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Giants’ late rally wins it on nostalgia-filled day at Oracle Park

In Sports
April 06, 2024

Giants’ late rally wins it on nostalgia-filled day at Oracle Park originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO — There was nothing subtle about the way the Giants presented themselves before and during the first game of the year at Oracle Park on Friday. As they scanned more than 40,000 tickets, they might as well have handed out cards that read, “Remember everything you liked? We’re trying to bring it back.”

The ceremonial first pitches were caught by popular former Giants Matt Williams and Pat Burrell, who now serve as third base coach and hitting coach, respectively. A few minutes later, both were welcomed back to the organization by a scoreboard announcement.

Jake Peavy and Tim Flannery held a concert in Triples Alley after batting practice and took the mic before first pitch to fire up fans. During the game, Barry Bonds, Dusty Baker and Will Clark were shown on the scoreboard. Jon Miller was honored for his 50th year in broadcasting and a banner under his booth was unveiled between innings.

The biggest production was saved for the new manager, who wore orange and black for three seasons in the 1980s. During pregame introductions, the Giants played a lengthy video that included clips from Melvin’s playing days and references to his Bay Area ties.

The message to fans was crystal clear: The new guy is one of you.

The video was well done. But the subject cringed a bit as he found himself in the spotlight. Melvin said he didn’t expect a video like that to be played.

“For me, it was a little much,” he said. “I appreciate it, but that’s not something I want to see. It went a little long for me.”

While Melvin didn’t want to be the center of attention, there was no avoiding the emotions of the day. Finally becoming the Giants manager meant a lot to him, and he said he had big-picture thoughts for about an inning before fully locking in.

When he focused, there was a lot to like in the 3-2 walk-off win over the San Diego Padres, but also some ongoing issues.

The up-and-down opener was best exemplified by Michael Conforto, who had two doubles and a single that nearly cleared the bricks in right, but also made a bad baserunning mistake that halted a rally and still haunted him two hours later.

Even Thairo Estrada’s game-winner — a slump-busting double that brought Matt Chapman racing home from first — was a roller coaster for Conforto, one of the league’s hottest hitters right now.

“It was awesome. Jung Hoo [Lee] was waving Chappy in and he smoked me right in the chin,” Conforto said, smiling. “I almost bit my tongue and he was very, very apologetic about it. We’re all good. Jung Hoo, it’s fine. But it was awesome to see Thairo get that hit. That’s a great way to end the home opener. I’m really glad we won that one, for other reasons.”

The win brought relief to a dugout that nearly had let the game slip away with early mistakes. It brought joy to 40,645, a sellout crowd that was filled with Giants fans who would like reasons to return.

After two disappointing seasons, the Giants leaned on nostalgia on day one. But they know the only true way to bring the fans back is to win — and to be a lot more interesting while doing it.

On that front, the biggest development was the continued emergence of Jordan Hicks, a reliever-turned-starter who was hitting 99 mph in his seventh inning of work. That’s the kind of arm that can ignite a fan base still rightfully annoyed that the front office let Kevin Gausman get away.

Lee didn’t have any memorable moments in his Oracle Park debut — unless you happened to be next to him in the dugout — but there were quite a few No. 51 jerseys in the seats, which otherwise were filled with 28s, 40s and 55s.

The Giants will celebrate the third World Series title team for those players in August, and it will be a big deal. There might not be an organization in pro sports that reaches into its recent history better than the Giants, but they also know it’s time to make new memories.

It has been 10 years since the last playoff series win, but the Giants believe this team is good enough to snap the streak. They weren’t at all shaken by a losing road trip, but still, it was nice to get some validation Friday.

“Thank God we won,” Melvin said. “Because we did a couple things early in the game that basically swung the game to their side, and we have to be really good about the intangible stuff. We’ve talked about that — situational at-bats, fielding our position, not running into outs, stuff like that.

“We weren’t great at it early, but we got a couple of scratched runs late and it was certainly a big hit in the ninth.”

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