Splash Hits in April are right in season with Panda at the plate

Panoval

It’s April, and it’s already Splash Hit season.

Pablo Sandoval launched the first Splash Hit of 2018 when he launched Felix Hernandez’s final pitch on Wednesday for a three-run home run into McCovey Cove.

The Panda even called it. Sort of.

“I ain’t gonna lie. He called it,” Andrew McCutchen said. “He said he was going to hit a homer today.”

https://www.mlb.com/giants/video/share/sandovals-three-run-dinger/c-1906902283?tid=8878828

It marked the first April Splash Hit since Brandon Crawford hit one on April 13, 2014, and only the second April Splash Hit since 2008.

Of the 77 Splash Hits, it was only the 11th in April.

It was the earliest Splash Hit by date, and the second earliest by schedule.

Barry Bonds had a Splash Hit in the Giants’ home opener in 2004. He also hit one in Game 2 in 2004, but that was in the seventh inning, so The Panda’s officially becomes the second earliest.

The Splash Hit also was Sandoval’s eighth Splash Hit, moving him into sole possession of second place in the Splash Hit list. It was his first Splash Hit since May 12, 2013. He, of course, spent 2015, 2016 and most of 2017 with the Red Sox. The nearly five-year gap between Splash Hits is the longest gap between Splash Hits by one player.

Of course, Bonds tops the list with 35, then comes Sandoval with eight and Brandon Belt with seven. Denard Span is the only other Giant with more than two. Span hit five and accounted for the last three Splash Hits.

EARLY SPLASH HITS

  1. Barry Bonds 2004, Game 1
  2. Pablo Sandoval 2018, Game 2 (fifth inning)
  3. Barry Bonds 2004, Game 2 (seventh inning)
  4. Barry Bonds 2001, Game 4
  5. Michael Tucker 2005, Game 5
  6. Brandon Crawford 2014, Game 6
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Homers from Panik only part of a very unlikely start to 2018 for Giants

Johnny Cueto

The San Francisco Giants have nearly $52 million worth of pitching on the disabled list – in 2018 salary – and yet they are 2-0 because of a pair of 1-0 victories.

That seems about as likely as the fact that the Giants scored both runs off home runs by Joe Panik – one off Clayton Kershaw and the other off Kenley Jansen.

The Giants became the second team ever to open the season with back-to-back 1-0 victories. The 1943 Cincinnati Reds were the other team.

Since the 1943 Reds opened at home – as the Reds do every year – the Giants became the first team to accomplish the feat on the road.

Johnny Cueto took a perfect game into the seventh inning when Chris Taylor’s bloop single broke it up. Taylor was then erased on a double play by the next batter. Tony Watson and Hunter Strickland completed the shutout as the Dodgers sent the minimum – 27 batters – to the plate.

In 2017, the Giants were 0-23 when scoring just one run. So far in 2018, they are 2-0.

In 2017, the Giants didn’t record their first shutout win until June 2 – a 10-0 win at Phildelphia. They didn’t notch their second shutout until Aug. 21 – a 2-0 win over Milwaukee. They finished with five shutout wins.

It’s the second time in Giants history that they have opened with back-to-back shutout wins, and the first time they’ve done it on the road.

With John Burkett and Billy Swift starting, the 1994 Giants opened the season with 8-0 and 2-0 wins over the Pirates.

If the Giants can keep the Dodgers scoreless for 5.2 innings on Saturday, they will break the team record for most scoreless pitching innings to open a season, set in 1994.

Derek Holland gets his first pitching assignment for the Dodgers on Saturday. Hopefully, Holland can keep the streak going.

If he can’t, hopefully the Giants hitters – besides Panik – can get going against the first right-handed starter they’ll see this season – Kenta Maeda.

Look for Bochy to employ this lineup vs. righty

2B Joe Panik

1B Brandon Belt

RF Andrew McCutchen

C Buster Posey

3B Evan Longoria

SS Brandon Crawford

RF Hunter Pence

CF Gregor Blanco

P Derek Holland

On Opening Day, Joe Panik does something no San Francisco Giants hitter has ever done against Clayton Kershaw

Joe Panik

Of all the unlikely San Francisco Giants to belt a home run off Clayton Kershaw, Joe Panik might have been the unlikeliest.

Panik’s solo home run in the fifth inning of the Giants’ 1-0 victory over the Dodgers was only the second baseman’s 30th home run of his career.

