Underneath the spell of gray clouds, a solid pitching performance from veteran right-hander Alex Cobb wasn’t nearly enough for the Giants to hold off the Kansas City Royals, as San Francisco dropped their home opener 3-1 at Oracle Park on Friday afternoon.
Cobb (0-1, 2.53 ERA) gave the Giants (3-4) seven strong innings while allowing seven hits, seven hits and striking out six. He fired 97 pitches – 45% of them split-finger fastballs.
Kansas City did their damage with a weapon the Giants have themselves wielded in the early season: the long ball. Two of the three Royals runs on the scoreboard got there from home runs; first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino took Cobb deep in the fourth, then catcher Salvador Perez crushed one to left off Taylor Rogers in the eighth.
On his outing, Cobb said he didn’t have his best stuff:
“I’ll take it. … I was able to get to some good counts – got a lot of 0-2’s, but wasn’t able to finish it and put guys away. So you start seeing some balls put in play, find some holes early on – led to a run. And then ultimately, that hanging changeup that was hit out of the park probably decided the game.”
San Francisco entered Friday leading the MLB in homers with 15, the most the franchise has ever hit through the first six games of a season. They went homerless Friday though. Instead, they put the ball in play – something they’ve struggled with – striking out eight times.
San Francisco Rule 5 pickup Blake Sabol started in left field and hit eighth during his Oracle Park debut, making things interesting on both sides of the scorecard.
In the second, center fielder Mike Yastrzemski looped a leadoff single to center and second baseman Thairo Estrada reached on an infield single. Royals righty Brad Keller (0-1, 3.86 ERA) was able to induce a double play ball off the bat of Brandon Crawford, setting the table for Sabol with two away.
One day removed from blasting his first MLB homer in Chicago, an estimated 434-foot shot to straight-away center, Sabol notched another milestone when he tied the score in his first Oracle Park at-bat with a roller up the middle that snuck past the outstretched Royals shortstop Nicky Lopez, tying the game 1-1.
On his first home opener, Sabol said:
“It was really cool. It was definitely surreal walking down the orange carpet to start and high-fiving everybody. Seeing this place filled up was just really awesome. Just the first of many and hopefully we’re coming back in here with a bunch of music blasting next time.”
Sabol said family and friends were in attendance at his Oracle Park debut, including his dad, brother and a few of his best friends. He says they’ll stay through the weekend.
Not known for flashy defense behind the plate or in the outfield, Sabol’s athleticism at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds is to behold. He uniquely glided to make a sliding grab on a sinking liner to retire the side in the fourth – a play that featured some combination of juggling, bubble-gum blowing and visible concentration.
After the game, Sabol joked with reporters:
“Why catch it once when you could catch it twice?”
Sabol will likely receive more looks at catcher in the immediate future.
In the sixth inning, Roberto Perez, the Giants starter behind the dish, appeared to injure his throwing arm after attempting to throw out Kyle Isbel at second base. Kapler immediately called for Sabol in left field to trot in and catch, moving LaMonte Wade Jr. from first base to left and Wilmer Flores into the game at first.
On the injury, Cobb said:
“I know he battled last year with with some injuries and he’s just such a quality player when he’s healthy that I know he’s looking for a bounce back here, showing everybody that he’s healthy. I’m not gonna be too doom and gloom about it. Hopefully, he gets it checked out and it’s something minor, but it’s never a good sign when you’re getting helped off that way.”Alex Cobb
The Giants later said Perez suffered a right shoulder strain, yet another blow to a position San Francisco has struggled to find any type of production for since Buster Posey retired following the 2021 season. They carried three catching options on their opening day roster: Sabol, Perez and Joey Bart, who hit the injured list on April 2 with a mid-back strain. Bart is ineligible to be activated until April 10, so the Giants will likely make a roster move at some point to add a compliment to Sabol behind the dish.
Austin Wynns, who appeared in 65 games with the Giants in 2022, is in Triple-A Sacramento, but isn’t currently on the 40-man roster. On April 1, the organization inked two-time All-Star backstop Gary Sanchez to a minor-league pact, but Sanchez has yet to vacate Arizona from extended spring training.
Joc Pederson stirred the pot in the ninth against righty Scott Barlow with a leadoff triple off the right field wall, but the offense left him stranded when Yastrzemski struck out looking on a borderline strike call, Estrada lined out to third, and Sabol was caught looking to end the game.
Offseason free-agent signing Sean Manaea (0-0, 13.50 ERA) will make his first start in a Giants uniform Saturday afternoon against the Royals. The left-hander tossed two innings during Monday’s win against the White Sox in Chicago, allowing three runs on two hits while walking two and striking out one. Righty Brady Singer (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will toe the slab for Kansas City.
After not facing a single left-handed starting pitcher this season, San Francisco is set to face three of them this homestand, and they’ll do so without two of their top right-handed bats. Mitch Haniger (oblique) and Austin Slater (hamstring) started the year on the injured list and are unlikely to be activated until the next road series in Detroit. … Legendary clubhouse attendant Mike Murphy threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Friday’s action as part of the Opening Day festivities. Murphy, 81, has been a staple with the team since they moved to San Francisco in 1958 and has been involved with every player from Willie Mays to Logan Webb. After semi-retiring from his full-time position in 2015, Murphy officially retired this past offseason after spending 65 years in the organization.
Steven Rissotto has covered the San Francisco Giants for SFBay since 2021. He is the host of RizzoCast, a baseball interview show featuring players, coaches, media and fans. He attends San Francisco State University and will major in Journalism and minor in education.