The San Francisco Giants enter the 2016 season with expectations at an all-time high. Spending huge money on starting pitching in the off-season left Madison Bumgarner as the lowest paid starter in the rotation. However, there is no question who is the ace of the Giants staff heading into 2016.
Bumgarner started his third straight Opening Day in Milwaukee, but didn’t look himself. He was pitching with the flu, and his day began by walking Chris Carter with the bases loaded and giving up home runs to Scooter Gennett and Jonathan Villar. It was only the second time in Bumgarner’s career he has walked a batter with the bases loaded. It was also only the third time in his career a left-handed batter homered off of him when Gennett went deep.
Despite Bumgarner’s struggles with his health and his command early on, he struck out the side in the fifth against the heart of the Brewers order. The Giants bats, on the other hand, weren’t struggling at all. Denard Span, Brandon Belt, Matt Duffy and Angel Pagan felt right at home at their new spots in the lineup and the runs piled up early on as the Giants scored seven runs in the first five innings.
Duffy, who spent much of his rookie year in the third spot in the order, batted sixth today. His drop in the lineup was to provide some balance with both Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford left handed and Buster Posey and Hunter Pence both right handed. His first at-bat provided instant dividends as he came to the plate with two on and drove in the first two runs of the season for the Giants. His third at-bat added two more runs with a home run to left.
Pagan, who was batting ninth, walked, stole second and scored on an RBI single from new leadoff hitter Span. It was another move by the Giants that created instant results, as the Giants moved Bumgarner to the 8th spot in the order to allow for their two lead off hitters to bat 9th and 1st.
Span’s biggest moment came later as he hit a three-run home run to give him five RBIs for the game. Joe Panik and Posey followed it up with home runs of their own. When all was said and done, the Giants scored 12 runs.
The staff made all the headlines this off-season, with the additions of Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. When you include former Cy Young award winner Jake Peavy and the return of Matt Cain from an unhealthy 2015, you have the makings of an impressive staff.
If today’s Giants game is any indication, the lineup will be making even more headlines this season than the rotation.