Watch Panik’s homer: https://www.mlb.com/giants/video/share/paniks-solo-homer-off-kershaw/c-1898956883?tid=8878828

And although Panik became the 15th different Giants hitter to homer off Kershaw, he quickly moved to the top half of the list of Giants who have taken deep in terms of career home runs hit – even with just 30.

Career home runs by Giants who have home runs (as a Giant) against Kershaw.

  1. Hunter Pence 220
  2. Juan Uribe 199
  3. Bengie Molina 144
  4. Melky Cabrera 131
  5. Buster Posey 128
  6. Angel Pagan 64
  7. Joe Panik 30
  8. Mac Williamson 22
  9. Madison Bumgarner 17
  10. Matt Duffy 17
  11. Brandon Hicks 11
  12. Brett Pill 9
  13. Chris Stewart 9
  14. Ehire Adrianza 5
  15. Kelby Tomlinson 3

When you look at that list, with the likes of Chris Stewart, Kelby Tomlinson and Ehire Adrianza on it, there have been some unlikely Giants to homer off Kershaw.

Even so, Panik’s home run seems even less likely when you consider:

Prior to Thursday, in his career, Kershaw surrenders a home run to a left-handed hitter at a rate of 1 for every 47 plate appearances.

Prior to Thursday, Panik only had two home runs against left-handed pitching, out of more than 500 plate appearances.

But when Panik took Kershaw deep, he became the first Giants to accomplish one feat. He became the first left-handed hitter to homer off Kershaw. The other 14 Giants to go deep did it from the right-hand side of the plate.

Here’s a list of  Giants players who have home runs off Kershaw and the year they hit it.

1, Buster Posey 3 (2013, 2015, 2017)

2, Madison Bumgarner 2 (2015, 2016)

3, Joe Panik 1 (2018)

3, Kelby Tomlinson 1 (2017)

3, Mac Williamson 1 (2017)

3, Hunter Pence 1 (2017)

3, Angel Pagan 1 (2016)

3, Matt Duffy 1 (2016)

3, Ehire Adrianza 1 (2016)

3, Brandon Hicks 1 (2014)

3, Melky Cabrera 1 (2012)

3, Brett Pill 1 (2012)

3, Chris Stewart 1 (2011)

3, Juan Uribe 1 (2010)

3, Bengie Molina 1 (2009)

 

Time to Panik, not panic — Blach, Giants beat Kershaw on Opening Day

Joe Panik, Clayton Kershaw, Yasmani Grandal, Mark Wegner

If you had the San Francisco Giants beating Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers 1-0 on Opening Day on a Joe Panik home run, collect your prize.

That’s how it all shook out Thursday at Chavez Ravine, as the Giants won their first Opening Day game in Dodger Stadium since 2002.

The outlook Thursday was not so bright when, after we knew Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija would start the season the disabled list, the Giants announced that closer Mark Melancon would be joining them on the DL with a flexor strain.

But Blach, who has been outstanding in his starts against the Dodgers, matched Kershaw 0 for 0 through the first four innings.

In the fifth inning, Panik turned on an inside pitch and drove it just inside the right-field foul pole.

From watching on ESPN, it looked like the ball might be foul, from how the camera angle was showing it.

But it stayed fair, and the Giants led 1-0. Blach kept the lead 1-0 after five innings. He gave up three hits, three walks while striking out three. He left after 80 pitches because he hadn’t thrown more than 60 during the spring.

Before the Giants’ run of pitching injuries, Giants manager Bruce Bochy told Blach he’d be starting in the bullpen and make his first start on April 10, when the Giants first needed a fifth starter.

That’s why Blach got the early hook. Then the Giants turned it over to the bullpen.

Four relievers — Josh Osich, Cody Gearrin, Tony Watson and Hunter Strickland — kept the shutout intact.

Osich was outstanding. Gearrin dodged around a couple of singles. Watson was outstanding. Strickland worked around a leadoff single by Matt Kemp to notch his first save since being proclaimed the closer in Melancon’s absence.

It was the Giants’ first Opening Day win by shutout since beating the Pirates 8-0 in 1994. John Burkett started that game. It was the first Opening Day shutout win against the Dodgers since 1958, the first major-league game played on the West Coast. The Giants also won that one 8-0.

Last year, the Giants went 0-23 when scoring just one run. This year, they are 1-0.

Last year, the Giants never spent a day above .500. This year, they’ve spent one.

Last year, the Giants never spent a day in first place. They are there today.

