SAN FRANCISCO — Jubilation erupted in the nosebleed section as Giants reliever Sergio Romo fired the third and final strike, sealing a 1-0 win for the 2012 World Champions in their home opener Friday at AT&T Park.
"What a great game," said Greg Spaulding of Santa Rosa, seated five rows from the top of the bayfront ballpark. "It's a little high — a natural high up here."
Giants fans had no complaints about a game that started under gray clouds, ended in sunshine and never lacked for enthusiasm among the standing-room-only crowd of 41,581, the 116th straight regular season sellout.
Fans stood, clapped and hollered the familiar "Let's Go, Giants" refrain with two outs in the top of the ninth inning. Arms shot to the sky and couples embraced as the last Cardinals batter, Allen Craig, took a called strike three.
"Opening day always has its own energy," Roberta Delgado said in the parking lot along Third Street before the game.
Delgado and her husband, Mark Spaulding, drove to The City with Mark's brother, Greg, and Greg's son, Evan, all opening day veterans dressed in orange and black Giants caps and jackets.
She corrected a reporter who suggested that it would be a good day win or lose.
"We don't use the 'L' word around here," Delgado said.
Greg Spaulding's pregame take on starting pitcher Barry Zito proved prophetic. "I think he's dialed in,'' Spaulding said.
Zito, a hero in last year's playoffs after years of disappointment on a fat contract, hurled a seven-inning shutout and bunted to load the bases in the fourth inning, reaching first base on a Cardinals error.
Angel Pagan then drew a walk for the game's only run, produced with two walks, a single and an error.
"Probably the best pitching staff in baseball," Mark Spaulding said, assessing the team built to win in a hitter-hostile park.
"Typical Giants game," said Mike Turner of Santa Rosa, standing on the Club Level after the game. "Torture. That's how the Giants win."
"Great weather, good crowd, good baseball," said Turner, who attended the game with his wife, Sandra. "And a great start, 3 and 1. What more can you ask for?"
Kathy Housman sat with three other mothers from Sebastopol in field-level seats, 20 feet from the Giants bullpen.
She got a photo of Zito and had a great time on what she described as "a complete girls' day out." The three moms left a total of 12 children behind, without a bit of guilt.
"Husbands are working; kids are in school," Housman said. "We said, 'Forget about it, we're taking the tickets.'"
Housman's only regrets were that no foul balls came their way, and the game did not get tied. "Extra innings would've been fine," she said.
There was pageantry and a playoff-like atmosphere as fans were lined up at the ballpark gates at 11 a.m., 2?-hours before the first pitch.
A small flotilla of boats was anchored in McCovey Cove and Comcast Sports Network did a live broadcast from under the palm trees in Willie Mays Plaza.
A committee of Giants players raised the huge orange and black championship flag on a pole above right-center field, and the cast of "Jersey Boys" sang the National Anthem.
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