PHOENIX – You’d swear that Monday was the first time the Giants stepped foot in Arizona all year.
Could a major league infield really be in such shambles after 40-odd days of ground balls, rundown drills and spring exhibition games?
Well, apparently, yes.
Buster Posey still made sure they could shake hands, smile and forget the whole thing. The Giants made it a new game when they erased a four-run deficit in the seventh inning – which is good, since it’s doubtful manager Bruce Bochy liked the previous, mistake-filled one.
Posey provided the late muscle, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run home run in the ninth as the Giants hung on for a season-opening, 9-8 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Monday.
Starting pitching report
Nobody saw Madison Bumgarner lasting just four innings in his season debut. He was a trendy preseason pick to upend Clayton Kershaw as the NL Cy Young winner, after all.
But the vagaries of the National League got to Bumgarner in the fifth inning. With the Giants down 4-1 and starting a rally, Bochy sent up pinch hitter Gregor Blanco. The Giants got an RBI ground out from the bargain, and Bumgarner’s night was done after 78 pitches.
It wasn’t like Bumgarner cruised. He needed to get to the pitcher’s spot to strand two runners in the second inning and he stranded Paul Goldschmidt following a two-out double in the third.
He had a chance to pitch out of the two-error mess in the fourth inning when pitcher Brandon McCarthy grounded out and A.J. Pollock struck out. But Aaron Hill broke his back with a two-run double to cap a four-run inning. It was a familiar foil for Bumgarner. When he made his season debut here in 2012, Hill rocked him for two home runs.
Remember when Yusmeiro Petit retired 26 Diamondbacks in a row last September at AT&T Park? This time, the first four Arizona batters collected hits against him – although second baseman Joaquin Arias and first baseman Brandon Belt couldn’t knock two of them down. The run he allowed in the sixth inning would’ve been avoided if not for a botched rundown, too.
The real hero in the bullpen was Jean Machi, who inherited Javier Lopez’s runner in the seventh and got a strikeout-double play to escape. Machi also flashed a nasty splitter while striking out two to pitch around an infield hit in the eighth.
Sergio Romo, who got thwacked for two weeks this spring while trying to hone a lefty-neutralizing changeup, gave up a solo homer to left-handed Miguel Montero. The Diamondbacks got the tying run into scoring position before Romo’s work on his changeup paid off. He threw a two-strike floater that struck out pinch hitter Eric Chavez, then got A.J. Pollock to pop out to record his first save.
At the plate
Set aside that talk of Brandon Crawford platooning at shortstop for a moment. Who knows? A few more games like this and he could end up hitting second on this club.
Crawford collected the Giants’ first hit and run of the season when he singled to start the third and scored on Angel Pagan’s hit to right field. (Crawford also managed to stay within the spirit of the new collision rule even though right fielder Gerardo Parra’s rare off-line throw took Montero into the baseline.)
Crawford doubled high off the center field wall in his next at-bat in the fifth, although Michael Morse couldn’t score from first base.
Belt, after striking out in his first two trips, nearly brought rain with a soaring home run to start the sixth inning. Ehire Adrianza hit a pinch RBI double in the seventh to drive McCarthy from the game.
Given the way McCarthy was throwing, the Giants did well to score four. McCarthy was throwing his power sinker at 94 mph and throwing strikes with his cutter and curve.
They completed their comeback against Arizona’s beefed-up bullpen. Pagan followed Adrianza’s double with another, and Pablo Sandoval started his contract drive with a protection check-swing single on an inside pitch. (Hey, it looked the same as a laser line drive single in the box score, right?) Shortstop Chris Owings couldn’t keep it in his glove in shallow left field as Pagan scored. The Giants tied it when Hunter Pence drew a bases-loaded walk from Brad Ziegler.
Belt had a single amid that four-run rally, and he sure made a nice recovery from those two strikeouts. He also singled with one out in the ninth off new Arizona closer Addison Reed. Then came Posey’s two-out crescendo into the left field seats.
The Giants made two errors and that hardly told the whole story of their ineptitude over the first six innings.
Belt, playing an infield shift, made an error when he couldn’t handle Mark Trumbo’s grounder leading off the fourth inning. Then Sandoval stepped in front of Crawford and juggled Miguel Montero’s grounder for another error. Those mistakes opened the door for four unearned runs off Bumgarner.
The Giants weren’t charged with any errors in Arizona’s two-run fifth inning, but both Belt and Arias couldn’t knock down a couple of grounders that went for singles. Although it didn’t end up costing them a run, Arias threw wide to Crawford covering second base and pulled him off the bag. (Replays appeared to show that Crawford stayed on the bag, but the Giants didn’t issue a challenge.)
The most embarrassing moment afield came in the sixth, when Petit had Goldschmidt picked off first base but there was confusion in the rundown. With Arias not taking charge, Crawford made a late dash to cover second base and Belt kept the ball too long. Goldschmidt was credited with a stolen base and he scored on Trumbo’s single.
Amid a terrible defensive game, Pence threw out Trumbo trying to go from first to third in the second inning. On the very next batter, Pence made a fine running catch in foul ground near the wall.
Posey hosed Machi’s runner in the eighth, too.
The Diamondbacks announced a sellout crowd of 48,541, including six decedents who dropped $25 on the 18-inch bacon-stuffed corn dog. (Shawn Estes appears to have survived, thankfully.)
The Giants and Diamondbacks play the second game of a four-game series at Chase Field on Tuesday. Matt Cain makes his season debut against Arizona lefty Wade Miley. First pitch is scheduled for 6:40 p.m. PDT.