New closer, same result: Giants blow lead, lose to D-backs
PHOENIX (AP) — Two big swings from Madison Bumgarner were undone by another bullpen meltdown in a wild opener for the San Francisco Giants that looked an awful lot like last season.
Chris Owings singled home the winning run and the Arizona Diamondbacks scored twice with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning off new San Francisco closer Mark Melancon for a 6-5 victory Sunday.
Derailed by a dreadful relief corps last year, the Giants started this season the same way — even after trying to fix the problem by bringing in Melancon on a $62 million, four-year contract.
Bumgarner retired his first 16 batters and became the first pitcher to hit two home runs on opening day. He struck out 11 with no walks in seven innings — all for naught.
Arizona got a double by Jeff Mathis and three singles after Melancon (0-1) retired his first two batters in the ninth. A.J. Pollock singled in the tying run, and Owings dumped a base hit into right field to end it.
“We never expect anything negative to happen with Mark out there,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “It happened. You are not going to be perfect. We had our chances to put the game away a couple of times and couldn’t do it.”
The Giants had 32 blown saves last season, including nine in September. In their final playoff game, Bochy went through five relievers in the ninth inning against the Chicago Cubs, and San Francisco was eliminated from its NL Division Series after allowing four runs for a 6-5 defeat.
That led to an offseason overhaul in the bullpen, headlined by the arrival of Melancon as a free agent. He saved 98 games over the past two seasons, most in the majors.′
“You never really want to start it off this way, especially after a heck of a performance by Madison,” Melancon said. “This was one of the more impressive games I have seen by anybody. I really wanted to cap off a good start by him. Obviously, it didn’t go that way.”
New Diamondbacks closer Fernando Rodney (1-0) gave up a run but escaped a bases-loaded, one-out situation to get the victory.
It was an emotional debut for new Arizona manager Torey Lovullo, the former Boston bench coach who had many family members in the crowd and thought often of his father, television producer Sam Lovullo (Hee Haw), who died earlier this year.
“It couldn’t have been scripted any better,” Lovullo said. “The walk that we’ve been walking, the concepts that we’ve laid on these guys, they went out there an earned every part of that victory.”
The Diamondbacks lost 93 games last season.
San Francisco took a 5-4 lead when Joe Panik led off the ninth with a triple and scored on pinch-hitter Conor Gillaspie’s sacrifice fly.
Bumgarner’s line-drive homer off Zack Greinke put the Giants ahead 2-0 in the fifth. The pitcher’s second solo shot, off lefty Andrew Chafin, broke a 3-all tie in the seventh.
“That is obviously pretty special, having the chance to do that and for that to happen,” Bumgarner said, “but my job is out there on the mound. That is where my concern is at.”
Bumgarner has 17 career home runs, three last season.
Mathis broke up Bumgarner’s perfect-game bid with a one-out triple into the left-field corner in the sixth. Mathis scored on Nick Ahmed’s pinch-hit single, and Pollock — who missed virtually all of last season with a broken elbow — followed with a two-run homer just over the left-field fence that tied it at 3.
Greinke was limited to five innings due to a high pitch count. He allowed two runs on four hits, striking out four and throwing 92 pitches.
No pitcher has thrown a perfect game on opening day. Only one has tossed a no-hitter, Hall of Famer Bob Feller for Cleveland in 1940.
Giants: Utilityman Trevor Brown (sprained right ankle) and OF Mac Williamson (strained left quad) opened the season on the 10-day disabled list. Both moves were retroactive to May 30.
Diamondbacks: RHP Jake Barrett, who could be the setup man in the bullpen, opened on the 10-day DL due to right shoulder inflammation. Lovullo said Barrett was making good progress and would throw a bullpen Sunday. LHP Steve Hathaway (left shoulder inflammation) also opened on the 10-day DL.
Giants: RHP Johnny Cueto starts Tuesday after an outstanding first season with the Giants, when he went 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA.
Diamondbacks: After an off day Monday, the series resumes with LHP Patrick Corbin (5-13, 5.15) starting for Arizona. He finished last season in the bullpen.