ORACLE PARK — It’s a new season in San Francisco, and while the name of their ballpark has changed, for the San Francisco Giants themselves, it was the same old story: Shut down by the opposing starter after falling into an early hole, they mounted a late inning rally, only to come up short.
The visiting Tampa Bay Rays came away with a 5-2 win over the Giants and one of their former franchise cornerstones, Evan Longoria, by stifling San Francisco’s late momentum.
Having scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh, the Giants loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth on an error, a Buster Posey double and a Brandon Crawford hit by pitch. With no one out, it was a prime scoring opportunity, but Gerardo Parra struck out looking on a pitch on the black and new center fielder Kevin Pillar grounded into a double play to end the threat.
Mark Melancon worked his way through a bases-loaded, two-out situation in the top of the ninth, keeping the deficit at three runs, but the Giants were unable to complete the comeback. After Joe Panik reached on a soft ground ball to third base, Yangervis Solarte worked a walk against Rays closer Jose Alvarado, and it looked like San Francisco had something brewing. After two groundouts, it was Longoria, the former Ray, who flew out to right field to end the game.
The Rays struck first in the game, and they struck hard. After two quick outs in the top of the first inning, Dereck Rodriguez gave up back-to-back doubles to Ji-Man Choi and Brandon Lowe, and then back-to-back homers to Yandy Diaz and Kevin Kiermaier. It was an immediate gut punch for the Giants, who found themselves down by four runs in the span of six batters.
“I threw some pitches not where I wanted and they made me pay,” Rodriguez said. “After that, I felt fine. I felt in a rhythm and I was just getting guys out.”
Rodriguez did settle in after that, giving up just three more hits while pitching into the sixth, but Tampa Bay starter Tyler Glasnow was settled from the get-go. Glasnow used his combination of a 97-mph fastball and an 83-mph curveball to befuddle the San Francisco offense. In six innings, Glasnow gave up just three hits, striking out six and walking one.
“They had a big arm on the mound and he was throwing the ball well,” Posey said. “He did a nice job of getting his breaking ball over for strikes. When he’s doing that with an upper 90s fastball, you got your work cut out for you.”
Before the game, the Giants paid tribute to former managing general partner Peter Magowan and to Willie McCovey, both of whom passed away over the offseason. Each of them received a video tribute on the new scoreboard. Broadcaster Mike Krukow read the speech Magowan had prepared for his Wall of Fame induction ceremony, while first baseman Brandon Belt presented McCovey’s family with first base at Oracle Park.
Manager Bruce Bochy, retiring after this season, also received a pregame tribute. It was his final home opener as the team’s manager, and he insisted before the game that he had been too focused on preparing to face the Rays — a team the Giants are unfamiliar with — to give it much thought. But at the same time, he insisted, Opening Day is always special.
“I remember my first Opening Day. It’s an exciting time,” Bochy said before the game. “There’s nothing like it. It never gets old. All those guys in [the clubhouse], they’re excited about being at home in the home opener. It’s what we work hard for.”
Bochy received an ovation when he was introduced before the game that lasted almost a minute and a half, and he was visibly emotional on the field.
“That’s overwhelming what happened there. Something I’ll never forget,” he said. “It was a really special moment. I have a lot of family here, so I really appreciate what they did. It blew me away, to be honest. It was really overwhelming”
Bochy later threw the ceremonial first pitch to Pablo Sandoval, the first time he’d ever thrown one. “I choked it a little bit,” he said. “I told Pablo I was gonna throw him a nice sinker and it sunk a little more than I thought.”
The Giants fell short in the first home game of Bochy’s last season, but there’s no panic inside the clubhouse. The team is confident that the offense they have will allow them to make a run. “We know we’re gonna get going,” Belt said. “No doubt about it.”