Courtesy of Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images
SAN FRANCISCO — Hardcore baseball fans don't say "Happy New Year" on January 1st. Instead, they wait until opening day of the regular season. While the rules have changed, the game is still essentially the same it's been since 1839. And there's nothing like opening day.
The pregame ceremonies were festive as they should be. The highlight was Brandon Belt who last season appointed himself the "captain" by wearing some electrical tape in the form of a 'C' on the front of his jersey.
Always a fan favorite, Belt's captaincy turned into something of a cult following. The Giants took note and he was taken into the ballpark standing atop a motorized raft on a trailer wearing a Captain's hat and he saluted the fans as he was driven in from left field to the third base line where he strode to the mound for the ceremonial first pitch. The sell-out crowd ate it up as it was both entertaining and hysterical.
When I asked him how it came about that he was going to be the one for the coveted honor which was a well-kept secret, Belt said, "They asked me last week and went from throwing out the first pitch and it morphed into riding in on an actual boat in the water and coming in through the arches out there. I couldn't do that, so it turned into a boat on a trailer and ride on in..."
As for the game, Logan Webb who was the staff ace in 2021 going 11-3 with a 3.03 ERA, earned the opening day nod.
The Giants had their best ever regular season last year amassing 107 wins. And with all the pomp and circumstance it was nearly a disaster as the Marlins down two runs, took the lead scoring three times in the ninth. Thankfully, the Orange and Black were able to come from behind to win in the 10th by the score of 6-5.
Manager Gabe Kapler was especially pleased by contributions from Catcher Joey Bart who hit his first career home run. "I thought he called a great game," Kapler said. "It was a fearless game calling performance by Joey. And obviously the home run, that ball was crushed. It's something to build on. He's confident right now and he was confident from spring training and his performance today."
Jake McGee pitched a scoreless eighth and young fireballer Camilo Doval who took over the role of closer late in the season, pitched the ninth.
With the Giants up 4-2, second baseman Thairo Estrada rushed a relay throw from Brandon Crawford on a potential double play grounder. Jacob Stallings took advantage with an RBI single to bring one run in. Jazz Chisholm, who had 18 homers in 2021, hit an opposite two-run shot to left off Doval to give the Marlins a 5-4 lead.
When Kapler was asked why McGee didn't pitch the ninth, the Giants skipper bristed a little with his reply.
"What went into it? We felt like (Doval) was our closer last year in some of the biggest moments," Kapler said. "And Game 5 in the NLCS playing the Dodgers, he's on the mound in the biggest moment...he did nothing but continue that momentum in Spring Training. He threw a ton of strikes and earned the opportunity to pitch the ninth on opening day.
"It doesn't mean that's what we're going to do going forward. Obviously I didn't name a closer prior to today's game and I'm not going to name a closer for tomorrow's game either. We'll see what makes the most sense for the Giants and we'll act accordingly."
But being the home opener, the Giants had the last at-bat and Estrada redeemed himself for his throwing error by launching a solo homer to lead off the bottom of the 9th.
The Marlins in their half of the 10th failed to advance their automatic runner to the plate.
Mauricio Dubon was the Giants runner on second in the 10th and he continues to struggle on the bases. Dubon hesitated on a Belt fly out to right to advance to third and was tagged out trying to retreat back to second for the double play.
Darren Ruf walked and Austin Slater laced a double down the line and Ruf managed to outrun the relay throw to the plate which was just beyond the reach of catcher Payton Henry.
"There was no extra gear," said Ruf of his base running speed. "I was probably downshifting more than anything but I try to pride myself on taking good turns, things like that where you can make up for an extra step or two. I don't know if I've had too many opening day wins so this was a fun one."
Webb went six innings giving up a run on five hits and had three strikeouts. Although he grew up an A's fan he was honored to be chosen to pitch the first game of 2022.
"Before that (first) inning I looked up to the section where my family sits," Webb said. "It was cool for me being from this area and seeing the names that have started for the Giants on opening day and to be a part of that is special to me."
The Marlins scored two runs in the 7th. After Webb walked the leadoff man, he was pulled for Dominic Leone. Stallings hit a long two-run homer to left to make it a one-run game. Tyler Rogers in relief of Leone notched two strikeouts to end the frame.
Belt capped off his eventful day with a homer to right off the green tiled roof in the arcade to put the Giants ahead by two runs in the bottom of the 8th.
Saturday afternoon, it's Brandon Belt Captain hat giveaway for the first 20,000 fans. Will Belt homer again given the occasion?
"We'll see, Belt said. "All I know is I had to do something today because you can't come in on a boat and not do anything so fortunately I was able to."
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Reliever Dominic Leone after the Giants 9-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 2 of the NLDS on October 9, 2021.
Third Baseman Kris Bryant sat down with the media before Sunday's game to discuss what it feels like to be traded to San Francisco.
Manager Bruce Bochy after the Giants 9-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on September 29, 2019. This was his final game as Giants manager.