San Francisco Giants

Opinion: Everything about the Giants’ home opener was great, except the game

Jennifer Merchant of North Lake Tahoe, center, screams as the 2014 San Francisco Giants World Series banner is hoisted over right center field on Monday, April 13, 2015, on Opening Day at AT&T Park between the San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies in San Francisco.
Jennifer Merchant of North Lake Tahoe, center, screams as the 2014 San Francisco Giants World Series banner is hoisted over right center field on Monday, April 13, 2015, on Opening Day at AT&T Park between the San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies in San Francisco. jvillegas@sacbee.com

Everything under the sun was idyllic here on Monday until the actual baseball game started.

Then a 2-0 loss to the Colorado Rockies in the home opener of the 2015 season became an anticlimax to a day of celebrating the 2014 World Series title.

It was also the fourth straight loss for the Giants and a total team display of offensive ineptitude that represented a worst-fear scenario for the season.

When Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse left the Giants in free agency over the winter, the fear was that there wouldn’t be enough heft in the Giants’ lineup to score many runs.

With Hunter Pence injured for the last month and Sandoval replacement Casey McGehee down as well, the responsibility to compensate seemed like a load too heavy to carry for Giants hitters on Monday.

In a game where 12 runners were stranded on the basepaths, every Giants starter in the lineup either made an out with runners in scoring position, or drew a walk that accomplished nothing.

Team leader Buster Posey looked out of whack, uncharacteristically chasing pitches in the dirt. First baseman Brandon Belt looked as if he had that hole back in his swing, erasing hitters’ counts to get himself out. Shortstop Brandon Crawford has looked lost for days.

Obviously, it’s too soon to draw any conclusions. It was only the eighth game of the season. Another terrific start from an unlikely source – Chris Heston , who was promoted from the River Cats when Matt Cain went on the disabled list – is one of those bright spots the Giants have ridden to great success in the past.

But if hitting is about relaxation and confidence, the Giants have had neither in the most hitter-friendly situations.

They loaded the bases twice in the first two innings Monday and failed to score. In all, they are 0 for 6 in bases-loaded situations in eight games.

“That’s a tough one to lose,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy.

It was also a rare one to lose – only the third home loss in 16 Giants home openers in their gleaming park on McCovey Cove.

“All you can do is stay behind (hitters) and keep working. ... We hope these guys relax.”

It is a fascinating dynamic at work on this franchise, now among the elite in sports with three World Series titles in five years.

It’s a great problem to have, but every new Giants team for the foreseeable future will operate under the heavy weight of World Series-or-bust expectations.

Baseball celebrates yesterday in its mythology, but it doesn’t care about yesterday on the field. So even as the Giants basked in the recent past, the present and the hope of future glory are affixed with worries of holes in the lineup and questions in the pitching staff.

No one in the national media gives the Giants much chance to do anything this season, and certainly their play of the last four games solidifies conventional wisdom that 2015 will not produce any magic around here.

The Giants are confident enough to be unbothered by being overlooked by the baseball intelligentsia. It happens every year, and it happened every time the Giants finished seasons by pouring champagne over their heads while baseball experts scratched their eyes with wonder.

But the Giants’ mystique is undeniable. Before Monday’s game, as the Giants took the field for warmups, they were welcomed by uncommon adulation.

As entered and left the field before the game, you could count numerous heroes who excelled on baseball’s biggest stage.

A cluster of Giants running together was like a Mount Rushmore of Giants lore: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Sergio Romo and Posey. They have already achieved legend status here – no matter what else they do from now on.

To have your reputation made while still in your prime years can be a terrible burden to live up to, but these guys don’t seem any different.

From Giants CEO Larry Baer on down, the feeling coming from Willie Mays Plaza can be summed up in three words: We want more.

Certainly before the game, the Giants proved that they remain the unquestioned leaders in celebrations. They honored Lon Simmons, the Giants’ longtime broadcaster who died recenterly, with class and dignity.

World Series hero Madison Bumgarner riding a horse punctuated the raising of the 2014 World Series banner. Even on the little touches that weren’t seen by an overflow crowd – like setting up a memorial in the press box to Nick Peters, the longtime Giants beat writer for The Bee – were classy and thoughtful.

The entire scene, from the picture-perfect weather to the pervasive air of celebration, was just right – except for the game.

There will be more celebrations this week, more chances to remember the greatness of the last five years.

But regarding the task before them – the 2015 season that lies ahead – there is a lot of work to be done to keep the celebrations going.

Call The Bee’s Marcos Breton, (916) 321-1096.

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