BY RYAN LEONG
The Giants have now played at the corner of 3rd and King Streets for 18 seasons. Candlestick Park, once considered the worst ballpark in America matched the brand of baseball played inside the decrepit concrete bowl.
But since 2000, the Orange and Black have showcased perhaps the best venue for America’s pastime with a breathtaking view of San Francisco Bay. Having won three World Championships over a five year period, the team is now synonymous with success.
This season got off to a rough start as the Giants won only two of their first seven games. Buoyed by their enthusastic fans who love attending games in this festive atmosphere, the 2017 home opener turned out to be another memorable win.
Matt Moore, acquired in a trade for fan favorite Matt Duffy, pitched like a Cy Young contender. In a dominating performance, he pitched eight innings giving up only three hits and striking out five as the Giants beat the Diamondbacks 4-1.
The old saying with baseball is that if you go to a game, you’re bound to see something you’ve never seen before. What sounds cliche, actually happened as the Giants scored all the runs they needed on one play in the fourth inning.
Brandon Crawford got it started with a double to left and two walks loaded the bases. Moore was at-bat against his counterpart, Taijuan Walker. Moore hit a dribbler up the first base line. Instead of throwing to first for the sure out, Walker rushed his throw to the plate and the ball got away towards the backstop allowing Crawford to score.
Catcher Jeff Mathis chased after the errant throw and relayed the ball towards Walker but that throw also was wide and Joe Panik scored. Jarrett Parker rounded third and headed for home. With a headfirst slide, Parker just beat the throw back to the plate. Three runs scored on two throwing errors as Parker sprung up following his slide and pumped his fist much to the delight of the frenetic crowd.
“Three runs score like that, we call them RTI’s, runs thrown in,” joked Manager Bruce Bochy in his postgame press conference. “We had three of them, it was a crazy inning. Matty (Moore) had just gotten enough of it, he hit it in a good spot and they were all rushed throws and fortunately we took advantage of it.”
Crawford later added a sacrifice fly but that one play was all the Giants needed to secure the victory.
“It was something where I feel like we were trying to force a play in there,” Arizona skipper Torey Lovullo said. “We’ve talked about this when training into these guys is that they just need to get an out when it’s asked. Taijuan is just such a competitor he wanted to go ahead and knock down that lead out and not allow them to score the run and unfortunately that led to three runs and that was the difference in the game.”
Moore, who was 6-5 with a 4.08 ERA in 12 games with the Giants in 2016, wants to be in the conversation with Madison Bumgarner, and Johnny Cueto as one of the aces in the starting rotation. Although its largely a different roster than the ones that won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014, the experience of the players is what makes the Giants a winning organization.
“I think who we are, and a lot of these guys have been part of two or more championship runs, so I wouldn’t say there was any extra pressure heading home. It’s a long season so for us to come here and start off on a good foot, it’s a good sign.”
One aspect of the win was bittersweet. In the first inning on just the second pitch of his at-bat, Buster Posey was hit in the head by a pitch from Walker that was clocked at 94 miles per hour. Crawford was asked if Posey’s beaning helped rally the team. Crawford replied, “We always want to get a win no matter what but yeah you don’t want to see someone like Buster go down and I don’t know if it brought us together anymore than we were but we want to get that win and get a little redemption.”
The Giants bullpen was a dumpster fire in 2016 with a league worst 32 blown saves. Mark Melancon was a shutdown closer for the Nationals and acquired in the offseason to shore up the pen. And although he blew a two-run lead in the season opener on April 2 to Arizona, he redeemed himself with scoreless ninth inning to record his second save of the season.
Ryan Leong is a San Francisco native and covers all Bay Area sports teams as a correspondent for ESPN radio and wire services. He is a former sports anchor for KCBS and has reported on over 3,600 live games since 1998.