Musings on the Giants’ home opener on Friday, a 5-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in 12 innings:
* “Buckle up” seems an appropriate warning for the Giants and their fans. Once again, this team just doesn’t do easy. Overheard from an AT&T Park usher following the dramatic victory: “2011 – twice the torture!”
* The Giants are clearly playing with house money the season after their first World Series championship in San Francisco. The city still feels very much like a baseball town – and the guess here is this stretches well past Opening Day. Exhibit A that the Giants organization will do everything it can to capitalize to the fullest on the fever: $9 Budweiser bottles.
* The raising of the 2010 World Series Champions flag in a pregame ceremony was an unforgettable moment for this native San Franciscan. After Willie Mays, who starred for the Giants’ last title winner in 1954, presented Bruce Bochy with the flag at home plate, the Giants passed the flag one by one down the third-base line until it reached the hands of Brian Wilson. The irrepressible closer ran across the outfield, climbed a makeshift ladder in right-centerfield and then high-fived shocked and delirious fans as he jogged up the bleachers. Then Wilson helped raise San Francisco’s first championship flag high above the bay as emotional fans belted out whatever parts of Queen’s “We Are the Champions” they could manage.
* A local product nearly ruined the Giants party. St. Louis infielder Daniel Descalso, a Redwood City native who starred at St. Francis High in 2003 and 2004, fueled the visitors’ ninth-inning rally with a pinch-hit infield single off Wilson with two out to give the Cardinals runners at first and second. After Wilson hit Jon Jay with a pitch to load the bases, Ryan Theriot singled home Yadier Molina and Descalso to put the Giants in a 4-3 hole. Then in the 11th, Descalso, who made his major league debut last September, set up St. Louis’ best extra-inning threat with some fundamentals that would make former Lancers coach Chris Bradford proud. After Molina drew a leadoff walk from Javier Lopez, Descalso sacrificed Molina to second and was safe at first on Lopez’s throwing error. Fortunately for the Giants, Lopez regrouped to work out of first-and-second, no-out jam without allowing the go-ahead run.
* Classy move by the Giants to twice reference Bryan Stow, the fan from Santa Cruz who suffered extensive head injuries after an attack at Dodger Stadium on March 31. In a pregame tribute, the scoreboard displayed a photo of Stow with his son and daughter. Then in the later innings, the scoreboard showed a live shot of the Stow children, who were in attendance. The Giants have also announced that they are dedicating Monday’s game against the Dodgers to Stow. They will collect donations for a fund established to help Stow and his family, and the Giants Community Fund will hold a silent auction, with all proceeds benefiting that fund. Fans who wish to help in Stow’s recovery effort can find information about how to do so through the San Francisco Police Credit Union at www.sfpcu.org.
* Most encouraging sign for the defending champs: the Panda’s hot start. Rewind to the aftermath of the World Series. Could Brian Sabean, Bruce Bochy or anyone but Pablo Sandoval’s most ardent supporters have imagined the third baseman batting fifth in the home opener? The noticeably slimmer Panda, who was essentially a playoff non-factor after losing his job late last year, delivered three hits, including a game-tying RBI single with two out in the ninth. Admittedly, it’s early. But Sandoval leads the Giants regulars with a .440 batting average.
* Unlikely hero turn: Aaron Rowand, who has stayed sharp (and away from creating controversy) despite being in the unfamiliar position of being a reserve. His game-winning single – in any other situation that would’ve been a double, with two or three RBIs -- brought down the house. Perhaps even more important was Rowand’s clutch production in the ninth. He set up the dramatic rally with a two-out single and ultimately scored the tying run on Sandoval’s single. Yes, Rowand is exceedingly well-compensated. He’s also a true professional.
* Wilson has joined Tim Lincecum as a bonafide rock star in the fans’ eyes. The 2010 postseason was merely an appetizer for the Wilson craziness. The ballpark was electric when Wilson completed his last toss in the bullpen and began running in as House of Pain’s “Jump Around” blasted over the speakers before the ninth inning. The closer has reached that rarefied air where his save opportunities are show-stopping events – and not because of his penchant for on-field dramatics that made an ill-timed reappearance on Friday. In Eric Gagne’s prime, Dodger Stadium positively rocked when the gate opened and he hit the field to the opening bars of “Welcome to the Jungle” from Guns N’ Roses. That’s the aura surrounding Wilson now. The anticipation for his mere entry is a spectacle.
* Among the creative items hawked by the omnipresent street vendors surrounding AT&T Park: a T-shirt with “I Like My Posey Shaved and My Wilson Hairy” on the front and “Let Timmy Smoke” on the back.