Impressions after three games

April 3, 2011

The Giants complete their first series of the season tonight on ESPN2, looking to break even with the Dodgers. The defending World Series champs dropped the first two games of the series by one run each, but responded yesterday with a 10-0 throttling of the boys in blue.

Perhaps it’s fitting that the Giants opened the season with their hated rival just days after my daughter, who shares the club’s original namesake, was born.

The first two games featured solid pitching from Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez, but the offense underwhelmed, recording just four runs, one of those a ninth-inning solo homer by Pat Burrell in Game 1. Yesterday, however, was a different story. The Giants piled up 10 runs on 13 hits and finally got a good showing from the offseason’s main addition, Miguel Tejada.

Belt is congratulated by manager Bruce Bochy and teammates after his first home run

I wasn’t thrilled about that pickup when it happened, and the first two games only compounded that, since he went 1-for-8 and committed an error that led to what ended up being the Dodgers winning run on Thursday. Yesterday, he showed why the Giants brought him in and chose to let Edgar Renteria retire. Batting in the lead-off spot, Tejada went 2-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored. One game doesn’t change my excitement level of Tejada, but we’ll see how he works out as the season goes on.

One guy I am excited about is rookie first baseman Brandon Belt. Some are calling him the next Will Clark, which if he becomes what Will the Thrill was for the Giants in the late 80s and early 90s, he might be my new favorite player. Clark was my favorite player growing up. I wanted to wear number 22 and play first base when I first started playing little league. Belt crushed a home run to straightaway center in Game 2 to give the Giants a 3-1 lead, nearly identical to how Clark broke into the big leagues (Clark hit a home run to straightaway center in his very first at bat in 1986).

The Giants have struggled with their defense so far this season, having committed five errors in the first three games. In order to win the NL West again this year, that will have to improve. Over the past few years, the Giants have built a powerful pitching rotation to offset a fairly weak batting lineup. Shoddy defensive play negates that pitching advantage, as we saw in the first two games. It hurts even more since the Giants are without closer Brian Wilson for the first couple weeks of the season.

Barry Zito gets the start tonight, just a few days after being shaken up in a minor car accident. Let’s hope the accident either has no lingering effects or helps him pitch like he did at the beginning of his career with the A’s. He has gone just 40-57 for the Giants since signing a seven-year, $126 million deal in 2006. Last season, he started out strong, but faltered down the stretch, finishing the year 9-14 with a 4.15 ERA and was left off the post-season roster in favor of rookie Madison Bumgarner.

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