SAN FRANCISCO — Chris Marrero has been dressed early all week, smacking balls in the cage with hitting coaches, taking fly balls in left with instructor Cody Ross, and doing swing drills by himself on a patch of grass alongside the dugout.
Marrero entered play Friday in a 1-for-18 slump to start the season, his first as a semi-regular in the big leagues. A 28-year-old veteran with more than 4,000 minor league plate appearances on his resume, Marrero admitted he was pressing. But he did not press to make changes.
“Did I want to start the season this way? No,” he said. “But I tried not to change anything. How are you going to change if what you worked on in spring training worked?”
That eight-homer spring earned a first opening day nod for Marrero. His first regular season homer doubled as the first of his big league career, and it gave Johnny Cueto a 2-0 lead that would only grow as the Giants pounded the Rockies 8-2.
Cueto improved to 3-0 on the season and showed some of his trademark fire as he halted a mid-game rally that could have wiped away Marrero’s work. It was a night full of emotion for the Giants. Marrero was still trying to settle himself as he jogged out to left minutes after his blast to the bleachers. Brandon Crawford, who lost his sister-in-law this week, added a homer of his own, one he dedicated to Jennifer Pippin.
There was little doubt Marrero would be in the lineup Friday against lefty Tyler Anderson. Manager Bruce Bochy has stuck by him during the early struggles. But Bochy wasn’t sure he would have his shortstop. The two spoke after Thursday’s game. Bochy told Crawford he could take a couple of days off.
“He said, ‘I want to play,’” Bochy said.
Crawford’s homer in the fourth rocketed out of the ballpark. As he always does, he pointed to the sky as he touched the plate. Crawford's wife, Jalynne, took to Twitter and wrote, "I know she's screaming in heaven right now! She would be so proud of that!!"
AT&T Park shook and later it lit up.
Fans took out their cell phones as Brandon Belt worked a 13-pitch at-bat in the seventh, culminating in a single. Belt saw 35 pitches in five at-bats, and his lone hit of the night kicked off a string of five straight singles that broke the game open.
The sudden blowout allowed the Giants to relax a bit after a couple of stressful weeks. Derek Law and Cory Gearrin took it home, clinching a second straight 3-0 start for Cueto. He’s the first Giant to do that in back-to-back years since Rick Reuschel in 1988-89.
When the final pitch was thrown, Marrero went off in search of a baseball. The fan who caught his blast wanted just one thing: Dodgers tickets. Marrero took care of that on a night that he won’t forget.
“You think about these moments when you first start playing baseball,” he said. “I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs in my career. It was a battle early in the season but I didn’t lose confidence.
“This game is a grind, man. It’s tough mentally and physically. It’s tough to get out of a hole. You’ve got to believe in yourself and keep fighting.”