Thousands of fans descended upon AT&T Park on Friday afternoon, and their collective outlook for the Giants was as bright and sunny as the conditions that welcomed the team for its home opener against the Braves.
Behind dominant pitching performances from starters Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Matt Cain, the Giants opened the season with three straight wins against the host Houston Astros, a promising start that had fans thinking of big things this year.
“Of course I think they’re going to make the playoffs this season,” said Rick Padilla, a 61-year-old Redwood City resident who was attending the Giants home opener for the 18th time in the past 20 seasons. “I always stay optimistic, but I really think this team is going to be special.”
Although Padilla has been a fan his entire life, even the newest of Giants backers expressed hope for the season. Damien Simpliciano, a 3-year-old attending opening day with his parents, could hardly contain his excitement for this year’s squad.
“Go Giants!” screamed Damien, who was decked out in full team regalia, replete with a Tim Lincecum replica jersey.
Damien’s father, Ed, is a lifelong San Francisco resident, but Friday’s contest against the Braves marked the first time he managed to get tickets for opening day.
“They’re off to a good start; hopefully they can keep this up,” said Ed. “I think they’re pitching is terrific, but there are a few question marks on offense. I think this team has what it takes to get to the playoffs.”
Simpliciano couldn’t have picked a better day for his first opening game outing. Friday’s temperatures climbed into the 60s and there wasn’t a cloud in sight for the game. The weather was a contrast to last year’s home opener, which was threatened by forecasts of rain, although that game did go off without a hitch.
Led by Cy Young Award winner Lincecum, the Giants posted an 88-74 record in 2009, the team’s most wins in a season since 2004, the year after they last made the playoffs. With Lincecum and Cain entering the prime of their careers, and third baseman Pablo Sandoval poised for superstardom, many pundits are predicting the Giants will snap their six-year playoff drought.
Giants fan and season-ticket holder Sally Buchmann, 61, certainly thinks so.
“I see at least a division title,” said Buchmann. “And if this season doesn’t work out, they can always try and get Barry Bonds back.”