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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Opening Day 2018: Giants, Blach blank LA

Baseball is back ladies and gentlemen! And taking into account all the bad news the Giants have received regarding their starting pitchers and now their closer, Mark Melancon, it makes this victory that much sweeter.

Ty Blach, filling in for what should have been another Opening Day start from Madison Bumgarner, did his best Bumgarner impression, tossing 5 shutout innings, holding the Dodgers to just 3 hits and really staying in control of this game. In fact, on this night, Blach looked even better than Clayton Kershaw, who was on his game himself. The only difference in this game came on one swing of the bat from Joe Panik as he barely hooked a towering home run inside the right field foul pole off the Dodgers' ace for the games only run. The Giants were threatening in the first couple of innings with multiple base-runners and repeatedly were unable to cash in as Kershaw was doing what Kershaw does so well. So who knows how things would have shaken out had Joe Panik not inched that ball fair down the right field line? It doesn't matter, cause he did, and the team then did everything they had to from that point on in order to take this ball game.

This one very much had a special feel to it. It had the postseason-type atmosphere almost because it was opening day and because it was the revamped Giants vs. the Dodgers in LA who are coming off a big letdown in the World Series last fall. You know all they're thinking about is getting back to the postseason and figuring out how to take it all this time. All the Giants are trying to do is stay afloat until they get their three most pivotal pitchers back. In Bumgarner's spot though, as I said, Blach looked really, really good on Thursday. He was hitting his spots and even had some decent life on his fastball which was reaching the low-90's. Then, perhaps just as impressive as Blach's front-5 innings were, the Giants bullpen matched it over the final 4 frames, as Josh Osich came in for the 6th and showed why the Giants have always been so high on his left arm. He was hitting 96 and throwing that heavy sinker and essentially looking like a left-handed version of Hunter Strickland.

Speaking of Strickland, the right-hander has been thrust into the closer's role with Mark Melancon's unsurprising return to the DL to start the year. It could be a while before Melancon gets back so Stick is going to be as important as ever this year as he tries to make that leap into the ninth inning. I think this dude is ready though. After the incredible spring he had, not allowing a run, which is really saying something when pitching in the light spring air in Arizona, and the added slider to his arsenal, the 29 year-old flame thrower looks primed for a breakthrough year. Especially if he's closing a lot of games and proves he can do it regularly. As down as I am about losing Melancon again, he's the easiest loss of the three pitchers the Giants have lost to stomach, just because I think Strickland can close games and be nearly, if not just as effective as Melancon.

The big worry I have about Melancon hitting the DL is how it stretches the bullpen much thinner, but on Thursday, they showed reason for optimism. After Osich's dominant 6th, Cory Gearin, who was the teams most effective reliever a year ago, tight-roped out of the 7th inning stranding a runner on third, thanks to his Sergio Romo like slider. Finally, setting up Strick on Thursday night was lefty Tony Watson, who was such a big add to the staff at the start of spring and he showed why with his flawless 8th inning.

The Giants did everything they needed to do to beat Kershaw in the opener. They played solid D, and although they didn't cash in with RISP, they did get a clutch swing of the bat that put them in a lead they never surrendered. They're going to have to keep doing the small things well in order to keep surviving without their top arms too. I think this team has enough talent and veteran influence that nothing will get them too down, and they should have the moxie it takes in order to win the tough games like this one, and it was definitely re-assuring to see it happen in the opener. This win was such a big one for this team's confidence, to beat a guy like Kershaw behind and arm like Blach who's basically Kershaw's opposite. We talked before the season how every one's got to step it up for this thing to go right, and on Thursday, everyone did just that. I can't wait to see Johnny Cueto take the ball tomorrow night now coming off that promising final start he had in Oakland over the weekend!

There's not much else to say about this one. I just cannot keep stressing at how big of a W this was though and how beating Kershaw with Blach then seeing the bullpen do what they did almost makes it feel like a double-victory.
The Giants Baseball Blog


  • At 8:16 PM, Anonymous Barry Bonds for President said…

    Hell yeah! What a way to start the season!!! Just heard about Melancon at the beginning of the game and started thinking, not another one. But they were impressive today. The new bats didn't do much, but they were facing the best pitcher on the planet, so no big surprise. It was awesome to see Blach do that to that lineup though. It was even sweeter to see what the pen did. Last year we would have definitely lost that one, probably in the Gearin inning when he was really in trouble. Last year instead of getting the 3rd out, there would have been a double in there that scored 2 and then probably would have been a 2-1 Dodger win. This year, the team is playing with a chip on their shoulder and it's a good thing.

    Such a big difference a win makes. I cannot wait till tomorrow night to see Cueto. Last year, after the losses, I felt like I could go a week without watching another game, now I wish we had an opening day double header. Let's hope the new bats show up tomorrow cuz I don't think we're gonna shut down the Dodger's bats two nights in a row.

  • At 8:41 PM, Anonymous Jason Billingsley said…

    That really was a cool game. Just in the middle of watching the second game and it looks a lot like the first game. THe Giants have had opportunities but no cash in yet. One of the big boys may need to take it into their own hands and launch one out cuz Cueto looks damn nice tonight!


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