SAN DIEGO -- Buckle up. The previously tame Giants-Padres rivalry looks like it’s taking the leap.
The first game of the season between the reigning champs and the champs of the offseason was a fiery, tense affair, won 1-0 by the Giants when newcomer Justin Maxwell drove in the game’s first and only run in the top of the 12th.
The Giants nearly lost twice because of errors, and then they got the lead run on base thanks to a Padres blunder. Shortstop Clint Barmes and left fielder Justin Upton converged on Brandon Crawford’s high pop-up with one out in the 12th and Barmes dropped it. Crawford scored three batters later when Maxwell, the last healthy bat on the bench (non-Bumgarner division), lined a 3-2 single up the middle.
The real fun started in the ninth inning of a scoreless game, when both benches were warned after Angel Pagan and Padres catcher Norris exchanged words. The next pitch from new Padres closer Craig Kimbrel was a firecracker way up and in, but Pagan got the leg up when he tripled to deep center. He crouched on the bag and screamed at the dugout before flashing a glance at Norris.
Kimbrel got the last laugh. With runners on the corners and no outs, he got Crawford to pop out and then got Casey McGehee to hit into an inning-ending double play. Pagan and Kimbrel stared at each other as they walked off the field but no further words were exchanged.
The Padres put the winning run on third in the bottom of the ninth and 10th but failed to score, with Javier Lopez and George Kontos getting huge outs for the Giants. Kontos got a very well-deserved win.
Starting pitching report: This was the Tim Hudson the Giants remembered, the one who made the All-Star team thanks to a strong first half last season. Hudson went 6 1/3 shutout innings, giving up just five hits and getting 14 outs on the ground. He did walk five, however, including a leadoff walk in the seventh that helped push him out of the game. Hudson was pulled with runners on the corners and one out in the seventh, but Jeremy Affeldt kept the double-play train going, getting a bouncer to short that ended the inning. It was the fourth double play of the game for the Padres.
Bullpen report: So, Sergio Romo might pitch in every Giants-Padres game this season. Mr. Death on Righties struck out Wil Myers, got Norris to fly out and then struck out Matt Kemp in the bottom of the eighth. The real bullpen star Thursday was Odrisamer Despaigne, who entered for the injured Ian Kennedy and pitched 4 2/3 perfect innings. Despaigne has allowed one run over 24 2/3 career innings against the Giants.
At the plate: The Giants didn’t have many chances, but two promising innings produced zeroes before that top of the ninth. McGehee and Gregor Blanco singled with one out in the second but Joaquin Arias struck out and McGehee was gunned down easily on the failed hit-and-run. Blanco led off the eighth with a single and reached third, but Joe Panik popped up to end the threat.
In the field: Crawford doesn’t glove-flip often, but it’s a move he does practice quite a bit, as he told me when we sat down and watched his defensive highlights this spring. “I know (Ron) Wotus hates it so I usually do one glove-flip or something crazy just to get him fired up," he said. "But I only do one of them and it’s at the very end (of drills) after I’ve taken all my ground balls. I’ll do that just to mess with him, but I guess in a way it’s practicing.”
Practice makes perfect. With two on and no outs in the fifth, Jedd Gyorko hit a hard grounder up the middle that a diving Crawford glove-flipped to Panik for the start of a brilliant double-play. It was the reverse of the play Panik made in the World Series, and it helped get Hudson out of a decent jam.
Attendance: The Padres sold out their home opener, announcing a crowd of 45,150. This was the rare Giants-Padres game in San Diego that wasn’t played at “AT&T Park South.” It’s usually close to 50-50 out here, but only a handful of orange shirts could be seen.
Up next: Will it be a Happy Lincecum Day? The Giants couldn’t have planned it out any better for Tim Lincecum, who will face the twice-no-hit Padres in a park where he put a zero in the hit column a couple seasons ago. Hector Sanchez will catch Lincecum. The Giants will face Brandon Morrow, selected by Seattle five picks ahead of Lincecum in the 2006 draft. (Oops!)