So here we are once again, this is the one we’ve all been waiting for. The first showdown of the year between our Giants and the boys from Los Angeles is upon us. Oh wait, the rain followed the Giants all the way from the Bay Area to Dodger Stadium and caused yet another rain delay.
The first pitch that was supposed to be thrown by Dodgers’ starter Brad Penny was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. but took place a little over two hours later at 9:38. When the first pitch was to Giants’ leadoff hitter, Randy Winn, the crowd erupted as the game was officially underway.
Giants starter Jamey Wright got off to a rocky start as he issued walks to the first two Dodger hitters, Rafael Furcal and Jose Cruz. But regained his composure and got J.D. Drew, Jeff Kent and James Loney out to end the inning.
The warming boo’s from the fans of Dodger Stadium turned into an eruption as Barry Bonds walked up to the plate for his first at-bat in the second inning. Penny played it smart in his first showdown with Bonds, and chose to go away from the slugger’s hot spots and retired Bonds on a fly ball to left.
The Dodgers showed off their impressive base running skills early on by stealing two bags and getting into scoring position. However, they failed to score. The Giants were none the better, by the end of the third inning they were retired in order with Penny racking them up for the three strikeouts.
However, the Giants shook off their dusty start in the top of the fourth when Randy Winn stepped into the batter’s box. Winn took a high fastball from Penny and deposited it in the right field bleachers. The home run brought obvious boos as the Giants took the first lead of the game, 1-0.
Thus far, through five innings of work, Wright was solid. He gave up only three hits and recorded five strikeouts on only 74 pitches. Penny matched Wright in the pitching duel only giving up two hits with four strikeouts of his own.
The Giants’ slim lead was matched when former Giant Jeff Kent stepped into the box and drove a solo blast into the deepest part of the ball park. The score was now knotted up at 1-1.
In the seventh inning, Dodgers’ Manager Grady Little called it a night for Penny and brought in left-handed reliever Tim Hamulack. Steve Finley and Bonds, the first Giants’ hitters played the patient game with Hamulack and both drew walks.
Hamulack’s outing was short lived. The Dodgers then called for reliever Takashi Saito to get Lance Niekro out and salvage the inning for the Dodgers. Saito did his job as he got Niekro to ground out into an inning ending double play. However, Wright returned the favor and killed a possible Dodger rally in the next half of the inning when he forced pinch-hitter Kenny Lofton into a double play.
It was now the ninth inning and the Giants were looking to put the game away and get the “W.” Wright went all out and tried to put the team in the best position to win. He finished the game with eight innings pitched with only five hits given up to six strikeouts. To lead off the ninth, Omar Vizquel blooped a single into center field and then advanced to second on a wild pitch from pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo. Then Vizquel moved over to third after Steve Finley grounded out to second. Up next was Bonds, and Little, like every other manager in the game, intentionally walked Bonds. Little then made another call, this time to the bullpen for Danys Baez to come in and face Ray Durham. Durham came through in the clutch with a sacrifice fly to right and scored Vizquel from third. The Giants now had the lead, 2-1.
That left the game up to closer Tim Worrell to bring the game to an end for the Giants.
After getting Kent to fly out to center, Worrell allowed pinch-hitter Ricky Ledee to get on a base with a bloop double. He then recovered quickly and got Bill Mueller to ground out to second. It was now down to Worrell and pinch-hitter Olmedo Saenz. Worrell won the battle easily getting Saenz to ground out right to him. “The first one is always the best,” they say, I’m pretty sure the Giants would agree with me.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: This one is a no-brainer. Jamey Wright dominated what was supposed to be a tough Los Angeles lineup. He went eight strong innings and had five strikeouts. Not bad for a Spring Training non-roster invitee.
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