Who know what the future holds for the Giants, given so many uncertainties. But at least for one day, 2018 is going just fine.

Opening Day diversion: Guess the 12 different starting left fielders for Giants since 2007 (and other Opening Day starter facts)

Hunter Pence

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence hits a grand slam home run off Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez in the eighth inning of their baseball game Thursday, April 7, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

The San Francisco Giants announced the Opening Day lineup against the Dodgers.

CF Austin Jackson
2B Joe Panik
CF Andrew McCutchen
C Buster Posey
3B Evan Longoria
LF Hunter Pence
1B Brandon Belt
SS Brandon Crawford
P Ty Blach

It marks the 12th consecutive season the Giants have opened with a different player starting in left field, dating all the way back to Barry Bonds’ final Opening Day start in 2007.

If you are looking for an Opening Day diversion, try guessing the names of the 10 players sandwiched between Bonds and Hunter Pence. We’ll reveal the answer at the end of this post.

It’s actually Pence’s third consecutive Opening Day start for the Giants, after starting in right the past two seasons. He was hurt at the opening of the 2015 season.

It’s the eighth consecutive Opening Day start for both Buster Posey and Brandon Belt. It’s the seventh consecutive start for Brandon Crawford. It’s the fourth consecutive start for Joe Panik.

It’s the first-ever Opening Day start for the Giants for Ty Blach, Evan Longoria, Andrew McCutchen and Austin Jackson.

Third base is turning into a mini-left field for the Giants. Longoria is the fifth different player to start at 3B on Opening Day since 2014 — Pablo Sandoval, Casey McGehee, Matt Duffy and Eduardo Nunez.

Posey’s eight Opening Day starts at catcher are the most ever by Giant since 1908. Today’s start broke a tie he had with Wes Westrum.

Belt’s eight starts ties him with Will Clark for fourth-most ever at first base.

Getting back to left field. Bonds made 12 consecuive Opening Day starts from 1993 to 2004, and 14 of 15 starts until 2007.

The odds that this streak will be extended to 13 is very good when you consider that Pence is in the last year of his contract and will turn 36 next season.

Want to take any bets on who next year’s start left fielder is?

Mac Williamson?

Chris Shaw?

Austin Slater?

Brandon Belt?

Someone else?

All right. As promised, here is the answer to our left field question from above.

2007 – Barry Bonds
2008 – Dave Roberts
2009 – Darren Lewis
2010 – Mark DeRosa
2011 – Pat Burrell
2012 – Aubrey Huff
2013 – Andres Torres
2014 – Michael Morse
2015 – Nori Aoki
2016 – Angel Pagan
2017 – Jarrett Parker
2018 – Hunter Pence

Another Opening Day away from the bay for the San Francisco Giants

Bum2014

When the San Francisco Giants open the 2018 season at Dodger Stadium, it will mark their ninth consecutive Opening Day on the road.

So the question will be asked “Why don’t the Giants ever open at home?”

And the standard answer is that it’s the Giants choice. They prefer to play games at home later in the season than earlier.

But nine years in a row?

The last time the Giants opened the season at AT&T Park was on April 7, 2009 against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Giants won the game 10-6.

Since then, the Giants have spent four Opening Days in Arizona, one each in Houston and Milwaukee and this season marks the third Opening Day in LA.

I get the inclination to want more home games later in the season than earlier. But is there really a big difference between opening at home on March 29 and April 3?

You’d think that a franchise that had such a lengthy streak of “sellouts” it wouldn’t matter when the home games are played.

This decision by the Giants has robbed fans of some special Opening Days in 2011, 2013 and 2015. When they should have been hoisting a World Series banner at home, the Giants instead opened at Dodger Stadium in 2011, Dodger Stadium again in 2013 and in Arizona in 2015.

Since opening their ballpark by the bay in 2000, the Giants have only played four Opening Days there – in 2001 vs. the Padres (the Giants won 3-2), in 2005 vs. the Dodgers (the Giants won 4-2), in 2007 vs. the Padres (they lost 7-0) and the aforementioned game in 2009 vs. the Brewers.

To make matters worse, Opening Days in Dodger Stadium have not gone well for the Giants. They have managed to score just one run in three openers there since 2008.

This season marks the 60th anniversary of the both the Giants and Dodgers on the West Coast. And that first Opening Day back in 1958 was played in San Francisco. The Giants beat the Dodgers 8-0 in April 15, 1958. Shouldn’t the 60th anniversary game also be played in San Francisco?

