by DrLefty

It almost, almost was one of those teeth-gnashing days of frustration. Almost. But then, as baseball games can, things turned and we all went home happy. (Well, most of us. There were a few Padres fans representing, but not nearly as many as there were Giants fans in Petco Park for the opener last week. And, to be technical, I’m not actually home yet, either. We stayed over at a hotel near the ballpark.)

Anyway, the home opener ended happily and we had a good day. Here are some of the highlights and…the not-so-highlights.

 

Opening Ceremonies

This was nice and there was a lot less rigamarole than there has been at some previous home openers we’ve attended. Jon Miller, who is celebrating his 50th year(!!!) as a broadcaster, was the master of ceremonies. This helped us forget for a minute that it wasn’t Renel Brooks-Moon doing the honors as she usually did.

Jon Miller celebrates 50 years as a MLB broadcaster!

 

Miller introduced the players and coaches, who emerged from the dugout to the baseline on an orange carpet. The biggest cheers were for Alyssa Nakken, Pat Burrell, Matt Williams, and, of course, Bob Melvin. Among the players, I’d say the loudest cheers were for Logan Webb, Jung Hoo Lee, and Blake Snell. It really struck me how many new faces there were–not just all the free agents, but all the rookies who weren’t on the team at the last home opener–guys like Kyle Harrison, Keaton Winn, Ryan Walker, and even Patrick Bailey, not to mention new-in-the-past-week guys like Nick Avila, Kai-Wei Teng, Erik Miller, and Landen Roupp. Just not a lot of people and names that the casual fan may not recognize yet, so the loudest cheers were more targeted. However, as the game went on, they showed Barry Bonds (sitting down in the owner’s box with Larry Baer), Will Clark (in a suite), and Dusty Baker. Those guys all got very warm ovations. If Buster Posey was there somewhere, he must have politely insisted on staying off the video screen.

The 2024 Giants lined up for the National Anthem, April 5, 2024

 

After the anthems and the flyover, two San Francisco 49ers (Deebo Samuel and Fred Warner) threw out the first pitch(es).

 

The Game: Good and Bad

Very Good: Jordan Hicks. After a shaky first inning and a throwing error in the third that led to an unearned run, Hicks was fantastic, going seven efficient innings and throwing 91 pitches with 0 walks and five strikeouts. As Andrew Baggarly noted in his gamer, Hicks was dialing back his velocity in the early innings and getting more ground balls than the whiffs you’d expect, and then he ramped up the fastball in his last couple of innings. As Baggs put it, “The Hicks project is looking less like a role conversion and more like a complete reinvention.”

Good: Bullpen innings. The eighth inning was manned by Tyler Rogers, who looked sharp, retiring the side in 12 pitches. Since the game was tied in the top of the ninth, in came the Giants’ extremely rusty closer, Camilo Doval. Doval had only appeared once in the Giants’ first seven games, which was a 9-1 Giants blowout when he entered the game, and it didn’t go well. There hadn’t been a single save situation in the first week, and while yesterday’s game wasn’t one, either, it had the same level of urgency. Doval did not look sharp, but he figured it out, striking out two hitters after giving up a hit and a walk to strand two runners and keep the game tied. He was also assisted by a very heads-up play on leadoff hitter Fernando Tatis Jr. by Patrick Bailey. Tatis hit the ball right in front of the plate in fair territory, and Bailey jumped in front of it before it could roll foul, grabbed it while Tatis stood there looking confused, and tagged him out. That got Doval the first out against a dangerous hitter.

Good and Bad: Michael Conforto. So the Giants only had five hits, and Conforto had three of them–an RBI double in the first, another double (more on that in a minute), and a single. He also almost ran the Giants out of the game. First, after his second double in the bottom of the fourth, he unwisely got far off second base on a ground ball to shortstop. The SS Kim threw to second, but Conforto barely got back in time, and the hitter, Matt Chapman, was safe on first. Then Padres’ starter Dylan Cease threw a wild pitch and the Giants had runners on second and third with no outs, but–wait, what is Conforto doing? He apparently forgot that he was not Willie Mays in his prime (or even a young, spry Matt Duffy in the 2014 playoffs) and tried to score from second on the wild pitch. It did not work out.  “It was very, very stupid,” Conforto said.

In a masterpiece of bad timing, ballpark organist Steve Hogan started playing the “Let’s Go Giants” chant about three seconds after Conforto was tagged out. There was zero responsive clapping as the crowd sat in stunned and sullen silence. Read the room, Steve.

