roared. Most impressive of all, his mom, Kimberly, didn’t drop a single nacho as she celebrated in the stands.

In the field: Stubbs made a diving catch to open the seventh and Gorkys Hernandez followed with a nifty sliding catch at the wall.

Attendance: The Giants announced a crowd of 41,572 human beings. Thursday will be the 500th consecutive (announced) sellout.

Up next: Matt Moore (1-3, 5.87 ERA) will try to turn his month around. The Dodgers will trot out young lefty Julio Urias, who spent three weeks in the minors to control his innings count.