San Francisco Giants’ Buster Posey (28) lays on the ground after being hit by a pitch in his helmet during their game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first inning at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif. on Monday, April 10, 2017. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
SAN FRANCISCO – Buster Posey did not appear to be in pain. His face did not crease into a grimace. In the moments after a 93 mph fastball drilled him behind the left ear, he sat in the dirt and stared ahead.
He looked like he was pondering where he left his car keys.
The first baseball game of the season at Third and King is always a celebratory affair, full of ceremony, saturated sights and plush sounds. But there was a minute of sickening silence shortly after the perfect, three-part harmony of the cast of “Hamilton” and before cheers that accompanied Mark Melancon’s recording the final out in the Giants’ 4-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The loudest and least forgettable sound of the afternoon was the thwack in the first inning when Taijuan Walker threw a pitch that Posey could not avoid. The ball struck him on the helmet and its impact crumpled him to the dirt.
It was the second pitch that Posey saw at home this season, and although he was able to get up under his own power, there was no discussion about trying to stay in the game.
The Giants put Posey through a full concussion protocol. They did not diagnose him with one, and Posey told teammates that he felt fine. But the Giants have gone to this state fair a few times. They know from recent experience with second baseman Joe Panik that symptoms often don’t manifest themselves right away.
“Yeah, he seems fine. He said he felt fine, which is good,” Giants shortstop BrandoN Crawford said. “But Joe thought he felt good last year, also.
“You hope he feels fine tomorrow. He’s going to come in and probably get his heart rate going and see how he feels. You don’t really know with these injuries.”
The Giants added no insult by losing their home opener. Matt Moore was brilliant over eight innings, and in a play not often seen beyond Little League, the Giants scored three runs on the pitcher’s swinging bunt in the fourth inning.
Moore had missed a sign and tried to bunt the first pitch with the bases loaded, then swung at the next offering and hit a dribbler to the first base side of the mound. Walker fielded it and skipped his throw to the plate as Crawford scored. Panik came home as catcher Jeff Mathis scrambled to the backstop and threw to Walker covering the dish. Walker tried to snap his tag but neglected to catch the ball first. So Panik scored, and Jarrett Parker dashed home as well.
It was the old “run thrown in,” or RTI, as Tim Flannery called it, that the Giants used to their benefit on a couple of occasions in the 2014 postseason.
Crawford added a sacrifice fly and Melancon did not allow the tying run to come to the plate while recording his second save in less than 24 hours, and his first in front of his new fans.
“Mark’s a beast,” Moore said. “I’ll take him every day. It’s just three wins we have, I know, but heading forward, I know what we’ve got here.”
Last year, in the final game at AT&T Park, Moore did not have Melancon to pitch the ninth. He held the Cubs to a run on two hits in eight innings, and the Giants bullpen blew a three-run lead in the ninth in a series-clinching loss.
In the first game at China Basin since that night, Moore held the Diamondbacks to a run on two hits in eight innings. And Melancon shut the door.
“The second start, that’s far enough,” Bochy said of Moore, who had thrown just 94 pitches. “Could I have sent him back out? Sure. But that’s the luxury of having one of the elite closers in the game.”
The Giants also have one of the game’s elite catchers. They already understand what life is like without Posey, who sustained a season-ending ankle injury in a brutal home plate collision in 2011.
They are optimistic this time. Posey stretched his jaw and some color appeared drained from his face as he sat in the dirt, but he did not wobble or stumble once he got to his feet. He appeared unaffected as he walked through the dugout and down the tunnel.
Bochy said the club wasn’t immediately planning to bring up another catcher from Triple-A Sacramento; Tim Federowicz would be in line because Trevor Brown is on the disabled list with ankle and hip injuries.
But the Giants are also wizened enough to know that they cannot know for sure.
“Well, it’s one of the worst sounds you can hear in baseball, the ball hitting the helmet,” Bochy said. “That’s a moment when you hold your breath. I got out there as quick as I could. My hope is he’s fine because of the type of helmets we have now and the protection they provide.”
Bochy said there was no discussion about letting Posey stay in the game because, as a catcher, he could be at risk for a foul tip that would have an exponentially devastating effect.
Would Bochy have let Posey try to continue if he played a different position? The manager said he wasn’t sure.
The Giants reinstated right-hander Hunter Strickland from the paternity list and returned left-hander Steven Okert to Triple-A Sacramento. … The team held a video tribute to retired left-hander Javier Lopez, and presented him with a plaque on the field during the game. … One of the newest Giants employees, Barry Bonds, was introduced to chants of “Barry-Barry.” Bonds is back with the organization as a special advisor to CEO Larry Baer. … Who is the Giants’ emergency catcher now? “He just found out late in the game,” Bochy said. “It’s Aaron Hill.”