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Giants battle back, can’t top Seattle after shaky start

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San Francisco Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson (37) can't handle a Seattle Mariners center fielder Dee Gordon (9) single in the sixth inning as the Seattle Mariners face the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, April 3, 2018.

The Giants’ 6-4 loss to the Mariners in Tuesday’s home opener started in a familiar way: Shaky pitching backed by a sleepy offense.

As the game wore on, though, San Francisco emerged as a team thawing from a deep freeze. Mariners southpaw Marco Gonzales (W, 1-0, 4.26 ERA) earned the win, hanging the loss on Giants starter Ty Blach (L, 1-1, 5.79 ERA). But despite the loss — rooted in symptoms reminiscent of a dreary 2017 season — the Giants showed signs of life.

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

Blach shone in an impressive opener against Clayton Kershaw, but could not re-create the magic of last Thursday in Los Angeles. In the first inning Tuesday, he labored through 36 pitches, mixing in a walk to  Robinson Cano amid singles to Jean Segura, Dee Gordon, Mitch Haniger, Kyle Seager and Ryon Healy.

Of his starter’s difficult first inning, skipper Bruce Bochy said:

“… [Blach] really made some pretty good pitches, it was just [Seattle’s] inning. Balls were hit just where we couldn’t quite get to ’em. He was getting some ground balls. [He had] maybe one mistake with the changeup up in the zone that knocked in a couple, [but] really I thought he should’ve come out a little bit better than what the numbers showed.”

Blach gave up four runs before recording a single out. He got out of the first on two consecutive ground outs, then settled down until the fifth, when he allowed a single to Segura and a double to Cano before walking Seager to load the bases. After 85 pitches Blach was pulled for Reyes Moronta, and the reliever gave up a sac fly to Guillermo Heredia which scored Cano. Moronta escaped further damage by striking out Gonzales to end the inning.

In the fourth, Joe Panik knocked a Gonzales changeup over the Levi’s Landing wall to add a solo homer (3) to his unlikely season tally.

Of his early success at the plate, Panik said:

“I’m very happy with the adjustments that I made in spring and kind of carried over into the season. Right now I’m just trying to ride the wave while it’s hot.”

Panik hit just 10 home runs in all of 2017, all of them on the road. He said:

“It’s nice when you hit a home run to hear 40,000-plus cheering, instead of booing on the road.”

When it was beginning to look like all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t get anyone in the Giants lineup not named Panik an RBI, everything changed in the seventh. Call it a change in momentum, or just positive vibes emanating from a hometown crowd happy to see baseball again, but the Giants’ re-tooled lineup finally did what it was supposed to.

Buster Posey lobbed a bloop single into left field before Evan Longoria, who couldn’t buy a hit despite repeated hard contact as he sat on an 0-for-17, smoked a 91-mph sinker over the left-center field wall to cut Seattle’s lead to 6-3.

Mariners reliever Nick Vincent replaced Gonzales and was able to get out of the seventh without further incident, but the Giants would add another run in the eighth off former Pirate Juan Nicasio. Freshly re-minted Giant Gregor Blanco pinch-hit for a double to left, and Kelby Tomlinson singled Blanco to third before he scored on a Jackson sac fly to settle the final at 6-4.

Mariners reliever Edwin Diaz (0-0, 0.00 ERA) got the save, striking out Longoria and Hunter Pence in the bottom of the ninth and coaxing a popup to shortstop from Nick Hundley.

The Giants late rally wasn’t enough to overcome the 6-run deficit, but it may have been enough to shake free of the offensive torpor that seemed to be setting a dangerous, early precedent for the team.

Bochy said:

“We haven’t clicked yet, but we will and you saw it today. They’re getting close.”

Up Next

The Giants will match Johnny Cueto (0-0, 0.00 ERA) up against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez (1-0, 0.00 ERA) for a 4:35 p.m. game time start. … Tomorrow is “Kids Opening Day.” Kids 14 and under will be allowed to run the bases after the game, and Giants Youths Camps will be giving away Cutch22 shirts. AT&T will also be giving away co-branded Giants-Stanford hats.

Notes

In an effort to ensure bench players stay sharp, Brandon Belt got the day off today against the lefty Gonzales. Posey filled in at first with Hundley in the squat. Before the game Bochy said:

“With these days off I don’t want these extra guys to sit too long because we need ‘em. We’re gonna need ‘em to come off the bench or start, and we can’t wait two weeks to get ‘em in there and then expect them to be at their best.”

Aside from the run scored off Moronta on a sac fly, which went on Blach’s record, the Giants bullpen continued to be leakproof. Morontas, Pierce Johnson, Sam Dyson and Cory Gearrin combined to pitch 4-2/3 innings while giving up just two hits and no runs and striking out five.


Julie Parker is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @JPWhatsername on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.

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