The Giants and Dodgers didn’t play in another Opening Day matchup against until 1976.

Since then, they have meet on Opening Day in 1977, 1982, 1988, 1992, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2013.

Overall, the Giants are 6-5 on Opening Day against the Dodgers, although LA has won the last three.

The last time the Giants won on Opening Day in LA was in 2002, when Barry went yard three times.

The only time I have ever spent Opening Day in a big-league ballpark was at Dodger Stadium in 1988, when Dave Dravecky beat Fernando Valenzuela.

The Giants return to Chavez Ravine for another Opening Day on Thursday. Hopefully, they’ll score a run. Heck, maybe even two, if we dare to dream.

But at least we can be thankful of one thing – thank God the Astros beat the Dodgers last fall, or else the Boys in Blue would be hoisting their own World Series banner.

Instead, they’ll just hoist a National League pennant.

And the Giant fans can watch, tilt their heads to the side, glance at three World Series rings since their last Opening Day at home and say “Aw, isn’t that adorable.”

Giants’ Opening Day roster includes two rookies, just not the ones you were expected

Rookz

Late Tuesday night, after the Giants’ 3-0 win over the A’s to take the Bay Bridge Series, the Giants announced, more or less, who would be making the Opening Day roster.

It includes 12 pitchers, five outfielders and two rookies – just not the rookies you might have been expecting.

With injuries to Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija, rookie relief pitchers Pierce Johnson and Roberto Gomez were informed they would be joining the club Thursday for the opener at Dodger Stadium. Another rookie, outfielder Steven Duggar will be heading to Triple-A Sacramento, news that will frustrate some Giants fans (not this Giant fan. Duggar needs to play every day and Giants face a ton of lefties to open the season).

Here’s the 25-man roster, with one question remaining.

Starting pitchers (4): LH Ty Blach, RH Johnny Cuetro, LH Derek Holland, RH Chris Stratton.

Relievers (8): RH Mark Melancon, LH Tony Watson, RH Sam Dyson, RH Hunter Strickland, LH Josh Osich,  RH Cory Gearrin, RH Johnson, RH Gomez.

Catchers (2): Buster Posey, Nick Hundley.

Infielders (6): Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria, Pablo Sandoval, Kelby Tomlinson.

Outfielders (5): Andrew McCutchen, Austin Jackson, Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, Gorkys Hernandez.

Disabled list (4): Bumgarner, Samardzija, Will Smith, Julian Fernandez.

The one question is Melancon, who remains uncertain for the opener.

Actually, there are two questions. The other question is which player will be dropped from the 40-man roster to make room for Blanco.

So who are these rookie pitchers?

Pierce Johnson, a 26-year-old righthander, is a former first-round pick (43rd overall pick) of the Chicago Cubs in 2012. He spent six seasons in the minors, most of them as a starter and most of them with good numbers. But his last two, at the Triple-A level, were less impressive. He was 4-6 with a 6.14 ERA in 22 games and 11 starts in 2016. He was 3-2 with a 4.31 ERA in 43 games (42 relief outings) in 2017. He spent three days in the majors with the Cubs last May, making one appearance and giving up two unearned runs in one inning. He was designated for assignment in September and claimed off waivers by the Giants.

He had a strong spring, pitching seven shutout innings, allowing just one hit and three walks with nine strikeouts. But he was also among one the Giants’ first cuts from big-league camp back on March 13 and was set to open the season at Double-A Richmond before getting his Opening Day assignment.

Roberto Gomez is a 6-foot-6, 28-year-old righthander. He was signed by the Rays out of the Dominican Republic in 2010. He pitched five seasons in the Rays system, mostly as a starter, before getting injured and released by the Rays in 2014. Injury kept him sidelined in 2015-16. He was signed by the Giants in November 2016.

He was 3-9 with 4.07 ERA in 38 games, 13 starts, for Triple-A Sacramento last season before getting called up by the Giants in September. He gave up five earned runs in 5.1 innings in four outings for the Giants.

Gomez was part of the second round of cuts by the Giants after giving up eight runs (three earned) in 8.1 innings this spring. He had 13 strikeouts. Like Johnson, Gomez was set to start the season at Double-A Richmond.

Both pitchers made the final 25 in part that both can pitch a couple of innings at a time. The Giants don’t have a true long man in the bullpen, so these two provide some of that given the Giants are opening the season with four starters and 12 total relievers.