AT&T PARK — Everyone bought their tickets to the home opener knowing the Giants would raise another World Series flag. But it was the performance by Barry Zito and the bullpen that earned a standing ovation.
Zito has resurrected himself from goat to crafty lefthander. Last year, Zito was the one of the big heroes in the postseason, helping the Giants win game 5 of the 2012 NLCS when the team was facing elimination.
In the Friday home opener, Zito and two relievers combined on a three-hitter as the Giants shutout the Cardinals 1-0. Zito scattered those three hits over the first seven innings with three walks and four strikeouts to win in his season debut:
Giants pitcher Barry Zito
“Today it was a battle for me to keep consistency with my pitches, and I got out of a couple of jams. The difference maker was the defense and Pablo pitched me up huge on a handful of plays.”
To be exact, the Panda assisted on all three outs in the first inning and had five assists on the day. He imitated Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson on about three or four of those ground outs.
Before the game, there was all the pomp and circumstance you expected from the two-time World Champions.
After the formal introduction of the visiting St. Louis Cardinals, Giants manager Bruce Bochy emerged from center field carrying the 2012 World Series trophy and he placed it atop a platform near second base. Each of the coaches and players followed Bochy walking by the 2010 and 2012 trophies and then stood along the third base line.
The cast of Jersey Boys sang the National Anthem and there was a moment of silence for Cardinals’ Hall of Famer Stan Musial and the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Giants fans got another opportunity to cheer on NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro and World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval. It’s rare for current players to throw out the first pitch but the crowd loved the moment. Sandoval and Scutaro threw their pitches to teammates Hector Sanchez and Sergio Romo.
In a surprise, the World Series flag was delivered by the San Francisco Fire Department in a fireboat. The flag was then carried by selected fans who handed it off to Giants players on the field.
The players then walked up the stairs in the center field bleachers to the flagpole in right center and hoisted it up with fans cheering in a frenzy.
When asked to describe his emotions about the events, Romo said:
Giants pitcher Sergio Romo
“I was excited. They only allowed me to put (the flag) up, the final foot or so and that was pretty sweet. Go figure I got an opportunity to close that out too so in all reality, what an unbelievable experience. And definitely I won’t forget I was part of not only last year’s team but the 2010 team as well so just memories for sure.”
As for the game, San Francisco scored the only run in the fourth inning. Gregor Blanco walked and Brandon Crawford singled to center. With runners at first and second, Zito’s sac bunt attempt was booted by Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina loading the bases. Angel Pagan drew a walk, forcing in Blanco.
Other than a slighty shaky first inning by Zito, he had complete mastery of the Cardinals lineup. St. Louis only had one runner reach second base, in the seventh inning.
Jeremy Affeldt pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and Sergio Romo closed it out with a perfect ninth inning and got Cal alum Allan Craig to strike out looking to end the game.
The Giants starting pitchers have not allowed an earned run in 26 innings to begin the season.
In Zito’s last 15 starts including the postseason, the team has won all 15. The last time the Giants did that, the franchise was in New York when they won 16 in a row for Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell from July 17-September 30, 1936.
Wednesday night, the Giants, A’s, Warriors, and Sharks had all won on the same day for the first time since April 2007. Now they’ve accomplished that feat again, two days later. … The Giants have won three of their first four games despite hitting only 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position. … San Francisco sold out its 166th straight regular-season game dating to Oct. 1, 2010. … The Giants are 11-3 in home openers since AT&T Park opened in 2000.