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Giants remain optimistic despite loss

Giants remain optimistic despite loss

SAN FRANCISCO -- Opening Day is always a celebration, but the festive mood at AT&T Park began evaporating even before the Giants' 8-4 loss to the San Diego Padres began.

Barry Zito, the Giants' $126 million pitcher who owns an 0-2 record with a 6.30 ERA, was booed during pregame introductions. The hooting resumed when third baseman Jose Castillo misplayed Scott Hairston's grounder during San Diego's three-run third inning, and surfaced intermittently while Padres right-hander Greg Maddux was retiring 19 of the final 20 hitters he faced. The catcalls rang out for the final time in the ninth inning as the Padres scored twice off Brian Wilson.

San Francisco's 1-5 record entering its home opener doubtlessly annoyed Giants partisans. In the wake of their latest defeat, which extended their losing streak to four, the Giants -- who sport a .217 team batting average and a 5.98 ERA -- accepted the wrath they had incurred.

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"When you're 1-6 and playing the baseball we're playing right now, if they boo, they have the right, in a way," said catcher Bengie Molina, who drove in three runs.

"It didn't surprise me. I've gotten my share of boos, with regards to last year, especially," Zito said, referring to his 11-13 finish in his 2007 debut with the Giants. "You can take it two ways. You can get upset and become that guy who kind of goes into a shell and writes the fans off. That's not who I am. The way I take it is, I have high expectations because I've been successful in this game, and they expect the continuation of that. ... They have every right to react however they want."

Aware that they can control their performance but not the fans, the Giants insisted that they're remaining focused on ending their tailspin.

"We're not going to look back at what's happened so far. You can't," center fielder Aaron Rowand said. "We have a long, long, long way to go. The only way you're going to prevail is by looking forward and not back."

Asked to cite reasons for optimism, Molina cited "the pitching that we have, the group of guys we have here. The hard workers. It's not coming around in wins and losses right now, but we're going to keep battling together. Nobody believed in us from the beginning, so what do we have to lose?"

Another source of hope is the plain fact that the Giants probably won't face Maddux more than three or four times this season.

The future Hall of Famer subdued the paid crowd of 42,861, the largest to attend an AT&T Park opener, by yielding one run and three hits in seven innings. He notched his 348th career victory and improved to 29-14 lifetime against San Francisco. Since the Giants last defeated Maddux on May 9, 2003, he's 6-0 with a 2.67 ERA in 10 starts against them.

"Greg does what he always does. He keeps you off-balance, changes speeds, comes in from different angles on both sides of the plate," Rowand said.

Maddux (1-0) had the wherewithal to overcome what appeared to be a tight strike zone called by plate umpire Jim Reynolds. Giants starter Matt Cain (0-1), who surrendered five runs (four earned) and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings, realized he needed to adjust his approach to account for Reynolds but couldn't make it work.

"I went out there in the third inning and was thinking, 'I've got to let these guys put some balls in play,' and they did," Cain said. Unfortunately for him and the Giants, Cain's pitching to contact resulted in consecutive singles by Tadahito Iguchi, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Jim Edmonds to start the uprising, which widened San Diego's lead from 2-1 to 5-1.

Molina praised Cain for remaining diligent despite his lack of command, which was evident during his pregame bullpen warmup.

"He tried to give us five, six innings even though he felt like he didn't have it," Molina said, noting that Cain displayed "the heart of a lion."

The other Giants demonstrated some heart in the ninth by scoring three runs that made the final score a little less lopsided. Eugenio Velez opened the inning with his second triple of the season, creating the impression that he'll threaten the San Francisco season triples record of 12 shared by Willie Mays (1960) and Steve Finley (2006).

"There's no lack of effort from anybody in this clubhouse," Rowand said. "The great thing is that you don't see guys with their heads down, moping around. Today's over with. I'm already thinking about Randy [Wolf, San Diego's starting pitcher Tuesday] and my approach against him and what we need to do tomorrow to get a win."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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