The Giants failed to recover from a single catastrophic inning among 5-1/3 strong from Dereck Rodríguez in Friday’s home opener, falling 5-2 to Tyler Glasnow and the Tampa Bay Rays before a sold-out crowd at Oracle Park.
In the first frame of Rodríguez’s (L, 1-1, 5.23 ERA) virginal-Opening Day start, the Rays (6-2) notched back-to-back doubles followed by back-to-back dingers for four runs on 26 pitches.
The San Francisco offense has struggled to show signs of life against starters so far in 2019, scoring just four runs in the fifth inning or sooner compared with 17 in the later innings, and Glasnow (W, 1-0, 0.82 ERA) was no exception, as he held the Giants (2-6) to three hits over six innings, striking out six.
The team’s newest member, outfielder Kevin Pillar, had the opportunity to introduce himself to the San Francisco fanbase Friday, though, and he received nothing but love from the 41,067 on-hand, particularly when he contributed to the little offense the Giants produced.
Manager Bruce Bochy said he was pleased with how things have gone for Pillar since putting on the orange and black uniform:
“I thought his at-bats were good. He smoked the ball to right-center there and then hit one up the middle. The ball jumps off his bat.”
The home dugout finally came to life in the late innings with Pillar’s help. The Giants put together rallies in the seventh, eighth and ninth, but it was only the rally that Pillar catalyzed that proved fruitful as he scored one of two runs in the seventh.
Bochy said there was some luck involved, or lack thereof, in some of the offensive false-starts:
“It usually takes one guy to get that hit to loosen everybody up and get contagious. Give [the Rays] credit, those are some pretty good arms they’re seeing. They have high-velo guys, but I thought we had some good at-bats–guys getting walks and we hit some balls hard at ’em–we did have some tough luck.”
Rodríguez required just 61 pitches to make it through his remaining 4-1/3 innings, during which he allowed just three hits and struck out five, including striking out the side on 13 pitches in the fifth.
Rodriguez said he had no doubt that he could get his head back in the game after the first inning traffic:
“You gotta have a short memory in baseball. Buster came out there and he talked to me and after that, I just flipped a switch, settled down and they weren’t gonna get any more runs after. I set a little goal after that first inning not to give up any more runs.”
And he didn’t, but the damage was done.
“That first inning was the difference in the ballgame. I’m sure Dereck would like to have that inning back because after that he was right on.
After a pair of singles in the sixth, the skipper pulled D-Rod with one out, for lefty Travis Bergen, whom the Giants picked up this winter from the Blue Jays in the Rule 5 Draft.
Bergen never pitched above Double-A before the 2019 season, but in three innings over four appearances so far, Bergen has allowed just two hits and one run. That run came in the seventh inning of Friday’s loss after Nick Vincent allowed a runner he inherited from Bergen to score on a double from Austin Meadows.
Fans gave Pillar a warm welcome Friday, and he rewarded them by sparking a seventh-inning rally against the first reliever San Francisco saw, Wilmer Font.
The 30-year-old centerfielder launched a rocket up the middle for a single with a 110-mph exit velocity, then stole second on a wild pitch to Joe Panik. A Pablo Sandoval double down the left field line finally got the Giants on the board and Steven Duggar added one more with a double of his own.
A southern California native, Pillar was acquired from the Blue Jays Tuesday in a trade for Alen Hanson, Derek Law
Though he’s only played with two current Giants, backup catcher Erik Kratz and infielder Yangervis Solarte, Pillar said he’s been overwhelmed with how open the entire roster has been since he arrived:
“From the day I showed up in the middle of that game [in LA Tuesday], everyone’s met me with open arms and is excited for me to be here. It’s obviously a tough transition leaving all I’ve ever known in a place I was extremely comfortable and coming to a place where I don’t know too many people personally, but everyone’s been really great to me and my family and they’re making me feel like family as quickly as possible.”
Pillar spent his entire seven-year pro career in Toronto, and after being traded early Tuesday morning he was quickly on a flight to the west coast, arriving in Los Angeles and stepping into the visitors dugout at Chavez Ravine by the fifth inning.
“Your mind automatically goes to, ‘They don’t want you anymore.’ But as I had some time to kind of realize what was going on, you gotta kinda take it as a sign of honor that there’s a team out there that is willing to give up some of their players and some of their prospects to come and get you.”
Additional Giants rallies in the eighth and ninth amounted to nothing. They loaded the bases with no outs on an error, a double and a hit-by-pitch in the eighth, and placed runners in scoring position for a last gasp in the ninth to no avail.
First baseman Brandon Belt said he’s not worried about the Giants failure to launch, though. Despite a run differential of negative 10 over eight games, he’s confident the team is not far from breaking out.
“I think we were pretty close today, we had a few balls hit on the nose we just need those to fall in and it’s a whole different ballgame. It’s been that way for the past few games but I like where our offense is at. We do need to get it going a little bit, but the swings we’re taking look pretty good right now.”
The Giants play game two of three against the Rays Saturday at Oracle Park as Jeff Samardzija is scheduled to throw the first pitch at 1:05 p.m. Tampa Bay has yet to announce a starting pitcher, but they may be planning to
This is the 10th straight season the Giants have started the season on the road, the longest such active streak in the major leagues. They are 7-3 in home-openers in that time but those three losses have come in the last five seasons. … Giants outfielder Mac Williamson, who was designated for assignment March 28 after a mediocre spring, cleared waivers Friday and will remain in the Giants farm system as he continues to work to prove himself the exciting power-hitting outfielder the team once valued highly.