Three silver linings from Giants’ ugly loss vs. Mariners originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
It is easy, and fully understandable, to get caught up in Opening Day and one result. Fans have waited so long for a baseball game that counts, and given that MLB does a poor job of promoting the product in the spring, a lot of them haven’t even seen a live pitch since the end of the World Series. When you watch your team blow it in Game 1, it’s natural to think the sky has fallen.
But then you wake up the next morning and realize that Giants will play 161 more of these, including one Friday night, with Johnny Cueto on the mound.
Thursday night’s loss to the Seattle Mariners sucked, but it wasn’t, as many Giants fans have said over the last 12 hours, an all-time bad loss. I can name three from last season that were worse, maybe even five: The two blown saves to the A’s, the subsequent one in Anaheim, the walk-off at home against the San Diego Padres, and the season-ending one with a playoff spot on the line.
Still, the metrics say the Giants had a 98 percent chance of winning after the top of the eighth last night, so this loss certainly sucked. I summed all that up last night, but here are three reasons to be optimistic in the hours leading up to the second game of the season
Buster Posey made an immediate impact, homering on his first swing since 2019. The ball had the best exit velocity of the night at 106.5 mph, something you didn’t say often about Posey in his last season. In 2019, he had just five hits that left the bat at that velocity, two of them homers. Neither one of those homers was pulled as much as his one Thursday night.
“Two years ago, he wouldn’t have been able to do that,” first baseman Brandon Belt said. “It looks like his hip is a lot healthier now and he’s able to turn on those pitches. You’re probably going to see a lot more of that from Buster this year.”
This is the Posey everyone saw last spring training, months before he opted out. He’s now another year removed from hip surgery, and it appears he’s able to move the way he wants to in the box. Of course, the hip still is a concern at times. Gabe Kapler initially planned to have Curt Casali catch Saturday’s series finale, but given how long the eighth and 10th innings were last night, Kapler said he might reevaluate and let Posey rest Friday and play Saturday.
A Set-in-Stone Closer?
Jake McGee got the ninth in his Giants debut and needed just eight pitches for three outs. All of them were fastballs, a pitch he threw 96 percent of the time last year. McGee averaged 94.3 mph with his four-seamer, which flummoxes lefties and righties alike.
Kapler has said he would like to see a closer emerge. It’s hard to see how the Giants go more than another week or two without anointing McGee, who has done it before. Tyler Rogers is the other one in consideration, but McGee’s power profile is just a better fit in tight spots.
By the way, a lot of fans felt McGee should have also gotten the tenth inning. It’s extremely rare for any manager to ask a high-leverage reliever to go two innings in an opener, as my friend Andrew Baggarly pointed out:
It’s not about the pitch count, it’s about the “ups,” as Kapler calls them. No manager wants to ask his best reliever to sit in the dugout as the adrenaline of the first appearance wears off — and then go back out there.
Kapler also took some heat for not letting Kevin Gausman go deeper. I’ll shoot that one down myself. Gausman threw 75 pitches in his final spring tuneup and the Giants wanted him at 90-ish on Thursday. That’s exactly where he got, and it’s two more pitches than legendary workhorse Madison Bumgarner threw in that infamous 2017 Opening Day loss. Stats are fun!
The bummer about this loss isn’t just that it cost Gausman. It’s that the Giants failed to shake hands on a night when they hit four homers, something they did in just two of 60 games last year and five of 162 the year before.
Aside from Posey, they got homers from Evan Longoria, Austin Slater and Alex Dickerson. Longoria had a huge spring and that carried over. Slater/Dickerson looks like a really dangerous platoon in left, and if Slater keeps having those kinds of at-bats, he’ll end up as an everyday player. If he stays healthy, he might shoot past my prediction that he’ll hit more homers than in his previous four seasons combined.