Instant Replay: Giants bullpen blows Bumgarner's historic Opening Day

Instant Replay: Giants bullpen blows Bumgarner's historic Opening Day


PHOENIX — You couldn’t have written a stranger path to the bottom of the ninth in Sunday’s season opener, but after two home runs by the ace, a brief shot at history, a quick meltdown and a familiar blown save, the Giants finally got the lead to their new $62 million closer. 

Mark Melancon failed his first test.

The new closer gave up two runs in the ninth as the Giants fell 6-5 to the Diamondbacks, wasting a tremendous performance from Madison Bumgarner. Melancon gave up a double and two singles before Chris Owings knocked a flare into right to walk it off. 

Melancon had blown just 10 saves the previous three seasons. The Giants gave leads up in the eighth and the ninth. 

For five innings, it looked like this one would go down as one of the most memorable season debuts in MLB history. Bumgarner flirted with a perfect game before settling for becoming the first pitcher to hit two homers on opening day. 

Bumgarner opened his ninth big league season by retiring the first nine on just 29 pitches, including three straight strikeouts in the second. Through five innings, Bumgarner had thrown 54 pitches. His cutter was as good as it’s always been. The curveball had perfect depth. His fastball, which topped out at 93 mph a year ago, sat at 94 mph for long stretches. 

Just for good measure, Bumgarner padded an early lead with a laser shot of a homer off Zack Greinke in the fifth. The homer was the first of the season in the National League and left the park at 112.5 mph, a record for a pitcher in the Statcast era. 

Bumgarner’s bid ended with one out in the sixth, when Jeff Mathis pulled a triple just inside the third base line. A 3-0 lead would also dissipate in a hurry. Nick Ahmed got the Diamondbacks on the board with a single and A.J. Pollock stunned the Giants and tied the game with a two-run homer just out of the reach of left fielder Gorkys Hernandez. 

Bumgarner had boiled over earlier in the game, snapping at himself when Paul Goldschmidt lofted a pitch to the warning track. If there was any anger after the three-run rally, it didn’t show. Bumgarner finished out the inning with a pair of strikeouts and then went about putting the lead back in his hands. 

On a 2-0 count in the top of the seventh, Bumgarner smashed an Andrew Chafin fastball deep into the left field seats. The no-doubter gave Bumgarner 16 career homers, a franchise record for a pitcher. It also left the park at over 112 mph, meaning Bumgarner now has the two hardest-hit homers by a Giant in the last two seasons. 

[RELATED: Bumgarner breaks Giants franchise record for most career homers hit by pitcher]

Bumgarner handed a lead over to the bullpen in the eighth, and last year’s problem immediately popped up. Derek Law gave up three consecutive hits and the lead before Ty Blach (double play) and Hunter Strickland (groundout) got out of the jam. 

Panik opened the top of the ninth by driving a triple off the wall in center. He strolled home on Conor Gillaspie’s sacrifice fly to center. The Giants loaded the bases, but they wouldn’t give Melancon any additional breathing room. 

Starting pitching report: Bumgarner’s final line: 7 innings, 6 hits, 3 earned runs, 0 walks, 11 strikeouts. A year after setting a franchise record for a lefty by striking out 251, Bumgarner looks poised to shoot past that number. 

Bullpen report: It is with great sadness that I report it is happening again. 

At the plate: Bumgarner has now taken two pitchers deep multiple times: Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. 

In the field: Bruce Bochy showed that he won’t hesitate to pull Jarrett Parker if the matchup dictates. Gorkys Hernandez pinch-hit against a lefty and stayed in on defense, although he had a shaky run.

Attendance: The Diamondbacks announced a crowd of 49,016 human beings who watched the NL designated hitter die. 

Up next: Johnny Cueto makes his first start of his second season with the Giants. He’ll face left-hander Patrick Corbin, which should bring Chris Marrero into the lineup. 

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers


No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”

Will Clark says Steven Duggar can play 'Gold Glove center field right now,' trusts the bat too


Will Clark says Steven Duggar can play 'Gold Glove center field right now,' trusts the bat too

Will Clark won his first and only Gold Glove at first base for the Giants at age 27 in 1991. It was Clark's sixth year in the major leagues. 

Steven Duggar won't have to wait that long to win the biggest hardware for his defense in Clark's eyes. 

"He can play Gold Glove center field right now in the big leagues. He can flat out go get it in center field," Clark said on the Giants' prospect Tuesday on KNBR. "He can definitely, definitely play a Gold Glove center field." 

Clark, who now serves a role in the Giants' front office after playing in five straight All-Star Games for his former team from 1988-92, has watched Duggar closely for more than just this spring training. When asked about his feelings on the 24-year-old, Clark made them clear right away. 

"I've seen Steve parts of the last two seasons in the minor leagues and I am definitely a Steven Duggar fan," Clark said. 

The question with Duggar has always been his bat. He has elite speed, gets great jumps in center field and everyone from Bruce Bochy to Buster Posey has praised his ability to track down fly balls. 

"His thing is, how quick is he going to make the adjustment in the big leagues with the pitching. I know there's a lot of people that are asking that question right now," Clark. 

Count The Thrill as one of the leaders in Camp Duggar. He joined many others in complimenting his glove left and right. But what he has to say about the Clemson product's bat is what puts him over the top. 

"He's succeeded at each level he's been at," Clark pointed out. "He will do it at the major league level and I'm kind of staking my reputation on that."

This is confidence -- to say the least -- coming from someone who was a .303 lifetime hitter and bashed 284 home runs in 15 seasons. 

Over three years in the minor leagues, Duggar is a .292 career hitter with a .384 on-base percentage and .427 slugging percentage. Duggar started off scorching hot this spring with the Giants, but has cooled down with the Cactus League soon coming to a close. In 16 games, Duggar is slashing .250/.353/.545 and has shown more pop with four home runs.