Giants deliver win for Opening Day at AT&T

It wasn’t under ideal circumstances, but Aaron Hill found out toward the end of the Giants’ 4-1 Opening Day win over the Arizona Diamondbacks that he was the team’s emergency catcher.

Hill hadn’t been behind the dish since his freshman year at Louisiana State University, but was up for it:

“I said ‘great! Get me a glove!”

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Giants clubhouse at AT&T Park.

Bruce Bochy broke the news suddenly when Buster Posey was knocked in the helmet with a 94 mph fastball from Taijuan Walker (L, 1-1, 4.91 ERA) two outs into the first inning.

Posey sat in the batter’s box stunned while trainer Dave Groeschner sprinted to his aid. The agonizing clank sent the animated crowd into silent shock, said Bochy:

“It’s one of the worst sounds you can hear … That’s always a moment you hold your breath.”

The Giants (3-5) knew Walker’s errant hurl was not intentional — he wasn’t commanding his pitches, anyway. Matt Moore, who hit Joe Panik in the head with a pitch last year while with the Tampa Bay Rays, knows that better than most:

“It’s just like, instant wishing you could take something back.”

Groeschner ushered Posey out of the game immediately to go through concussion protocol. He checked out fine today and will be monitored overnight and day-by-day, Bochy assured after the win. Posey’s susceptibility to foul tips behind the dish warranted his immediate removal from the game. It’s part of the protocol now, the former catcher joked:

“If it had happened to me, they probably wouldn’t have even checked in.”

Concerned murmurs at AT&T Park turned jubilant again in the fourth inning when the bats turned in a Giants’ classic.

Moore chopped a base-clearing, 40-foot swinging bunt. Three runs leaked home in a circus-like series of bumbles, including two errors, at home plate.

Jarrett Parker, who travelled 270 feet from first to home on the bunt, jumped and fist-pumped when Fieldin Culbreth called him safe at the plate. Parker’s struggled through a 0-for-12 start to his starting career. For him, it’s about contributing what he can:

“I got fired up. Putting three runs on the board for your team is exciting.”

That’s the kind of spectacularly weird play the fans expected, perhaps, with the hope that things wouldn’t get too wild on the top side of each inning.

Moore (W, 1-1, 2.70 ERA) was solid as ever, striking out five batters, four looking, on 93 pitches through eight innings. Yasmany Tomas took his 2-1 fastball deep, providing the D-Backs (6-2) with their only run of the game.

Brandon Crawford took on a lot of the work behind him, including a perfect bare-handed pickup and punch-out off a short Chris Owings grounder. Astounding by any others’ standards, expected in San Francisco.

With a three-run lead and the heart of the lineup due, Bruce Bochy handed the ball over to new closer Mark Melancon for his AT&T Park debut.

The crowd cheered with some trepidation, and fell almost silent when Chris Owings led off the ninth inning with a double.

Paul Goldschmidt lined out. Jake Lamb popped out and Tomas sent a fly ball deep right for the final out. And exhale.

Moore got the win, Melancon his first AT&T Park save in a game that looks boring on paper, but heart-pounding in reality.

Up next

 Jeff Samardzija will face LHP Robbie Ray in game two of this three-game series. The Giants are hoping to extinguish a hot Diamondbacks team that off to their hottest start (6-2) since 2000.

Notes

The Giants aren’t planning on bringing a third catcher, like Tim Federowicz, to San Francisco yet. Bochy seemed optimistic about Buster Posey’s status, so a move as of now seems unnecessary. … Matt Moore has now won all of his last five starts, with a 1.59 ERA, at AT&T Park. … The Schuyler Sisters from the musical “Hamilton” performed one of the best National Anthem renditions I’ve heard. … The family of fallen Navy Seal Ryan Owens threw out the ceremonial first pitch in an emotional tribute to a man much beloved by the team.


Shayna Rubin is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @ShaynaRubin on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.