Just like they did the last time they took the field for a meaningful game, the Giants walked away with a tight, one-run victory. They ended up jumping out to an early lead and beating the Arizona Diamondbacks in Arizona at Chase Field, 5-4, in a tight ballgame that came down to Casilla fanning Goldschmidt for the final out.
It was a little different out there without Hunter Pence, and seeing seeing a face at third base other than Pablo Sandoval for the first time since 2008 when Jose Castillo opened the year at the "hot corner". Also new was a the leadoff man, Nori Aoki. New or old, most all worked out for the Giants on Monday night, starting with Madison Bumgarner. The Giants' ace, while not quite as dominant with the strikeout, picked right up where he left off last fall, with 7 strong, allowing one run on 6 hits along with a walk and 3 strikeouts. So it wasn't necessarily the lights out start by MadBum numbers wise, but you could just feel that he had control of the game out there. His strong start helped set the tone and allow enough room for error in the Giants bullpen, which they ended up needing. Jean Machi and Sergio Romo had Giants fans nervous there in the 8th inning allowing a 5-1 game to become a 5-4 game, but Jeremy Affeldt came in and managed to strand the tying run at second. Then, in typical Santiago Casilla fashion shut the door down 1-2-3 in the ninth, including a 3-2 strikeout of Paul Goldschmidt to end the ballgame.
So, outside of Jean Machi and, to a lesser extent, Sergio Romo getting slapped around a bit, there really weren't any complaints in the pitching department, as everyone did their job (although Javier Lopez failed to get Ender Inciarte and was charged with that run). On the offensive side of things, the Giants did exactly what they'll need to do in order to be successful, especially while Hunter Pence is out. They made the Josh Collmenter work, not offering at every single pitch even though they were playing on a nice night in a hitter friendly yard. Just looking at the newcomers games', Nori Aoki looked like a natural fit for the Giants in the leadoff spot, taking pitches and putting the ball in play in all 5 plate appearances, going 2-5 with a run scored. Casey McGehee meanwhile, reached base 3 times in 4 plate appearances, going 2-3 with a walk and run scored. One bat in particular really stood out to me was the one he had fifth when there was a runner on third base with two out and he took a walk. Brandon Crawford followed that up with a 2-out, 2-run double that ended up being the difference in the game. All I thought to myself was that Pablo would have never taken a walk in that situation. It showed me that while the Giants lost a lot of production in Morse and Sandoval, they gained two professional hitters that are far more polished in the strike zone than the recently departed.
As far as the returnees, all but Brandon Belt and Gregor Blanco got in on the action, and Buster Posey only went 0-4 although he did drive in a run with a sac-fly. The fact the Giants were able to put up five runs while getting very little out of their 4 and 5 hitters is very encouraging. The reason being, the top of the order was so darn successful. Between Aoki, Panik and Pagan they combined for an 8 for14 night with 4 runs scored and 3 extra-base hits. I was a huge advocate for hitting Pagan third, dating back to the day they signed Aoki, and it showed why today. I already mentioned how right Aoki looks in the leadoff spot, and while Pagan is no slouch as a leadoff man himself, he's got the ability to be a solid number 3 hitter. It makes sense for the Giants to try because if that's the case it stretches this lineup out nicely. Plus, all Pagan did on day one in his new spot was go 3-4 with 2 doubles, 2 RBI and a run scored. He may not be a prototypical three-hitter from a power standpoint, but think along the lines of Jacoby Ellsbury. Not saying Pagan is at that level and will steal 40 bags, but outside of that I don't think the two are that
far apart. If he hit 3rd all year, a .285/12/70/.775 line with 20+ swipes is within reach and would be just fine in front of Posey, Pence and Belt..
All in all, in terms of the game, I really liked what I saw. I didn't like how the D-Backs nearly erased a 4-run lead in a matter of minutes but that's what happens in a place like Chase Field sometimes. However, the Giants' worries were off the field before the game. News surfaced before Monday's opener that Matt Cain is experiencing forearm tightness, which had everyone worried about those three little words that are a pitchers nightmare: Tommy John Surgery. Now, the Giants hope that's not the case, and did get some encouraging news
later on Monday evening, but nonetheless, Cainer seems destined for yet another DL-stint with a flexor-tendon strain. Best case scenario is Cain is back in the rotation wihin two weeks. That said, I doubt the Giants will trot him out there until they're certain he's not in danger of aggravating anything. They have too much invested in him that an extra week or two is well worth avoiding a possible season-ending issues.
Matt Cain isn't the only Giants' starter battling injury issues, as Jake Peavy's back has pushed his season debut back to at least this weekend and he too could be destined for a DL-trip should he not be ready by then. We all knew the Giants were going to need Ryan Vogelsong and/or Yusmiero Petit at some point this year, but I don't think anyone expected to need them both to start the year. I sure didn't. I think the Giants may as well take the safe route and just let Petit and Vogey make a couple starts for Cain and Peavy to start the year. Why not? It's not like Peavy and Cain were lighting the Cactus League on fire or anything... Boy would this be the year of all years for Tim Lincecum to redefine his career. Imagine if Timmy all the sudden was 2009 Timmy again. That's what opening day does, poses endless possibilies, although I highly doubt the latter is realistic...
Also, another little piece MLB news hit the wire Monday as Carlos Quentin was DFA'd by Atlanta
before even suiting up for a single game, making him available via trade and then possibly free-agency. I don't know what his health situation is like right now, but he did have 40 spring at-bats and at least appears healthy. I remember posting about him possibly fitting a Pat Burell-type role after the Padres stocked their outfield, but of course only if it's low-risk and Atlanta eats 80/90% of his $8M salary. The only thing is I don't know about his attitude and if he'd have a problem coming off the bench. This is a guy who was on pace for 25-30 HR/90 RBI seasons in both 2012 and 2013 before injuries wiped out half of each season and is a two-time all-star still with plenty left at just 32 years old... Just food for thought on a guy very attainable right now.