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Here we go again: Giants show same weaknesses in opener

Barry Zito's second season with the Giants didn't get off to the best of starts Monday, with the ace lefty allowing four runs in the innings at Dodger Stadium.  He received no run support and took the loss.
Barry Zito's second season with the Giants didn't get off to the best of starts Monday, with the ace lefty allowing four runs in the innings at Dodger Stadium. He received no run support and took the loss. AP

LOS ANGELES — When Dave Roberts began the San Francisco Giants' season with a crisp single to center field Monday, there might have been a flash of optimism.

Maybe the offense would slap and dash its way to a few runs. Maybe Barry Zito would get an early lead and hold it. Maybe the Giants would brush off their worst spring in franchise history and flip a switch in front of a packed house at Dodger Stadium.

It was a fleeting thought in what could be a very long season.

A moment later, Rich Aurilia swung through a high fastball and Roberts was thrown out trying to steal. It was the first of many thuds in a mistake-filled, 5-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In every respect, the defeat carried over a spring in which the Giants had the lowest batting average and highest ERA among Cactus League teams while also committing the most errors in the major leagues.

Zito put the Giants in an early hole, their mild-mannered lineup managed just five singles against Brad Penny and Co., they ran into two outs on the bases and their defense looked as shaky as possible while technically playing errorless ball.

"A lot has been said of our spring, and sure, we lose the first game," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "But we're not going to dwell on this. We've got too much baseball left."

If the Giants wished to make a statement to their doubters, many of whom predict a 100-loss season, they accomplished very little.

"We came out to win a ballgame and we came up short," said Aaron Rowand, who had two hits in his Giants debut. "All that other stuff doesn't creep in our minds here. We've got a solid group of guys focused on one thing and that's winning. It's monotonous, but it's the truth. You've got to start over again tomorrow."

With sunlight on the hills behind Chavez Ravine, manager Joe Torre made his Dodgers debut and the club trotted out its franchise legends to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Major League Baseball in Los Angeles. Reclusive Sandy Koufax threw out one of the ceremonial first pitches.

Barry Zito idolizes Koufax but couldn't be inspired to turn around his opening-day struggles, giving up four runs in five innings.

Former Giant Jeff Kent hit a two-run home run in the first inning as Zito fell to 0-4 with a 8.83 ERA in four career season-opening assignments.

Even if Zito pitched like an ace, the Giants wouldn't have rewarded him. Penny buzzed through their questionable lineup, and perhaps more troublesome, the Giants didn't play crisply in the field.

Other than shortstop Brian Bocock, the infielders showed all the range of a statue garden. Second baseman Ray Durham dropped a jam shot from Penny that allowed a run to score in the sixth. Rowand also had a tough day in center field, twice making ill-advised throws that allowed the Dodgers to take extra bases.

At least Bocock, the first Giant to make his major league debut as an opening-day starter since Robby Thompson and Will Clark in 1986, brought his solid glove and strong arm. He made an impressive stop in the hole and a long throw to retire Andruw Jones in the fifth inning.

OPENING TO A SEQUEL?


Barry Zito struggled in his first season in the National League last year, while the Giants' offense finished second-to-last in runs. Both themes carried over to Opening Day against the rival Dodgers on Monday:

BARRY ZITO W L ERA

2007 11 13 4.53

Monday 0 1 7.20

GIANTS OFFENSE Runs Avg.

2007 683 (29*) .254 (27)

Monday 0 .179

* - MLB rank

Source: ESPN.com

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