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Giants drop opener of daunting stretch

Giants drop opener of daunting stretch

LOS ANGELES -- Friday night clarified the Giants' status: They've looked promising to open the season, but don't officially stamp their performance as a fast start just yet.

"We have a long way to go," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, almost under his breath, as a pregame well-wisher congratulated him on San Francisco's 7-2 record -- which dipped to 7-3 after the Los Angeles Dodgers' 10-8 triumph.

Friday marked the beginning of a challenging stretch for the Giants. Following their visit here and to San Diego -- where they went 0-6 in a now-infamous sojourn last April -- they face St. Louis, Philadelphia and Colorado. Each reached the postseason last year. Then, in the first full week of May, San Francisco must travel cross-country to Florida and New York.

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"We're going to have to play our best ball to get it done," Bochy said.

That didn't happen for San Francisco in its season opener against its traditional rival. Andre Ethier homered in each of the first two innings off Giants starter Todd Wellemeyer, helping Los Angeles grab a 7-0 lead. Ethier's binge featured a second-inning grand slam, the first of his career. Matt Kemp also homered in the first inning, marking the fourth consecutive game in which he has gone deep.

The Giants endured a scare in the fifth inning, when Aaron Rowand was beaned by a Vicente Padilla fastball. Rowand sustained a couple of small fractures in the area of his left cheek and a mild concussion. Films of Rowand's X-rays were to be sent to San Francisco for further evaluation by Giants physicians. Rowand was not placed on the 15-day disabled list.

After being hit, Rowand immediately fell to his knees and elbows and remained motionless for close to a minute with his head between his hands. He left the field under his own power, flanked by members of the Giants' athletic training staff, before undergoing tests at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena.

As for the game, the score remained lopsided until the ninth inning, when Eugenio Velez's three-run homer capped a five-run outburst.

Yet the contest still included intrigue.

Did Padilla throw intentionally at Rowand in retaliation for Kemp getting buzzed by a high-and-tight Wellemeyer pitch in the second inning? If so, it wasn't a wise move; the Giants had scored twice to narrow the difference to 7-2, and hitting Rowand loaded the bases with one out. The rally died when Velez was doubled off first base on Edgar Renteria's line drive to second baseman Blake DeWitt.

Bochy refrained from condemning Padilla, who has a reputation as a hothead.

"You're always going to wonder what the intent was," Bochy said. "In that situation, that's not a time when a pitcher is going to hit somebody." He added, "It's a scary situation every time a [pitch] goes up high."

Besides, Kemp insisted that he wasn't upset with Wellemeyer for throwing inside.

"It's baseball, you know?" said Kemp. "Maybe it got away. No big deal. Get back in there and get the walk." That's exactly what Kemp did one pitch before Ethier hit his slam.

By then, Wellemeyer (0-2) already was annoyed by plate umpire Dan Iassogna's strike-zone judgment.

"When the zone is as small as it was tonight, it's a difficult task," said Wellemeyer, who encountered immediate frustration when he walked Rafael Furcal, the first batter he faced, on a 3-2 pitch. "[Furcal] played it off pretty good by backing up, but it didn't even leave the plate," Wellemeyer insisted. Kemp then homered to launch the Dodgers' big night.

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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