PHOENIX — Nori Aoki hit .194 in his first spring with the Giants. Joe Panik hit .208 in the Cactus League. Angel Pagan hit .200 and dealt with a back injury.
“It just goes to show you, you can throw spring training stats out,” manager Bruce Bochy said after a 5-4 win on Opening Day, a smile on his face. “The bell rung and these guys answered it.”
The top three in the lineup answered the call over and over again as the Giants topped Josh Collmenter, who traditionally has given them problems with his axe-throwing style and go-to pitch that Panik called a “Bugs Bunny changeup.”
Aoki had two singles in his Giants debut and scored. On his first Opening Day, Panik opened with a single, double and single, scoring the first run of the season. Pagan, hitting third after primarily being the leadoff hitter during his Giants career, had two doubles, a single, a walk and two RBI.
“When we’re clicking, it’s just going to be a smooth transition from one guy to the next,” Panik said. “When we’re going, it’s going to be fun to watch.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Bumgarner solid, Giants hold on to win opener]
The second-year second baseman pointed to one stretch in the third inning as proof. Aoki saw six pitches while singling to center, and Panik, knowing Collmenter was probably looking for a quick out, went up to the plate looking for something he could drive. He doubled on the first pitch, and though Aoki was caught in a rundown, the Giants eventually did score on a Pagan single.
“Each one of them is a tough at-bat,” said Madison Bumgarner, who got his first career Opening Day win. “You’re going to have to give them everything you’ve got and they’re going to give you everything they’ve got. They’re not easy outs. We don’t really have any easy outs.”
That includes Bumgarner, the most powerful pitcher in the game. He was visibly angry after one strikeout with runners on, but he did just fine at his day job. Bumgarner gave up one run over seven innings and looked every bit as strong as the pitcher who took the baseball world by the throat last season.
“I don’t know what else we can say about him,” Bochy said. “We saw what he did for us in the postseason, he won 18 games (last season). This guy is special … he just keeps moving forward with how good he is.”
— The news was good for Matt Cain, all things considered. Flexor tendon strains can still be tricky and Cliff Lee is dealing with one right now, but it beats a UCL issue, that’s for sure.
— Bochy didn’t think Roberto Kelly was late with the stop sign when Aoki was thrown out in the third.
“He did the right thing. He stopped him,” Bochy said. “They’re getting used to Roberto there. I think he had a pretty good spring. He saw he had no chance and (Aoki) just rounded the bag too far.”
— Casey McGehee had two hits in his Giants debut and Bochy praised the way he handled the hard dirt around third. It really is like a parking lot out here, especially with the roof open tonight. Brandon Crawford got bumped up to seventh and had two hits and two RBIs. I wonder when opposing managers will stop bringing left-handed relievers in to face him …
— Panik admitted to feeling some nerves during his first Opening Day, even if he has already played in a World Series. “It’s different,” he said. “There are butterflies just because it’s a new season. No matter where you’re playing, everything starts from scratch. It’s a little bit of butterflies, but it’s more about excitement.”