SAN FRANCISCO -- After Joe Panik showed off his power once again, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was asked to define the second baseman's home run potential. Could Panik conceivably hit 15 to 20 homers? Or 20 to 25?"I'd say 60," Bochy responded dryly, prompting laughter from a roomful of reporters.Regardless
SAN FRANCISCO -- After Joe Panik showed off his power once again, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was asked to define the second baseman's home run potential. Could Panik conceivably hit 15 to 20 homers? Or 20 to 25?
"I'd say 60," Bochy responded dryly, prompting laughter from a roomful of reporters.
Regardless of the total Panik reaches, his slugging suggests the Giants just might improve upon their meager 2018 total, which in turn should help them become more competitive. That was the lesson of their 6-4 loss to the Seattle Mariners in Tuesday's home opener.
Trailing, 4-0, after one inning, the Giants relied on homers to make the score more respectable. They inched back on Panik's fourth-inning homer and Evan Longoria's two-run clout in the seventh inning. By the bottom of the eighth inning, the Giants had the possible tying run at the plate. Last year's 98-loss outfit might have been more challenged in a similar attempt to start a rally.
Also, last year's Giants hit 128 homers, fewest in the Major Leagues. They were the only team in the Majors to lack a 20-homer hitter (Brandon Belt had 18 before a concussion sidelined him for the season's final 58 games).
Panik, 27, didn't even bat cleanup in high school. "Leadoff," he said. Nevertheless, he made home run history. Combined with his homers at Los Angeles in each of the season's first two games, which gave the Giants twin 1-0 victories, Tuesday's homer made him the first Major Leaguer to account for his team's first three runs, in any season, with solo homers.
Panik's personal home run high is 10, which he reached last year. It was a curious total, since he hit each and every one of them on the road. So he's way above last year's pace in that category.
Last season, Panik became the 12th player to hit 10 or more home runs, either all at home or all on the road, since 1942. He also was the eighth player to reach that double-digit figure total entirely on the road.
Nothing's contrived about Panik's long-distance hitting. He's basically a .300 hitter whose line drives occasionally happen to carry well. His slugging is abetted by some adjustments he made at the plate. His stance is slightly closed, enabling him to prevent his front (right) shoulder from flying open too quickly.
"It's an effortless swing that, if [the pitch is] in the zone, he's going to drive it," Bochy said.
The Giants welcomed Longoria's homer as much as Panik's, if not more. Longoria needed some relief after beginning the season hitless in 17 at-bats.
Longoria made solid contact all afternoon, grounding out sharply to shortstop in the second inning and flying out to the center-field wall in the fourth.
Mariners lefty Marco Gonzales allowed three runs on six hits over 6 1/3 innings to pick up the win as Seattle improved to 3-1 while beginning its eight-game road trip.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Haniger applies the hammer again: The Mariners right fielder has gotten off to a hot start for Seattle and he came through with the big hit -- a bases-loaded two-run single -- to kick-start the four-run first off starter Ty Blach. Kyle Seager and Ryon Healy followed with RBI singles as the Mariners jumped to the quick lead on five singles and a walk before recording their first out.
Gonzales reels it back in: The Giants finally got to Gonzales with Panik's home run into the bay leading off the fourth, followed by a sharp single by Andrew McCutchen. But Gonzales, who frequently faltered after fast starts late last season, steadied the ship by inducing a broken-bat double-play grounder to short by cleanup hitter Buster Posey and then retired Longoria on a 403-foot flyout to the wall in center that Dee Gordon tracked down.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The four runs the Mariners scored in the first inning are the most the Giants have allowed in the opening frame of a home opener since the club moved to San Francisco in 1958. The last time the Giants surrendered four runs in the first inning of a home opener was April 14, 1942, when they allowed four runs in the opening inning against Brooklyn.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Giants went 2-0 on appeals. They successfully requested and received overturned calls involving Austin Jackson, who ultimately was ruled safe at first base after hitting a sixth-inning grounder, and Gregor Blanco, who was awarded his double after a replay review.
Johnny Cueto, who limited the Dodgers to one hit in seven innings in his previous start, will try to approach a repeat of that performance Wednesday when he confronts the Mariners in a 4:15 p.m. PT encounter.
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Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.