Thirteen must be the San Francisco Giants’ new lucky number.
Kicking off their 13th season at AT&T Park today — Friday the 13th — the Giants won their home Opening Day game behind a stellar performance by pitcher Matt Cain, who threw a complete game shutout, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-0.
Fans wearing all manners of orange and black clothing and accessories filled the stands at the sold-out game, cheering on the Giants and hoping that the team has a successful 2012 campaign after last year’s somewhat disappointing outing that followed their World Series victory the season before.
That enthusiastic attitude was shared by the team, with manager Bruce Bochy saying, “It’s great to be home, the players are excited to get back home,” at a post-game news conference.
Cain, who only allowed one hit and received a standing ovation from fans, echoed those sentiments, but also tried to explain his mindset as a player.
“(Opening Day) definitely pumps you up, it gets you excited; the fans are coming out, and it’s always fun to watch the ceremonies and everything going on, but you can’t get too caught up in it. You’ve got to let your normal rhythm start going.”
Giants’ announcer Jon Miller acted as emcee for the Opening Day festivities, introducing the players and coaches from the visiting Pirates first, then welcoming the San Francisco squad, who trotted out to the third base line to the cheers and applause of their hometown audience.
Fan favorite Buster Posey got an especially loud reaction when his name was announced, making his first appearance back at AT&T Park in a regular season game since last May, when his leg was broken in a violent play at home plate, sidelining him for the rest of the 2011 season.
Members of the 1962 Giants team were also honored during the pre-game ceremonies, marking the 50th anniversary of the season that saw San Francisco win the National League pennant, and facing the New York Yankees in the World Series.
Even though the Giants lost the series in seven games, that squad is considered one of the best in the franchise’s history, and several players made an appearance during the on-field fete, including legends Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepada, Felipe Alou, Jim Davenport and Mike McCormick.
Giants’ announcer Mike Krukow extolled the veteran players’ remarkable accomplishments, and commented on their impact on him as a player and a member of the organization.
“They set the tone for what it means to be a San Francisco Giant,” Krukow said.
In an emotional show of support for Bryan Stow, the Giants fan who was severely beaten on Opening Day last year in Los Angeles, and has been on a long road to recovery ever since, the team invited Stow’s son, Tyler, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
When the younger Stow was introduced, he walked out to the pitcher’s mound accompanied by Jeremy Affeldt, and was surrounded by the entire Giants team. It was then announced that Bryan Stow and his mother, Ann, would be joining the event via a live satellite linkup from his rehab center.
When the video of the Stows appeared on the giant scoreboard, a roar of applause came from the stands, and Bryan held up a ball in a symbolic gesture for his son, saying, “Here’s the ball – good luck, son.”
Tyler then fired a fastball to home plate, and the crowd again erupted in cheers.
For many of the Giants players and staff, who have rallied behind Stow and have visited him often over the last year, it was a moving moment.
“That was definitely something that was close to home,” said Cain. “That family has done so much to get Bryan to where he’s at now, and it’s such an amazing story to see how he has recovered, in a way. It was very heartfelt to see him out there.”
“He looked great. To hear him speak, that was really nice to see the progress he’s made. I think it was a really nice moment, his son being out there, and to see him on the screen. He’s made immense progress from the last time I saw him,” Bochy said.
Once all of the pre-game festivities and ceremonies concluded, the Giants took little time getting down to business when the game started, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first inning, adding an insurance run in the sixth, and then closing the deal with two more from an Aubrey Huff home run.
That was all Cain needed, he dominated the Pirates’ hitters, and carried a perfect game into the sixth inning, when he gave up a single to Pittsburgh’s James McDonald. That was to be the lone offensive output from the Pirates.
After the game, Cain was asked if the fact that he was so close to getting a no-hitter would bother him after he left the ballpark today.
“I’ve definitely always wanted to do it, all through Little League and high school, so it’s kind of on my mind,” Cain said, “but you’ve got to stick to your game plan, and keep pitching.”
That kind of calm, determined approach is one that fans hope will carry the team into the postseason, and perhaps a return trip to the Fall Classic.
Sean McCourt, Bay City News