Tulowitzki made a charging barehand play in the first inning but the throw popped right out of Todd Helton's glove, the kind of error you see maybe once a year. The Rockies trainer came out to check on Tulo but cleared him to stay out there. Couple plays later he pulled up short of grabbing an easy grounder up the middle: a strained quad.
The Rockies were clearly caught unprepared, because their backup plan was to insert Chris Ianetta at third base, move Garrett Atkins to second, and move Clint Barmes to short. Naturally the Denver nine played flawless defense for the rest of the game, and Ianetta homered off Lincecum in the very next frame, doubled in the sixth and scored the pivotal run in the game.
Every game is like a snowflake, and this one would have been unique even before the Giants ace allowed that go-ahead run in the sixth on a balk. Lincecum had shown another layer of promise tonight by pitching efficiently in chilly conditions and wriggling out of a first-inning jam, but here he false-started his windup with Ianetta on third. Bengie Molina the catcher tried to call timeout before anything happened but Gary Darling was already calling waving the runner home. Molina and Bruce Bochy argued vehemently to the crowd's delight but to no avail.
The Giants fall to 12-16, putting them on pace for a 69-win season. To reach 63 wins and avoid a 100-loss season would have to be considered a moral victory for a squad so thin on hitting talent. But if it's going to happen they'll need to avoid losses like these, where they a) balked in the go-ahead run; b) got picked off first in an unforgivable situation (tying run on third, one out, seventh inning); c) got needlessly thrown out at third on a grounder to shortstop (also in the seventh); and d) wasted a 3-0 count in the ninth with the tying run on second and Fuentes the closer struggling to find the zone by lifting a harmless popup to second (earning the rare 'X' in the scorebook, intended to signify scorn).
Those last two blunders came courtesy of Randy Winn, one of the guys supposedly responsible for the veteran leadership on this team. But so far it's the kids on this team that have shown the most spark: Lincecum, Fred Lewis (2-5, 2 SB tonight), Jonathan Sanchez, Eugenio Velez (a mediocre player but with dazzling speed). And I'll even finally give a nod in the direction of Brian Bocock, a little 23-year-old shortstop who is completely overmatched in the majors but who made a gutsy play tonight in the eighth. Drawn in on the grass with Willy Taveras on third and one out, he fielded a Matt Holliday grounder that came to him alongside the flying splintered barrel of the bat. The projectiles arrived simultaneously and not three feet apart, but Bocock fielded the correct object, looked the runner back to third and made the play like it was a routine Cactus League drill. I've been waiting for Bocock to show us something that separated him from a stranger summoned off the street, and thanks to that one little play I have now seen it.
Picking up KOA in the STL
Tulo's first ribs last night.
A shot over Edmonds' head.
Rockies in Houston tomorrow,
7:30 mountain time.
Helton hits one to the track.
Peavy yields few home runs.
25 last year, 2 so far this year.
They call Matt Matt it sounds weird
but Albert's Albert.
Holliday goes again.
It's his second steal of the game,
third of the series.
This game, played on the sort of sparkling Sunday afternoon that almost crossed the line from "balmy" to "kinda damn hot," was an example of how they can win those close games. A number of factors converged to make it possible:
1) The bloopers fall in. Of the twelve hits recorded, at least half were either pop flies with eyes or ground balls with legs. Some days are just like that no matter who you are.
2) Random dude has the day of his life. John Bowker, who had homered in his ML debut the day before, kept his Bo Hart impression going with another dinger and four RBI. His minor league track record suggests no meaningful potential (as can be said for any Giants prospect), but there may something to be said for the strategy of "when all else fails, go through as many different minor leaguers as you can and someone's bound to stick." A full season's and roster's worth of this tactic grows pretty old though.
3) The opposing team runs out the Sunday starters. Troy Glaus and Albert Pujols sat this one out in favor of Rico Washington and Skip Schumaker. Joel Pineiro took the ball for his injury-delayed first appearance this year and showed very little, striking out no one and allowing the Giants to bat around in the fourth. (I still would have taken the Cards, however, over the SF lineup which was sans Winn, Roberts and Rowand.)
