PHOENIX — The San Francisco Giants have to bounce back in 2017 from a tough NLDS loss to the Chicago Cubs last season, and now they have to bounce back in Game 2 of 162 from a tough loss that followed an all-too-similar script.
If the old adage is true about being as good as tomorrow’s starting pitcher, the Giants are well-equipped to bounce back Tuesday, the next day and in the 2017 season.
Which is why you almost have to laugh at the way the Giants lost in their season-opener on Sunday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, a 6-5 loss that saw two blown saves, including one from prized free agent signing Mark Melancon. Not “ha-ha” funny, but a sarcastic “here-we-go again” laugh.
Giants fans aren’t laughing because “32 blown saves” isn’t going away anytime soon; that’s how many last year’s team blew. There’s a good chance they’ll have the last laugh, however, when 162 games are over.
The Giants blew their first lead of the game — 3-0 — because Madison Bumgarner is human and A.J. Pollock is good. Also, catcher Jeff Mathis hit a triple, his third of his career. Career .221 hitter Nick Ahmed drove in the career .197 hitter Mathis with a single before Pollock’s two-run blast tied the game.
The second lead was blown because Pollock is good and hit a single, followed by a Chris Owings single. Paul Goldschmidt, also good, drove in the tying run off Derek Law with a single.
The final lead was surrendered due to a Mathis double, Daniel Descalso single, Pollock single and Owings inside-outing a pitch on his hands for a bloop game-winner off Melancon, all of which came with two outs.
The Giants will probably take those chances moving forward.
Speaking of moving forward, the loss will have to sit an extra day on Monday before Johnny Cueto takes the mound on Tuesday. Cueto has the advantage over just about any No. 2 in the game, and on paper that’ll be the case against Patrick Corbin. He won’t have to stop many losing streaks behind Bumgarner in the rotation, but he’ll also be able to turn a win into a winning streak and keep the line moving, if pitching is contagious as Law eluded to after the game.
Matt Moore, the third starter, looked as close to his All-Star form he had with Tampa Bay as he ever has after coming over mid-season to San Francisco. Last year also looked closer to the All-Star Jeff Samardzija compared to the Samardzija that struggled with the White Sox in 2015. The fifth spot is a toss up, because you don’t know what you’ll get out of Matt Cain and for how long, but fifth starters aren’t hard to find in or out of the league.
The good rotation is, of course, backed by a good offense, one that wore down D-backs ace Zack Greinke and forced 92 pitches in five innings. Brandon Belt and Buster Posey were hitless, but combined for three walks. Left field is a question mark, but the rest of the order has depth and patience and will wear on most starters.
As hard as it is to believe now, it won’t take long before we’re talking about Law, Hunter Strickland and Melancon as one of the National League’s best bullpen trios.
Sunday’s win meant more to the D-backs than the loss hurt the Giants, even considering the way it all ended. The D-backs don’t know exactly what they have. The Giants know more times than not, tomorrow’s starter will be the best one in the game, the lineup will score runs and even the bullpen should get things done more times than not. That’s a good recipe no matter what you’re bouncing back from.