Arizona Diamondbacks’ Jeff Mathis, right, reaches up to catch a high-hopper hit by San Francisco Giants’ Joe Panik (12) during the fourth inning of an Opening Day baseball game Sunday, April 2, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
The calendar says 2017, but it still feels a lot like 2016.
The San Francisco Giants blew a major league-high 32 saves in 2016.
So far in 2017, they have two blown saves, and they’ve only played one game.
Derek Law gave up the tying run in the bottom of the eighth against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
And then after the Giants seized the lead back in the top of the ninth thanks to a Joe Panik triple, the Giants blew another save in the ninth when new closer Mark Melancon gave up two runs – all with two outs – as the Giants fell to the Diamondbacks 6-5.
Yes, 6-5 – the same score that ended the Giants’ 2016 campaign.
All of this overshadowed a history-making day by Madison Bumgarner when the big lefty became the first pitcher in major league history to hit two home runs on Opening Day.
He became the first Giant to hit multiple home runs on Opening Day since Barry Bonds in 2002.
He became the fifth Giant since 1920 to hit multiple Opening Day home runs, joining Bonds, Matt Williams, Willie Mays and Bob Elliott.
But all of that was long forgotten because the Giants have not yet solved their bullpen issues.
It started in the eighth when Bumgarner was pulled after seven innings and 88 pitches.
Manager Bruce Bochy’s first option out of the pen was Derek Law. That’s not a bad choice looking at Law’s 2016 body work. Law was 4-2 with 2.13 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 55 innings with 0.964 WHIP.
But Law has looked off this spring, posting 5.06 ERA in 10.2 innings.
Yes, we know that spring stats don’t mean anything. But it also must be taken into consideration that just because games go from being exhibitions to counting doesn’t mean that a struggling pitcher can just flip the switch and be good again.
Law walked almost as many batters in 10.2 innings this spring (8) as he did all of last season (9).
Even Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle was surprised that the Giants sent Steven Okert to the minors instead of Law to open the season, just to give Law a little more time to find his touch.
But no. The Giants kept Law. And then to put a cherry on top, Bochy put him into the first game as the eighth-inning set-up guy.
And guess what? I didn’t work out.
Law gave up two crisp singles to AJ Pollock and Chris Owings. Then he gave up a seeing-eye single to Paul Goldschmidt to tie the game. Three batters, three hits, no outs.
Lefty Ty Blach came in to face Jake Lamb and got Lamb to hit into a double play. Hunter Strickland entered and got Yasmani Tomas to hit a comebacker. Inning over.
The Giants went up 5-4 in the ninth and brought on new closer Mark Melancon to close it out. Melancon got two quick outs before giving up a double to Jeff Mathis (aided by some less-than-stellar outfield defense by Gorkys Hernandez, in the game for his defense), a single to Daniel Descalso, a single to Pollock and a game-winning single to Owings.
Of course, all of these bullpen struggles could have been a non-issue if the Giants also have brought out another big piece of their 2016 woes – batting with runners in scoring position.
The Giants were 1 for 10 with RISP on Sunday, and that doesn’t even include the two outs they made that scored runs – sacrifice flies by Panik and Conor Gillaspie.
The Giants had the bases loaded and one out in the ninth off a struggling Fernando Rodney with Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford coming up. But Posey flied to shallow right and Crawford hit a one-foot groundout in front of the plate.
Ugh. Enough with 2016 already.
Let’s move on with 2017. The season continues Tuesday.