Here is a link to my Monday column about the Giants’ much-anticipated home opener. The full text runs below:
Get ready for the San Francisco Giants’ home opener. Expect world-class festivities for the world-champ Giants. Expect beautiful weather for the opener, for the day opener. Openers should always be day games. Openers are special.
But are the Giants special?
Well, that’s a good question.
The Giants have a losing record — 3-4. They are in last place. They have lost three games in a row. In their previous four games against the Padres in San Diego, they scored seven runs. Total. According to my calculator, that averages 1.75 runs per game. It is never a good idea to average a shrimpy 1.75 runs a game. Their bats were duds against Padres pitching. Brandon Crawford went 0 for the San Diego series.
Please don’t be sore at me. I’m writing facts. My numbers are accurate. No flim flam here.
Of course, the Giants are merely seven games into the season. They certainly can win their division and they can win the World Series.
What do we know about the Giants?
They can hit some of the time, but not all of the time. Call the Giants hitters hot and cold. Hot and cold is what the Giants offense always is. And there’s this. With Casey McGehee hurt and Hunter Pence hurt, the Giants have no one to protect Buster Posey in the batting order.
The Giants field well. Although Nori Aoki is not the niftiest left fielder.
It comes down to pitching. Starting pitching. Same old Giants story.
Sunday, was Jake Peavy’s season debut. He is allegedly the Giants’ No. 2 starter, and he started very well. Had great location, great movement on his pitches until everything fell apart. He lost the strike zone. He fell behind batters, pitched from the stretch, looked vulnerable. Gave up a grand slam.
Maybe you write off Peavy’s start as one of those things. Pitchers are allowed one of those things. Peavy recently had a dead arm. It probably takes a start or two before a dead arm comes back to life. “It’s alive! It’s alive!” Also, Peavy’s back has been hurting him. You have to wonder if he’s a four-inning pitcher — exactly what he was on Sunday.
What about the other starting pitchers? Remember this axiom: With the Giants pitching is everything. Well, 90 percent of everything.
Madison Bumgarner. The Padres ate his lunch on Saturday. They didn’t merely eat his lunch. They jumped him on the street. Threw him into the bushes. Stole his lunch box which consisted of a ham sandwich on rye and a pear and a small carton of apple juice.
No one worries about Bumgarner. We watched him in the World Series and felt awe. But he threw a ton of innings last year, so a particle of concern persists. Is his arm tired? No one is using the phrase “dead arm.” Nothing like that. But you wonder about the arm feeling tired, and you file away the thought.
You feel good about Tim Lincecum, surprisingly efficient in his only start. Humbly, politely you ask: Can he keep this up?
Who knows? We’ve seen him look good — especially against the Padres — and then look awful. It’s that thing about losing his release point and finding it and losing it again.
Quick summary so far: Concerns exist about Peavy, Bumgarner and Lincecum. Concerns are not problems. They are concerns. Although Peavy may be a problem. Not sure yet.
Tim Hudson is just plain good. He will be good the first three months of the season, and then he may tire, wear out. No one knows. Anyway, July is far away and it’s never smart to search for worries.
Matt Cain is an unknown. We don’t even know when he will pitch or who he’ll be when he pitches.
And that brings us to Chris Heston, who will pitch the home opener before a packed house by the Bay. The Giants never wanted this. They probably wanted Cain. Heston is vastly inexperienced and mostly unknown. It’s just that he aced his first start this season. Saved the Giants. He could rise to the occasion.
The Giants sure need someone to rise. They need a storybook kind of opening day. Heston pitching like Juan Marichal. Heston driving the crowd nuts. Giants fans falling in love with the kid, fans feeling hope, fans making him an instant hero.
And the Giants need Posey going berserk at the plate. And Brandon Belt going berserk. Ditto for Angel Pagan. Bochy rested Pagan on Sunday except for one pinch hit appearance. “K” swinging. The Giants need to rest Pagan because he gets hurt. Just look at his record. His health is a constant concern.
And here’s the thing. Every Giants concern, every worry could turn out negative. Could evaporate like morning dew. The Giants pitchers could be lights out. That includes Peavy, who was very good until he was very bad. Lincecum could become Lincecum once again, and Cain could come back sooner than you think and throw heat and blow batters away.
And although the Dodgers are tough and San Diego sure is tough and even Colorado may be tough, and although the National League West is very tough, no one is tougher than the Giants. No one. That’s established fact. Their toughness has been documented. Take it to the bank, or at least the savings and loan.
The Giants will contend all season. They won’t run away from the division. And no team will run away from them. The Giants will fight, and gut it out, and win close games, and lose horribly, and win heroically. And they will be right there at the end with sweat on their faces and dirt on their uniforms and hope in their hearts.
No one said this season would be easy. The Giants don’t do easy. Enjoy the home opener.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.