It was some familiar faces and some new ones combining to bring the game home for the Giants. It was Edgardo Alfonzo, looking trimmer than Giants fans have ever seen him, hit a two run frozen rope home run off of Dodger starter Derek Lowe in the 4th inning to tie the game at 2. I was new Giant Moises Alou legging out a ground ball to third base that was bobbled by Jose Valentin in the 7th inning, allowing the go ahead run to score. And it was new closer Armando Benetiz getting an amazing double play turn by new shortstop Omar Vizquel to save a game for familiar ace Jason Schmidt.
And it was another Opening Day win for the Giants, who have won 7 of their last 8 Opening Day games.
Felipe Alou knew the importance of starting right. "With Barry out, we need everybody to get off to the best possible start with the bat," he stated before the game. Bonds missed Opening Day with an injury for the first time in his career, and is on the DL for the first time since 1999. The Giants have been adamant they can win without him, and the team was eager to get off to the right start.
The start was a bit auspicious, after Dodger shortstop Cesar Izturis hit a home run on the third pitch of the game off of Schmidt to give L.A. an early lead. Izturis, who had 8 career home runs coming into 2005, became the first Dodger to lead off a season with a home run since Steve Sax did it in 1988, the last time the Dodgers won the World Series. Dodger catcher Jason Phillips made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly in the second.
But that was all Schmidt would allow. "I felt like I was in a groove the whole game," Schmidt said. "It was just fun to go out there and put the ball where you want."
After Phillip's sacrifice fly, Schmidt went on a streak to retire 10 of 11 batters, including striking out the side in the 6th inning. Schmidt went 7 innings to get the win, giving up 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 9.
The game also featured a homecoming for two former Giants, making their Dodger debuts in SBC Park. Jeff Kent was booed heavily upon being announced in the lineup, and the boos continued every time he came up to bat during the game. Kent, who was a Giant when he became the last player to win the N.L. MVP award before Bonds' streak of 4 straight wins, acknowledged the crowd with a salute during the announcing of the lineups. Kent went 1 for 3 with a walk. Also making his Dodger debut was Rickey Ledee, who was acquired by the Giants in a deadline trade in 2004, but who went 6 for 31 as a Giant. Ledee, starting in left field in place of the injured Jayson Werth, went 1 for 3 for the Dodgers as well.
Eyre pitched a perfect 8th inning, winning a couple of 10 pitch battles by finally striking out both Izturis and pinch hitter Antonio Perez, setting up Benitez's first save as a Giant. Vizquel's turn of the double play might be the image most fans were left with leaving the game, but Vizquel otherwise had an excellent debut for his new team, going 2 for 3 with a single, double, walk and stolen base offensively to complement his defensive gem.
I've been turning that double play for a while," said Vizquel after the game. "I'm used to making that. No doubt we have a great defensive team."
The game capped a day where San Francisco fans showed their appreciation for their DL-ed left fielder before the game. Bonds received a minute long standing ovation from the crowd when he came out on the field during the traditional opening day lineup announcement, and appeared moved by the tribute. Bonds has been the focus of attacks and insinuations all season long, and it seems he missed the support of his fans. Later, he accepted several awards, including the Sporting News Player of the Year, the Silver Slugger, the N.L. Batting Title and the N.L. MVP award, and he paid his tribute back to the San Francisco fans.
"There are no better fans in the world than right here in San Francisco," he exclaimed, adding a quote to leave no doubt about his comments made during Spring Training, "I will be back!" while pounding the podium.
The fans are looking forward to it, but they do have a winning team to watch in the meantime.
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