The Los Angeles Dodgers needed to get through just two more outs to tie the St. Louis Cardinals’ 32-inning season-opening shutout streak set in 1963.
The feat was looking very possible: the Giants had mustered just three hits through four innings, not enough to feed an adoring Opening Day crowd.
But a shift that started with a pinch-hitter’s bunt and ended with a Hunter Pence grand slam secured the Giants’ 12-6 comeback win over the Dodgers on Opening Day. What was looking like an underwhelming offensive day for the Giants may have put this lineup on the radar as lethal. Powerful, even.
[su_note note_color=”#f0dec8″ text_color=”#603813″ radius=”6″]This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Giants clubhouse at AT&T Park.[/su_note]
“Once that happens he has command of the at-bat, he can do what he wants.”
Pinch hitter Kelby Tomlinson, in his first action on the Opening Day roster, had a plan. Brandon Crawford worked a walk, so Tomlinson laid down a pesky, perfect bunt single down the first base line to advance Crawford into scoring position, said Tomlinson of the decision:
“(Wood) didn’t really fall off, he would kind of land off-balance so I knew it would be hard for him to get back to that side.”
The Giants were in motion.
Angel Pagan advanced the runners. Denard Span sent Crawford home on a ground ball to kill the streak — A Joe Panik RBI triple in deep center and Buster Posey double down the third base line put the Giants just one run behind the Dodgers, score 4-3.
Matt Duffy kept the momentum steaming in the sixth, sending a single the other way to lead off the inning. Crawford followed suit, sending his own single the other way. The pair advanced on an Ehire Adrianza sac bunt and Angel Pagan sent them all home with a first-pitch RBI single to right.
Panik and Posey tacked on to their RBI count with a bloop double and single the other way put the Giants up 7-4 heading into the seventh.
A Joc Pederson home run off a Sergio Romo sinker in the eighth cut the Giants lead to one, but an eighth inning rally created some room to breath. Gregor Blanco, Pagan and Span loaded the bases and Panik tallied his third RBI on the day with a single to right.
Then Hunter Pence cracked a grand slam that undoubtedly shook the ground all the way to Los Angeles to put the Giants up 12-6.
Every Giant with an at-bat in Thursday’s game got a hit–a shock, since three Giants grinded out just three hits through the first four innings. The Giants tallied a total 17 hits today.
The season is young, but the Giants have shown over these first four games that, not only can they move the line, but they can out-power their opposition, said Bruce Bochy:
“I think we have more depth and the lineup is more stretched out than we ever had it. I think in the long run you’ll see this be a better offensive club.”
Their mentality has stayed consistent, though, said Panik:
“We were a little slow to start off and I think we have confidence in ourselves…we knew there was a matter of time. There was no sense of panic.”
The Utley rule
Opening Day starter Jake Peavy was positioned to make a loud start against the Dodgers, but fell a little flat. Said Peavy:
“Strange day. I didn’t never really get comfortable on the mound. The thing I’m proud of obviously is winning on this day. But there were times when the ball didn’t bounce our way or we didn’t get any breaks there while i was out there to be able to stay as focused.”
An easy first inning in which the decorated homegrown infield flashed a 5-4-3 double-play look led to a brutal second-inning Dodgers rally.
It started with an Adrian Gonzalez leadoff double, who advanced to third on a sneaky Joc Pederson single up the middle. Kike Hernandez singled to score the Dodgers’ first run and Alex Wood grounded into what looked like a 6-4-3 double play to quell the offensive outburst.
Review revealed that Joe Panik never touched second base during the play, which allowed another run to score and shifted momentum for the Giants defense, said Peavy:
“It’s tough with all the new rules we have. That’s a double play and has been for a while. It’s a big change of emotion we were trying to get out of the inning with that ball that happened, now you’re excited, you limit it to one run. Now we get on with the game and now they put a run on the board and send you back out there with guys on second and third and leadoff hitter up. I didn’t have good thoughts about it.”
Perhaps it’s best that this happened early in the season, infielders, like Panik, can develop the instinct sooner:
“Real conscious now. I went back and looked at it and it was a split second. Obviously in the past, that’s never been called, but now I just have to be a lot more conscious of it. It’s one of those things, you learn from it.”
The reversal gave the Dodgers a little cushion to sit on, but the Giants knew four runs was nothing they couldn’t conquer. Peavy held on for five innings, allowing those four runs with three strikeouts. Bochy was pleased:
“I think it was important that Jake didn’t let the game get away.”