4) Franchise is pitching. This was the third time I'd seen Lincecum pitch in person, and I'm still not sure how he does it. He snaps every bit of energy out of his 5' 10", 170 body to get his fastball into the high 90s, but that and his curveball are enough to make a lot of professional hitters look sillier than they're used to. Nine of his eleven Ks were swinging, almost all of them out on the front foot. I know people probably said this about Oswalt and Wagner too, but it doesn't seem like a kid this tiny could possibly last long. The Giants had better hope he does.
San Francisco Opening Day Optimist, 2008
- The weather can actually be quite beautiful for daytime games.
- The games will be fast. The Giants' lineup was already prone to the 1-2-3 inning before Bonds left. On this day six of their nine frames lasted the minimum. Only because of starter Matt Cain's control woes did this game eclipse the three-hour mark.
- While beer prices may have (unconscionably) risen again, a contraband flask of Jim Beam costs exactly the same as before, which is to say less than one ballpark beer.
- To go to a Giants game this year is not to attend one open-and-shut contest, but rather to see a snippet of an endless, undulating string of losing. Hey, wanna go watch the Giants lose for a little while? Today it's to the Padres. It's like asking them to come toss a football in the park.
- Everyone in the crowd showed up to the home opener already knowing this. They cheered effort and booed the lack thereof, and beyond that were just there to have a good time. One of the saddest things is a city that really believes its team can win when anyone with eyes can tell you that's not true. But in 2008? This is not that city.
- It goes without saying, but good seats are available all season long.
- Because sometimes you show up for a game not really thinking about the opposing team and who plays for them this year, and then you show up to the park halfway through the first inning (Giants already down 2-0) because sometimes cabs are inexplicably few and far between in this city and you look up and there's your old friend Greg Maddux, getting ready to take the hill. About to turn 42 and not cracking 85 on the radar gun, he's already hinted that 2008 will be his final turn. Today he mostly seemed bored, possibly because he was facing an SF lineup that featured Bengie Molina at cleanup. I'll let the San Jose Mercury-News take it: "He retired 19 of the last 20 batters he faced to pick up the 348th victory of his career. At one point, Maddux faced 17 consecutive batters without allowing a ball to leave the infield." Tidy little game score of 70 and an easy career win #348.
- The game is still the game, and someone needs to be out there paying attention because official scorers cannot be trusted. I simply cannot let transgressions like this go. Jose Castillo hit a fourth-inning Baltimore chop that Khalil Greene was slow to attack, and the short hop ate him up. Should have been an easy play, instead they scored it a base hit. Not in this book they didn't.
Halfway through the game Warms left his seat, returning after about two whole innings with a brand new Giants cap -- all black with the classic SF logo. He comes from Mariners and I come from Braves, but to the surprise of both of us it looked right. If ever there was a year to get in on the ground floor to support a new team with complete immunity from being accused of bandwagonnery, this is that year. I'm going back on Sunday to see them lose to my last adopted team, the Cardinals. I think my own Giants hat awaits me on one of those racks.
Dodgers/Giants in the Rain
I was out in California last week. I happened to be in the Dodgers viewing area for the April 2 Dodgers/Giants tilt. This was that crazy game where Lincecum was supposed to start for the visiting Giants against Billingsley and the Dodgers. Well, both Bochy and Torre decided to "play weatherman" in the words of Immortal Vin and hold off starting their young studs. Eventually, both Billingsley and Lincecum would appear in the game. Long story short, it was a hell of a crazy game.
It started amidst a forecast of impending rain. As the fourth inning began, both managers were having second thoughts. In came Lincecum, then in the fifth came Billingsley. Then came the rain. Amazingly, Lincecum returned after the rain and ultimately won the game. My friend RLW back home in St. Louis was listening to the action on MLB radio. These were some haiku we wrote to record the evening (the first being his).
Radar cells active
The grounds crew brings out the tarp
Delayed in L.A.
rain-delay edition of the news —
the first pitch.
Again at 95,
Lincecum didn't stiffen
in the rain.