MILWAUKEE -- Madison Bumgarner had the flu. He touched down just ahead of midnight Sunday on a private plane, which the Giants had hastily arranged. He was in no condition to commandeer the mound, grip a baseball and set a tone for a six-month season.
He didn't have to. What's one note when you're surrounded by a jam band?
The Giants' spring optimism over their offensive potential wasn't unfounded in a 12-3 pounding of the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday afternoon. Denard Span, Joe Panik and Buster Posey became the first Giants to hit back-to-back-to-back home runs in a decade. Matt Duffy also went deep and drove in four. No. 9 hitter Angel Pagan offered proof-of-concept to the "second leadoff man" theory while scoring the tiebreaking run in the third.
And the roof that Bud Selig built kept out the 35-degree slush while holding in all those loud thwacks as the Giants scored their most runs on opening day in 33 years.
"Not that we need a reminder," said Span, "but it shows us how good we can be."
Bumgarner even emerged with a victory on an afternoon when he clearly flagged. The Giants' hoarse horse walked in a run for just the second time in his career and allowed two-strike home runs to tepid power threats Scooter Gennett and Jonathan Villar. For Gennett, it was the first time he'd ever homered off a lefty pitcher.
Before the game, manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged that Bumgarner might be "a little washed out." That was apparent in the first inning, when he issued three walks -- including a free pass to Chris Carter with the bases loaded, just the second time Bumgarner has done that in his career. It took a mound visit from pitching coach Dave Righetti and a double-play grounder from Aaron Hill to elicit a roar from Bumgarner as he walked off the field.
The next two innings weren't much cleaner. The bullpen got busy in the third. But Bumgarner rallied to strike out the side in the fifth, and Bochy knew better than to ask more after his left-handed ace had labored while throwing just 55 strikes in 101 pitches.
"Oh my, jeez," Bumgarner said. "Just never really felt I could get dialed in. ... Sometimes days like today are more rewarding than when you go out with your best stuff."
It was five innings of exertion to get outs, and the crisis management began even earlier than the first pitch. The Giants' flight was supposed to arrive in Milwaukee at 6 p.m. Sunday, but the charter company notified the team that its plane had a mechanical problem and that a replacement would have to be flown in from Miami.
So the Giants literally scrambled their jets. They ordered a private 12-seater to take the starting lineup, plus relievers Javier Lopez and Santiago Casilla, so they could arrive at a decent hour. It turned into a bonding experience for a lineup that hadn't spent much time coalescing in spring games.
"It was a small plane, so we were pretty much shoulder to shoulder," Panik said. "There was a lot of talking going on. No, it's not the way you'd draw it up. But we were having fun with it."
Bumgarner, running a fever, crashed on a small couch in the back of the small jet.
"They were actually pretty nice about it," he said. "They let me have it."
Said Panik: "He claimed his territory. And I didn't feel like getting into a wrestling match I'd lose at 30,000 feet."
The private flight turned into a boondoggle. It got caught in a weather delay and touched down at 11:30 p.m., barely a half-hour ahead of the rest of the team. In terms of sleep hours, it was a waste of money. In terms of camaraderie, it was well spent.
The Giants have the kind of team that can outhit their frailties and their mistakes, which was apparent when they scored in four of the first five innings. Duffy whistled a two-run single in the second. The Giants went ahead in the third when Bochy's new lineup design, with the pitcher batting eighth, delivered flawless results.
"The more I see it, the more I like it," Bochy said.
Because Bumgarner made the final out of the second inning, Pagan led off the third and moved into scoring position after a walk and a stolen base. He scored easily when Span singled for his first hit as a Giant.
Span was just getting started. He hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth, then faced right-hander Ariel Pena in the eighth and deposited a three-run home run into the right field seats. He finished with five RBIs -- the most by any player in his Giants debut since the RBI became an official stat in 1920.
Span was more impressed when told he matched the most RBIs by a Giant on opening day since Barry Bonds in 2002.
Panik and Posey followed with their own home runs off Pena, marking the first time the Giants went deep in three consecutive at-bats since Bonds, Ray Durham and Pedro Feliz on July 20, 2006.
Panik said he didn't see Posey's shot. He was still maneuvering through the high-five line in the dugout.
"My helmet was still in my hand," said Panik, "and everybody started yelling."
The Giants became the first major league team in almost two decades to go back-to-back-to-back on opening day. Bochy managed that group, too: Chris Gomez, Rickey Henderson and Quilvio Veras for the 1997 San Diego Padres.
And the Giants hit four homers in a season opener for the first time in three decades: Bob Brenly, Darrell Evans, Max Venable and Chili Davis formed that quartet in 1983 in a 16-13 loss to the Padres.
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