Conforto also staggered under a fly ball to left field and almost fell over catching it, but to be fair, it was quite windy out there yesterday. Still, it brought back memories of when Duane Kuiper called a very young Brandon Belt “a baby giraffe out there” back in 2011.

Bad: The rest of the Giants’ offense. Did I mention that only two other guys not named Conforto had hits? Thankfully, one of those was Thairo Estrada, whose double to the left-center gap scored Chapman, who’d been hit by a pitch and was on first, with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. Conforto is off to a great start at the plate (currently hitting .419 with a 1.294 OPS), but no one else really is. Bailey has a .955 OPS, and Jorge Soler is at .860, but no other hitters are over .800, and most (with the exception of the first base platoon mates Wilmer Flores and LaMonte Wade Jr.) have batting averages well south of .250. It’s too early to panic, of course, but they need some other hitters to start, well, hitting.

 

(This video is fun because it has Kuiper’s call, the Spanish-language call, and Miller’s call.)

 

Very Bad: The Bagel Boys in RF. Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater are a combined 0 for 17 to start the season (thus the “bagel,” get it?). Now, Slater’s only had six ABs off the bench, and Yaz missed three days for the birth of his second child, but still–0 for 17 is a big black hole (or a nice round bagel) in the lineup.

 

Other News

Alex Cobb unfortunately has had a setback in his rehab and has had to stop throwing because of arm soreness. It sounds like the MRI suggests the problem’s not serious, and it may not set him back much, but it doesn’t sound like we should expect him until May now.

In the really big regional news, the Oakland A’s will not represent Oakland for much longer. They announced this week that after their lease at the Oakland Coliseum ends this season, they will play at Sutter Health Park in West Sacramento (the home park of the River Cats, the Giants’ AAA affiliate) for the next 3-4 years while their new ballpark in Las Vegas is being built. Though it’s been known for awhile that the A’s planned to move to Vegas, fans still hoped that (a) the deal might fall through and (b) even if it didn’t, the A’s might play in Oakland until the new park was ready. The Sacramento announcement really finalizes, it would seem, that after 57 years, the A’s are truly going to leave Oakland.

I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about this news. The first MLB game I ever attended was a Red Sox-A’s game in Oakland on my ninth birthday in 1969, just a year after the A’s moved out here from Kansas City. Then the A’s went on their 70s run of three straight World Series championships, and though I’d already fallen in love with the Giants by then, I was all in on those Swingin’ A’s. I rooted for both teams for many years, and we always thought Oakland was a much nicer place to watch a game than Candlestick Park. It’s been awhile since I’ve been an A’s fan, and I don’t like many A’s fans I’ve met these days, but I still hate that the A’s are leaving Oakland and think that the Bay Area can and should support two baseball teams.

I also don’t love that they’re taking over our AAA affiliate’s park, even though it will be convenient for us in Davis to go to MLB games there for however long the A’s stay. From what I hear, the River Cats are going to have to awkwardly move around between Sutter Health Park (when the A’s are on the road), Oracle Park, and even, wait for it, the Oakland Coliseum. It’s also going to take a lot of effort and expense to get Sutter Health Park, which is a lovely but dated minor league facility, up to code for major league players.

Finally, I’m really dubious that the Vegas thing is ever going to work out, and then what happens with the A’s? Do they stay in Sacramento forever? I think the A’s, not surprisingly, have bungled this entire process, but the rest of MLB is absolutely complicit, having given them unanimous approval to make this move. Ugh. It’s awful.

 

Tonight’s Game

Padres at Giants, Oracle Park, 6:05 p.m.

Michael King vs. Keaton Winn

The silver lining to the news about Cobb is that we get to watch Winn in the rotation for a bit longer, assuming he’ll move to the bullpen when the Giants have a “full squad” (Webb, Snell, Harrison, Hicks, Cobb) ready to go.  Winn, who has been described as “a poor man’s Gausman” (a fastball-splitter guy) developed a good slider over the offseason, which he used to good effect in his first start at Dodger Stadium. As Grant Brisbee put it, “if [Winn] can maintain his upper-90s velocity with above-average horizontal movement and add a hard, upper-80s slider, he just might avoid the dreaded ‘future reliever’ tag that he gets slapped with so often. He might have already avoided it.'”

Hope you all have a nice spring weekend!  Lefty out.

Some more photos from the home opener below–enjoy!

View from our seats in VR 311

Jung Hoo Lee’s first home AB

 

 

 

 

Handshake line after the walk-off win

 

Lou Seal with the victory flag

 

 

 

 

 

Lefty family selfie on Willie Mays Plaza after the game (clockwise: MrLefty, DrLefty, BrotherLefty, Brother-in-Law Lefty, SisterLefty)