The Giants raised their 2014 World Series banner in an elaborate ceremony before Monday’s home opener during which the team was introduced while lined up between the plate and third base. For the rest of the afternoon, that may as well have been forbidden territory for anyone in a Giants uniform.
The pregame pomp of the Giants’ return to AT&T Park gave way to a 2-0 loss to the Colorado Rockies marked by poor circumstantial hitting. The Giants put 10 runners on base in the first four innings against the Rockies and 13 overall but could not push one across the plate, wasting a strong outing from rookie Chris Heston and the expectant energy of a sellout crowd hopped up on championship memories and afternoon sun.
The Giants loaded the bases with two outs in the first inning, but Gregor Blanco tapped out to Rockies pitcher Eddie Butler. They left the bases loaded again in the second when Angel Pagan grounded out. Brandon Crawford’s groundout to end the third stranded two more runners.
In all, the Giants went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and left 12 men on base. It was the first time they put 13 runners on and failed to score since May 29, 2001 – a 1-0 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks that lasted 18 innings. It was also their first loss in a home opener since 2008 and just their fourth in 16 seasons at AT&T Park.
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“Big day with the ceremonies, and we did what we were hoping to do, which was put some pressure on them,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Story of the game was we just couldn’t get a timely hit. That’s the difference.”
Butler spent his entire outing on the ropes – the Giants put at least one runner on in each of his six innings, scattering five hits and drawing six walks – but he avoided a knockout blow. After the fourth inning, the Giants advanced only one more runner past first base: Crawford, who was stranded at second when Joe Panik lined out to end the sixth.
Leadoff hitter Nori Aoki reached base in each of his first three at-bats but didn’t advance to third base. Aoki has a .474 on-base percentage through his first eight games but has scored only four runs. The Giants on Monday were missing middle-of-the-order hitters Hunter Pence and Casey McGehee, but Bochy said there was “no point” focusing on those absences.
“We created many good things out there,” Bochy said. “We just needed one more hit.”
The unfortunate recipient of that lack of run support was Heston, who became just the second San Francisco rookie to start a home opener and limited a potent Colorado lineup to two runs – one earned – over seven innings. Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki singled home a run in the fourth inning, and Colorado doubled its lead in the seventh on a Heston pitch that bounced away from catcher Buster Posey.
With Nick Hundley sprinting in from third base, Posey retrieved the ball and flipped to Heston, who appeared to tag Hundley before he reached the plate. But the ball was knocked loose from Heston’s glove, and Hundley was ruled safe. Bochy challenged the call, but umpires upheld it after a short review.
“I think when I went to tag (Hundley), he just kind of kept sliding and kind of rolled into my glove and rolled the ball out,” Heston said. “Little unfortunate, but it happens.”
Otherwise, Bochy said Heston, a 27-year-old pitching in front of his parents for the first time in a big-league uniform, “threw great.” Heston cruised through his first two innings on 18 pitches and faced the minimum number of batters through three. In Tulowitzki’s next at-bat after his RBI single, Heston froze him on a sharp breaking ball for strike three.
Heston also gave the Giants’ bullpen a breather after their last two starters, Jake Peavy and Madison Bumgarner, failed to reach the fifth inning. “He gave us all that we were asking,” Bochy said.
He just didn’t get a win. Heston said afterward he felt “blessed” to be on hand for the pregame festivities, which the Giants made sure to enjoy. They began with the entire team entering through the center-field fence, led by Bochy, Posey and Tim Lincecum, each carrying one of the Giants’ three recent World Series trophies.
A video tribute honored longtime broadcaster Lon Simmons, who passed away at 91 this month, and Simmons’ daughters threw out the first pitches. When it came time to raise the banner, Bumgarner mounted a horse in the outfield and carried the banner along the warning track to right-center field, where he handed it to Jeremy Affeldt. Affeldt and the five other Giants who won World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014 – except Bumgarner and Posey, who was warming up Heston – carried it to the flagpole.
With how the day began, Posey said, “Of course you want to win. You want to win every game, but it’d especially be nice to win this one. But that’s the way it goes.”