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Brilliant Cueto, late-game heroics propel Giants to home opener win

For the first time in 18 months, San Francisco Giants fans made their return to the friendly confines of Oracle Park. Opening Day is not the same without fans in the stands, and the Giants were excited to celebrate their home opener in front of a modest crowd of 7,390 fans.

There’s nothing better than the sights and sounds of a day game at Oracle Park, especially one where Johnny Cueto (8-2/3 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks) pitches an absolute gem in front of a revitalized crowd. With some help from Brandon Crawford (1-for-3, 2B, 2 RBIs) in the seventh inning, the Giants (4-3) offense did just enough to secure a 3-1 win for their veteran starter.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Giants clubhouse at Oracle Park.

Cueto (W, 1-0, 2.51 ERA) got the home opener nod, facing off against Colorado Rockies (3-5) lefty Austin Gomber.

Prior to Friday’s home opener, Giants manager Gabe Kapler discussed his, and the team’s excitement to play in front of fans at their home ballpark for the first time in over a year:

β€œIt’s pretty exciting. When we were in Seattle, and we heard about what the attendance was, it was kind of surprising because it felt like a full ballpark. You have 8,000-9,000 people, but what we experienced last year, not having real sound come from the stands, this is a really exciting moment for a lot of people in the clubhouse right now. Myself included, I’m really looking forward to getting out there and having the support of the Giants fans.”

Friday’s contest moved along quickly through the first three innings. Both Cueto and Gomber (L, 0-2, 2.89 ERA) shut down the opposing lineups without allowing a hit on either side.

Raimel Tapia collected the Rockies’ first hit off Cueto in the top of the fifth inning, while Buster Posey delivered the Giants’ first hit of the ballgame in the bottom of the fifth. The fans at Oracle Park welcomed Buster back with a loud ovation when his name was introduced, and an even louder cheer after his first hit at home in well over a year.

Vintage Cueto was on display Friday afternoon against the Rockies. He cruised through seven shutout innings, surrendering just two hits. Rockies hitters were frustrated, which led to an ejection.

Gomber walked two of the Giants’ first three hitters in the bottom of the seventh inning, giving the Giants their first rally of the game. After Gomber departed, the Rockies walked Alex Dickerson to load the bases with only one out. On a two-strike count, Crawford came through with a booming double to the right-center field gap, scoring both Ruf and Posey. The Oracle Park crowd went nuts, and the Giants now led 2-0.

After the game, Crawford discussed the atmosphere at Oracle Park throughout the day, and after his booming double in the seventh:

β€œI mean it was definitely special, just being out there with fans in the crowd and being back at home and getting a big hit in a big situation, it was all pretty special, it was a lot of fun…It was fun to be back in front of the home crowd, It seemed a lot louder than the 9,000 or whatever was announced.”

Kapler was happy for Crawford and the fans who were able to witness such an exciting moment.

β€œFor me, it was especially gratifying to see [Brandon Crawford] deliver. For β€˜Craw’ to be standing out there after that hit with what ultimately turned out to be the game-winning hit, I’m sure there was a ton of pride, and I’m really really happy for Giants fans in the ballpark and watching from home that they got to see Brandon in the home opener do what he did.”

Cueto’s pitch count was a modest 89 pitches at the start of the eighth inning. A quick inning would give him a chance at a complete game in the ninth, and a seamless 10-pitch inning setting the Rockies down in order did just that.

Brandon Belt singled and Wilmer Flores walked in the bottom of the eighth with one out. Posey followed with a single to left field, loading the bases for Alex Dickerson. A shallow single to right field off the bat of Dickerson scored Belt from third.

Crawford grounded into a double play to end the Giants’ threat. Cueto came back out for the top of the ninth inning with a 3-0 lead and looking for his first complete game of the season.

Chris Owings spoiled Cueto’s fun, roping a triple off the right-center field wall with nobody out. A sacrifice fly off the bat of Garrett Hampson scored the Rockies’ first run.

Cueto settled down and retired the next two hitters before surrendering a two-out single that knocked him out of the game. Closer Jake McGee retired the final Rockies hitter, securing a win for Cueto and the Giants in their home opener.

Kapler summed up Cueto’s dominant outing.

β€œI thought it was as good of an outing as I’ve seen Johnny pitch. Just completely in control of his delivery, completely in control of his situation. Completely synced up with Buster. Just a gutsy performance.”

Up Next

Following the Giants’ (4-3) win over the Rockies (3-5), the series will continue with a second day game Saturday afternoon at 1:05 PM PST. Rockies righty Chi Chi Gonzalez will face off against Giants rookie Logan Webb (0-1, 5.06 ERA).

Notes

  • The Giants starting lineup did not consist of third baseman Evan Longoria, who normally would be slated to start against left-handed pitchers. Before the game, Gabe Kapler revealed that Longoria was experiencing symptoms after receiving the Johnson & Johnson covid vaccine, and would be available to pinch-hit.
  • When Gabe Kapler came to the mound in the top of the ninth inning, Johnny Cueto was not ready to come out of the game, and his teammates agreed.

“The conversation was along the lines of [Gabe Kapler] coming out and [asking me how i felt], saying ‘i have the closer ready to come in.’ Then he turned to [Buster Posey] and asked Buster the same thing, and Buster said to [Gabe Kapler], ‘well ask Johnny, he’s the one with the ball.’ I told him that i felt well, then [Brandon Belt] was also in the conversation and he told me ‘go ahead, it’s your game.'”


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