San Francisco Giants fans just need to remember, it is only spring training. This could be a hard thought to grasp after watching the defending World Series champs struggle to a 9-4 loss in their opening game against the Oakland Athletics.
World Series hero Madison Bumgarner, took the mound in the Cactus League opener and struggled early, allowing a Craig Gentry single, Marcus Semien home run and a triple by Ben Zobrist to start the game. Down 2-0 after the Semien shot, the A’s pushed the lead to 3-0 after Billy Butler’s sacrifice fly.
The A’s completed the batting cycle in the first when Nate Freiman drilled a two-out double.
In a surprise to some, Bumgarner returned for a second inning of work. He began the bottom of the second inning by striking out Josh Phegley before inducing Sam Fuld into flying out to left. With two outs, it appeared Bumgarner would get a little revenge against the top part of the Oakland batting order. Unfortunately, Gentry singled for the second time, ending Bumgarner’s day.
Gentry would steal second and then score on a Semien single against Brett Bochy.
Bumgarner allowed five hits and four runs (all earned) in just 1.2 innings, a far cry from the one run he allowed during the World Series. But the left hander was not concerned after the start.
“Technically, it doesn’t even matter in the spring,” he said in terms of his first outing. “Right now it is about getting ready for the season. When the season gets here, it’s about getting outs.”
It is refreshing to see that Bumgarner is not worried, especially because some experts have discussed the massive workload he handled during the 2014 season. Including the postseason, the Giants’ ace threw 270 innings, which some feel could have lingering effects.
Despite the hardships early on, there were some positives to take from Bumgarner’s performance. His motion appeared to be free and easy, and there was good life to his fastball. He was able to throw his secondary pitches with some success, especially his curveball, which showed good break.
San Francisco fans also got their first look at Tim Lincecum in game action. Lincecum has been the talk of spring early on as he has evoked images of “The Freak,” which won two Cy Young Awards. One thing that the Lincecum has displayed early on in spring is the ability to locate his fastball, which was evident by his ability to get each Oakland hitter he faced to a two-strike count. Lincecum was able to strikeout two of the four hitters he faced, but he did have several little mental lapses early on as well.
During his only inning of work, Lincecum proceeded to get Zobrist into a two-strike hole but was unable to put him away, allowing a leadoff double.
“I left a pitch up,” said Lincecum about the two-strike pitch to Zobrist. “He hit it well.”
He then uncorked the first of two wild pitches in the inning, which allowed Tyler Landendorf (who was running for Zobrist) to move to third. Lincecum induced a Butler groundout before his second wild pitch allowed Ladendorf to score. The Giant right hander finished the inning by striking out Brett Lawrie and Nate Frieman.
All-in-all, Lincecum’s first outing of the spring was more of a resemblance to his “Freak” days than the pitcher San Francisco fans have seen during the last four plus seasons.
“My fastball had some life and my changeup was good at times,” he said about his first outing of spring. “I felt pretty good out there.”
Another positive to take away from the loss was the performance of Adam Duvall. The 26-year-old third baseman got the start at designated hitter in the spring opener and did not disappoint, lofting a solo home run in his first at bat. Power has never been a question with Duvall, who totaled 27 home runs last season with Triple-A Fresno. The only questions for Duvall are, can he make consistent enough contact to be an everyday MLB player and can he be an adequate enough fielder?
The Giant farmhand started to answer the initial question thanks to a 2-for-4 performance on day one of Cactus League action.
San Francisco will play the Athletics again today with the game set to start at 12:05 EST (3:05 PT). Jake Peavy will make his spring debut. It is Peavy’s first spring training with the Giants after coming to San Francisco as part of a July 26, 2014 deal that sent former Giant prospects Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree to Boston.
Also expected in the lineup for the Giants’ spring training home opener are center fielder Angel Pagan, left fielder Gregor Blanco, right fielder Hunter Pence, first baseman Travis Ishikawa, third baseman Casey McGehee, designated hitter Brandon Crawford, second baseman Matt Duffy and shortstop Ehire Adrianza.