PHOENIX – Another start, another strong performance for San Francisco ace Madison Bumgarner as the left-hander led the Giants to a 5-4 road win over Arizona at Chase Field on Opening Night.
The talented southpaw, who is coming off one of the greatest postseason performances in recent memory, pitched seven innings, allowing one run on six hits while striking out three to record his first win of the season.
Although San Francisco almost let the lead slip away during a tumultuous eighth inning that saw the Diamondbacks score three times against four different Giant pitchers.
Left-handed specialist Javier Lopez replaced Bumgarner to start the eighth inning, a move that possibly doesn’t happen later on during the season, especially since Arizona left fielder Ender Inciarte – a left-handed hitter – was leading off the bottom of the eighth. But Lopez, who has become one of the stalwarts of the San Francisco bullpen as a lefty specialist, made his way to the mound. Unfortunately, he promptly surrendered a leadoff single to Inciarte.
The Diamondbacks now had the heart of the order coming up during a pivotal moment in the game, starting with MVP-candidate Paul Goldschmidt. Giants’ Manager Bruce Bochy, knowing that the next four hitters in the Arizona lineup were right-handed, called on right-hander Jean Machi to replace Lopez.
Machi immediately found trouble, walking Goldschmidt to put runners on first and second with no outs. He appeared to recover by getting slugger Mark Trumbo to fly out to right fielder Gregor Blanco for the first out of the inning. But Machi could not induce a groundball for a double-play, instead allowing an Aaron Hill single that loaded the bases. With Diamondback shortstop Chris Owings, a right-handed hitter, scheduled to bat next, Bochy called on reliever Sergio Romo to limit the damage.
Arizona’s first-year manager Chip Hale countered the pitching change by calling on rookie Jake Lamb, who took a Romo offering and promptly delivered a bases-clearing double, trimming the San Francisco lead to 5-4.
Romo, who started 2014 as the Giants’ closer before eventually losing the spot to Santiago Casilla, struck out catcher Tuffy Gosewisch for the second out of the inning. But Romo could not record the final out of the inning, walking pinch-hitter Cliff Pennington to give the Diamondbacks runners on first and second with two outs.
Arizona called for pinch-hitter David Peralta, a left-handed bat to come in and face Romo. Bochy countered by calling on left-hander Jeremy Affeldt to quell the Diamondbacks’ uprising, which he did by striking out Peralta.
The ninth inning did not feature as much drama with Casilla working a perfect 1-2-3 inning, including a strikeout of Goldschmidt to end the game.
Bumgarner controlled the early portion of the game, working ahead of Arizona hitters and taking advantage of their aggressiveness. He was also buoyed by a strong defensive effort.
“I felt pretty good, throwing strikes, getting ahead of guys,” said Bumgarner, adding that the defense was important too. “The defense was great behind me, picking me up a couple of times.”
The Giants staked Bumgarner to an early 1-0 lead during the top of the third inning after Angel Pagan tallied an RBI single off Arizona starter Josh Collmenter. The lead could have been 2-0 if not for a base-running error by Nori Aoki, who was thrown out at third base while rounding the base too aggressively on a double by Joe Panik.
Arizona evened the score in the bottom of the third on Trumbo’s RBI triple to center, which scored Inciarte.
San Francisco grabbed the lead for good during the top of the fifth inning, thanks to the top of the order, which played a key part in all five of San Francisco’s runs.
“Nori’s very good at working counts, which allows me to be more aggressive in certain situations,” said Panik. “When we’re going, it’s going to be fun to watch.”
Aoki, who finished 2-for-5 in his first start for the Giants, singled to start the inning. Panik followed with a single of his own, giving the Giants runners on first and second with no outs. Pagan, who is hitting in the third spot while the Hunter Pence recovers from a left forearm fracture, lashed a Collmenter offering to right field for a double, allowing Aoki to score and Panik to move to third. Perennial MVP-candidate Buster Posey collected his first RBI of the season on a sacrifice fly to left, which brought Panik home for a 3-1 San Francisco lead.
Collmenter appeared to be ready to limit the damage, inducing Brandon Belt to groundout to second for the second out of the inning. But the right-hander walked Casey McGehee before being lifted for left-hander Andrew Chafin, who was brought on to face left-handed hitting shortstop Brandon Crawford.
The Giants’ starting shortstop defies regular logic, tallying better numbers against left-handed pitching. He again did damage against a left-hander, taking a Chafin offering down the right-field line for a two-run double, which was misplayed by Trumbo.
The clutch two-out hit gave the Giants a 5-1 lead.
Pagan and Panik each collected three hits while Aoki, McGehee and Crawford contributed two hits apiece.
The Giants and Diamondbacks play game two of the three game series tonight at 9:40 p.m. EST. Ryan Vogelsong will make the start against Arizona starter Rubby De La Rosa. Vogelsong was supposed to begin the season in the bullpen, but scheduled starter Jake Peavy felt some discomfort in his back and his start will be skipped.