Opening Day loss sours Giants’ party

Opening Day at AT&T Park began with a little nostalgia, as highlights and heroes on horses gave fans a reminder of how the team came together in 2014 and pulled off a miracle run.

But the game itself against division rival Colorado was all about new faces in San Francisco, with Chris Heston taking the mound for the Giants in just his third Major League start.

THRILL OF VICTORY Giants raise World Series banner for Opening Day.

The first rookie to start a home opener for the Giants since 1982 — coming off a win last Wednesday in Arizona — killed it. But, despite his efforts, the Giants fell to the Rockies 2-0 on Opening Day, the first home opener loss since 2008 and first shutout since 2007.

The 27-year-old Heston pitched seven innings and, with only 90 pitches, struck out five and gave up just one earned run to the Rockies. Even with a baseball-hungry crowd staring and his proud parents watching, Heston (L, 1-1, 0.69 ERA) looked like a jaded veteran.

PHOTO GALLERY Giants raise World Series flag over AT&T Park.

Heston gave up a hit to the very first batter he faced. The crowd took a collective gulp of air, but the righty had a lot to show them. He forced Carlos Gonzales into a double play the next at bat. Heston said that’s when he allowed himself a breath:

“Guy gets on with a base hit and then you’re able to get a ground ball and turn a good double play. That made me take a deep breath and settle in a little bit.”

He flashed his fiery sinker, fastball and slow, strikeout-worthy curve that caught Rockies slugger Troy Tulowitzki swinging.

Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay

By the sixth inning — when Heston had accumulated five strikeouts and given up one run on 78 pitches — the fans leapt on his bandwagon.

A calming chat with Dave Righetti didn’t come until the seventh.

The offense was fueled solely by fresh faces. Nori Aoki reached base three times and utility man Matt Duffy twice, as did Joe Panik. But the Giants couldn’t score.

Aoki extended a career-long hit streak to 16 games. The leadoff man was exhilarated by the San Francisco home crowd, but wowed by Madison Bumgarner on the horse during Opening Day ceremonies:

“It made Bum look really good.”

Asked if games in Japan had any animals, he said:

“Theres a dog that brings the balls to the umpire in Japan at certain stadiums. But a horse, never.”

The Giants left the bases loaded in the first two innings and collected an additional six LOBs. Rockies starter Eddie Butler (W, 1-0, 1.64 ERA) gave up five hits and walked six, but had zero earned runs to show for it.

The perpetual offensive struggles only go to show: The number of clutch hits by San Francisco is directly proportional to the game’s need of clutch-ness. Or, that Giants bats come alive all at once, or not at all.

Matt Duffy was encouraged by the traffic on the basepaths:

“We were one, two hits away today. We got a lot of guys on base. Once we get that hit, once we do, the floodgates will hopefully open up and everyone will relax a bit. But when you can’t get those hits, and those situations come up again, guys tend to press”

Not much has changed, but Bochy is lucky to have fresh faces like Aoki and Duffy to keep sparking the others to possibly light an offensive fire.

The Giants take on the Rockies again Tuesday at 7:15 p.m. at AT&T Park.

Notes

Bruce Bochy said before today’s game that he plans to keep the 13 pitchers’ squad for this home stand, at least. Chris Heston is only filling in for Matt Cain, who’s on the 15-day DL. … Casey McGehee bruised his knee on Saturday, but Bochy said he was available off the bench. Should be out only a few days.