Giants can't back Bumgarner's strong opener

March 29th, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- A couple of hours before the Giants kicked off their 2019 campaign with a 2-0 loss to the Padres at Petco Park on Thursday, Bruce Bochy was asked what was running through his mind as he prepared to enter his 25th and final season as a big league manager.

“I haven’t really thought about it,” Bochy said. “But maybe when the ceremony is happening right before the game, I’ll probably do some reflecting. A lot of little things -- even seeing [Madison] Bumgarner out there on Opening Day in my last year, I’ll do some reflecting there on what this man has done, for us, for me.”

As he has done so many times over the last decade, Bumgarner once again delivered for the Giants, striking out nine and yielding two runs over seven strong innings. But the offense did not, producing only five hits and failing to advance a runner past second base against left-hander Eric Lauer and four Padres relievers. The Giants’ hardest-hit ball came courtesy of Bumgarner, who shot a 106 mph lineout to left field in the third.

“He gave us what we were hoping for, a chance to win the game,” Bochy said. “We just couldn’t get it going offensively.”

As much as this season is shaping up to be one of transition for the Giants, the offense remains largely unchanged from the one that ranked 29th in the Majors with a .667 OPS in 2018. After their unsuccessful pursuit for superstar Bryce Harper, the Giants decided to enter this season without a significant upgrade in their lineup. On Thursday, it showed.

Here are three takeaways from the Giants’ Opening Day shutout loss:

1) Bumgarner remains the ace: A fractured left hand suffered in his final Spring Training start robbed Bumgarner of the chance to start for the Giants on Opening Day last year, but he reclaimed the honor for the fifth time in his career Thursday. He looked like vintage Bumgarner against the Padres, scattering five hits, including a pair to San Diego left fielder Wil Myers, who homered in the third inning and added an RBI single in the sixth. Bumgarner’s nine strikeouts were his most since April 2, 2017, against the D-backs.

“I felt really good today,” Bumgarner said. “Command was the biggest thing. My stuff was good, but the command of stuff was pretty much there the whole game. It didn’t seem like there was a whole lot of misses that were bad misses. Everything was in the general vicinity of where I wanted to go, with the exception of a couple. But I felt pretty good about it.”

Bumgarner’s five Opening Day starts are the second-most by a Giants pitcher in the San Francisco era, behind only Juan Marichal’s 10, but it’s unclear if he’ll have the chance to add to that total. The 29-year-old left-hander is in the midst of his final season before free agency, creating uncertainty about his future with the club.

Given those circumstances, Bumgarner said he intends to savor every moment with the Giants this year.

“For sure,” Bumgarner said. “I’d be lying to you if I said all that hadn’t crossed my mind.”

2) Resurgent Longoria: Third baseman , who went hitless in his first 17 at-bats last season, produced the Giants’ first hit of 2019 with a two-out single in the first inning. Longoria came close to adding a double in the sixth, but he was thrown out at second base on a strong throw from Myers in left field. The Giants issued a challenge, but the call was upheld following a replay review.

“That play probably could have gone either way at second base,” Bochy said. “I haven’t had a chance to look at it. But nice job on his part. He’s swinging well.”

While he led the Giants with 16 home runs last year, Longoria’s offensive numbers declined across the board in his first season in San Francisco. His transition to the National League was also hampered by a fractured fifth metacarpal in his left hand that caused him to miss 34 games. But Longoria looked far more comfortable this spring, stoking optimism about a bounce-back season for the 33-year-old veteran.

3) Joe shows poise: Rule 5 Draft pick made his Major League debut after starting in left field for the Giants and worked a walk in his first career plate appearance in the second inning.

“He looked poised,” Bochy said. “He showed good discipline up there.”

It was a special moment for Joe, who grew up in San Diego and had plenty of family members in attendance for his debut.

“A lot of anticipation coming into today,” Joe said. “But this whole month has been a grind for me. To make this club, I slept great last night. I was really anxious up until the anthem, and then once the anthem happened, it was just like another game. Obviously, it wasn’t, and I knew it, but I was really comfortable in there and I felt like I belonged.”

Joe, 26, played under Farhan Zaidi last year in the Dodgers’ organization and posted a .408 on-base percentage in 106 games between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City. While he also plays first and third base, Bochy said he anticipates using Joe primarily in the outfield for now.