SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants have put a focus this spring on getting Brandon Crawford ready for the World Baseball Classic, which meant a slight surprise for the first lineup of the new year. Crawford is hitting leadoff in Friday's exhibition opener so he can potentially get extra at-bats. Crawford and Buster Posey will leave camp in early March to represent the United States in the WBC.
Manager Bruce Bochy went heavy on the regulars in the exhibition opener. Crawford is one of six likely opening day starters to play right away:
Madison Bumgarner is scheduled to pitch an inning Friday against the visiting Reds, followed by Clayton Blackburn, Steven Okert, Derek Law, Cory Gearrin and others. The opener is meaningful to a couple of players fighting for spots. Michael Morse, the DH, is trying to make the team as a left fielder/first baseman. Jarrett Parker is trying to beat out Morse, Mac Williamson and others for the starting spot in left.
The Giants are facing a Reds team full of prospects, including the starter, right-hander Rookie Davis, who was acquired in the Aroldis Chapman deal. Former Giant Adam Duvall is hitting fourth for Cincinnati.
The Giants wore goofy sweaters on their flight to San Diego last Sunday, and their rookies were given Fortnite outfits as they left Petco Park on Wednesday.
The flight home this Sunday will take on an entirely different tone.
The Giants lost 9-2 to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium and suffered their first sweep in St. Louis since 1995.
The NL Central was one house of horrors after the next this season. The Giants also were swept in Cincinnati and Milwaukee. They lost two of three in Chicago and Pittsburgh.
Here's what you need to know from the final game of that 2-13 road stretch ...
--- Andrew Suarez was pulled after just 77 pitches, as the Giants likely are trying to limit his innings this late in the year. He gave up two earned runs in five innings, and if this is it for his rookie year, he currently stands at a 4.22 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. He's been a bright spot and certainly gives this team a nice rotation piece.
--- This one turned into a boat race in the sixth. Ray Black was charged with four of the five runs allowed in the inning, which raised his ERA to 6.45.
--- The lineup had just one hit off Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas through six innings. Brandon Crawford hit a two-run homer in the seventh.
--- The Giants have lost 50 road games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1984 and 1985. They went 26-55 away from home last season. Not surprisingly, the issue has been the offense. They've scored 25 fewer runs on the road despite playing six more games.
SAN FRANCISCO — The Cardinals made four errors Saturday and had trouble with several other balls. The Giants couldn’t take advantage.
Cardinals right fielder Tyler O’Neill hit a walk-off homer off reliever Mark Melancon in the bottom of the 10th at Busch Stadium, handing the Giants a 5-4 loss. They’ve lost three straight after a good start to their final trip.
The Giants had runners on the corners and one out in the top of the 10th, but second baseman Alen Hanson struck out. After an intentional walk of catcher Nick Hundley, Right fielder Austin Slater struck out to end the threat.
—- The Cardinals butchered a couple of bloops in the seventh and the Giants took full advantage. With a runner on first, Hanson and starting catcher Aramís Garcia hit bloops that Cardinals outfielders didn’t handle cleanly. Starter Dereck Rodriguez followed with a single and outfielder Gregor Blanco made it 4-2 when he beat out a double-play ball.
—- Rodriguez was cruising but he walked the lead off batter in the bottom of the seventh and then gave up a two-run shot to catcher Yadier Molina. It was the first non-solo homer allowed by Rodriguez this season. The rookie was charged with four runs in what could have been the final start of his season.
—- Joe Panik isn’t a thumper, but his first career start at first base had plenty of positives. Panik had three hits and looked fine defensively.
—- Garcia bounced back nicely from a four-strikeout night. He had four hits, including a big one in the seventh inning rally.