April 8, 2011BOXSCORE GIANTS VIDEOMLBPAGE MLBSCOREBOARD
SAN FRANCISCO -- Every big-league baseball team's home opener is an event of sorts. The Giants' home opener, held Friday afternoon at AT&T Park, was an event with a seriously hyperactive pituitary gland.No surprise there. San Francisco had waited 52 years for such a day, and not a soul with a soul could begrudge the irresistible temptation to squeeze the club's 2010 World Series title free of all juice, pulp and rind.The surprise came late in the day, when what had been shaping up to be everything you'd want in a home opener and more turned into barely controlled chaos that served as a strong reminder of what torture -- a concept the Giants grew to embrace on the way to winning the rings they'll claim Saturday night -- looks, feels and smells like.As in, good. Still. Aaron Rowand's two-out drive off the base of the left-center-field wall in the 12th inning gave San Francisco a stirring 5-4 victory and ended a long, loopy day that started with a Russian nesting doll of a ceremony more than five hours earlier.
RATTO: Rowand escapes dead player walking label
"I've never watched my team play from the stands before, so I don't know what it feels like," offered reliever Sergio Romo, "but I know that when you come here to see a game, you see a game."In other words, maybe the schizophrenic vibe of the whole affair was no surprise at all. This is simply how the Giants do things. "We're not retiring torture," San Francisco skipper Bruce Bochy said with a weary, winning smile.The 45-plus minutes prior to the delivery of the first pitch were packed with far more than the perfunctoriness such as a B-list recording artist -- in this case, Train -- on a stage in the infield, the unfurling of a massive American flag across the outfield, and the military flyover that somehow still turns the majority of us into gawking 6-year-olds.Everybody gets that kind of stuff. Only world champions get the kind of chills brought on by the sight of Brian Wilson -- to the infectious refrain of House of Pain's "Jump Around" -- running out to Triples Alley, into the bleachers, up to the right-field arcade and onto a platform from which he raised the bright-orange title flag.And kudos to whomever figured out how to create that gust of wind as the previously flaccid flag reached the peak of its pole. Goosebumps? Try Pterodactylbumps.While we're at it, give it up for the devious comic genius responsible for making the visiting Cardinals wear it during Train's mini-gig. Awkwardly standing with his boys along the first-base line after being introduced with lightning speed by on-field emcee Jon Miller, St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa appeared thisclose to pulling his team off the field until the Giants magically appeared from behind the wall in center field as the final notes fell.No stranger to gamesmanship, LaRussa had to secretly appreciate the ploy, but he didn't get much of anything else to embrace once the Giants erased an early 1-0 deficit.Perhaps showing the effects of having to sitpacegnaw on his cuticles through what had to feel like an interminable series of pregame celebrations, Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez walked the first two batters he faced in a hurry, and when the capacity crowd came to fully realize that Albert Pujols was up next well, an entirely different set of chills set in.What they didn't know didn't hurt them, though. Specifically, they likely didn't know that "Phat Albert" had dragged a decidedly skinny .182 batting average into the action. It's easy to just assume the man's forever on fire; whether he ends up getting 30 million a year or not, that it's not been roundly dismissed as a patently ridiculous suggestion speaks to his unparalleled and largely deserved reputation as the game's most dangerous one-man wrecking crew.All he wrecked in the first inning Friday, however, was what seemed like a promising rally for the Redbirds. Sanchez opened the Pujols at-bat by pumping a pair of strikes before getting "El Hombre" to bounce into a double play before rookie cleanup man Allen Craig went down swinging to end the inning. Tyler Greene did what Pujols couldn't an inning later, cashing in a leadoff double by David Freese with a two-out single to center for St. Louis' short-lived lead.The tide turned when one of the few Giants who wasn't a part of last season's magical run made the kind of first impression of which prom-bound teenage boys can only dream. Leading off the bottom of the third inning, Miguel Tejada jumped all over something straight from Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook and sent it soaring into the left-field bleachers to instantaneously tie the game and make the memory of Tejada's uneven, season-opening road trip fade away.Sanchez, whose previous meaningful outing at AT&T featured his out-of-nowhere triple that jump-started the Giants' National League West-clinching victory over San Diego in last year's regular-season finale, got back into the swing of things by following Tejada's rocket with a double to left before scoring to snap the deadlock on Freddy Sanchez's one-out double to right.That's where the score stayed until the bottom of the sixth, when Pat Burrell figured it was about time to get another hit. Making it increasingly clear that the 2011 edition of Pat Burrell prefers his hits carry meaning and weight, he took Westbrook deep to center field for his team-high third home run of the year -- his fourth knock overall -- for a 3-1 cushion.His teammates stuck on five hits against the trio of Sanchez, Guillermo Mota and Jeremy Affeldt, Pujols finally made his presence felt with a two-out, run-scoring single off Sergio Romo in the eighth, setting up a dramatic ninth inning that felt all-too-familiar to anyone who paid even a passing interest in The Giant Way, circa 2010. Making his second appearance of the season after missing most of the spring with back and oblique muscle issues, Wilson quickly dispatched the first two Cards he faced before loading the bases on a walk, an infield single and a fastball that grazed the jersey of Jon Jay. What followed was an at-bat by Ryan Theriot that Wilson might have deemed "epic" had it ended on a happier note.After falling behind 0-2, Theriot worked the count full while fouling off two of Wilson's next five pitches, sent four more foul balls into Souvenir City, then punched pitch No. 12 through the left side of the infield for a two-run stunner that left Wilson with a blown save, a 33.75 ERA and a major mad-on.Walking off the mound after walking Colby Rasmus to end his afternoon, Wilson made less than zero effort to hide his displeasure with home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman's strike zone, pointing and shouting in Dreckman's direction as the crowd gladly, loudly, proudly piled on."I think that was just frustration," Bochy said of Wilson. "He probably wanted a couple of those pitches to Theriot, but it was probably frustration about giving up the lead more than anything. We're looking at a tough loss there."Not for long. Rowand's first clutch hit of the day, a two-out single up the middle in the bottom of the frame, started the game-tying rally that was extended by a walk to Buster Posey and punctuated by Pablo Sandoval's single to right."I was just looking to do something positive," said the Panda. "I wanted to keep playing."And so they did, swapping a series of wasted scoring opportunities that included the Giants managing to squander a runner-on-third-with-nobody-out situation in the 11th by striking out, grounding into LaRussa's five-man infield -- left field empty -- for a fielder's choice and striking out again.An inning later, following Tejada's one-out single, a dropped throw for an error by Pujols and an intentional walk to Freddy Sanchez, Rowand won his second consecutive extra-innings home opener with his sixth hit in 10 at-bats this season, his first as a Giants non-starter on Opening Day."You can't give 'Row' enough credit for the way he's handled everything," Bochy said."He's a professional," Sandoval said. "He works as hard now as he ever has."The day's work finally done, Bochy served up a succinct and spot-on a summation of the afternoon as anyone else in the clubhouse could offer."It was," he said, "a very emotional day."