Pomp and trophies aside, Giants lose fourth straight 

Once the game began, the three trophies stood on a concourse inside the park, where fans waited to pose for pictures with them. Out in left field, a man with a 2010 World Series championship tattoo wore a replica of the championship banner as a cape; another carried around a cardboard cutout of the three World Series trophies. Up in the press box, Willie McCovey was brought in on a wheelchair; out on the field, the four daughters of legendary Giants broadcaster Lon Simmons, who died on April 5, threw out the first pitches.

It was, in the end, a day of simple pleasures, a day when a city fraught with the complications of gentrification and the conflicts of modern technology could bask in its own ego, the celebration of three championships in five seasons. When a man on a horse rode through the outfield — that man being Madison Bumgarner — it all felt kind of perfect.

“I can probably say for sure,” Bumgarner said, “that I’ll never get a chance to do that again.”

The imperfection was found in a 2015 team that, without Hunter Pence and a long-gone Pablo Sandoval, is having considerable trouble scoring runs. A 2-0 loss to the Colorado Rockies and their rookie starter, Eddie Butler, did nothing to quell concerns that the offense isn’t equipped to compete in the National League West, much less win a fourth championship in six years. After taking two of three to start the season against lowly Arizona, the Giants have managed seven runs in five games, leading manager Bruce Bochy to say long after the cheers from the banner ceremony had faded, “Offensively, we’re just sputtering.” But true to form, Bochy isn’t panicking. “It’s so early in the season,” he said. “You’re gonna go through these streaks. You stay behind them, keep working, hope these guys relax.”

The bright spot was rookie pitcher Chris Heston, who produced a second quality start after he was summoned from the minor leagues last week. If he can be trusted, it will be a godsend for a rotation that also is riddled with injuries and doubts.

“That’s something I’ll remember probably the rest of my life,” Heston said. “It was awesome just to be a part of that.”

Bumgarner’s outfield ride was perhaps not the most famous equine-related incident in San Francisco history — that designation may belong to the group of horses who perished in the accident that reportedly inspired a Brit named Andrew Hallidie to invent the cable car, or a horse named Blackie, who famously swam the San Francisco Bay in 1938. But it still felt like a moment freighted with lasting impact. If nothing else, this was a horse that will not be forgotten in San Francisco anytime soon. Months ago, amid the damp air of the Giants’ most recent World Series parade, Bumgarner had asked to ride a police horse and been denied, apparently for safety reasons, which is mostly surprising because it’s hard to imagine anyone in this city saying no to Bumgarner when he asks for anything at this point. So now, on the sunny and wind-whipped first day of the Giants’ home season at AT&T Park, Bumgarner got his chance. He hopped onto that police horse (name unknown) and rode it across the outfield, the team’s latest championship banner cradled in his arms. It was hokey and exaggerated, and yet it was still charming, a throwback to a simpler time in what’s become a perpetually wired and increasingly complex city.

And as always, Bumgarner appeared to be in utter command of the situation, the horse turning neatly under his hands, like he was back home, all by his lonesome, on his North Carolina ranch.

This is what it’s like when you pull off three World Series victories in five years, one of the most remarkable stretches of success in modern baseball history: You can pretty much get away with anything, no matter how over-the-top it might appear from the outside. When Bochy — looking perpetually bemused by the pomp of the moment, as he often does — and pitcher Tim Lincecum, long hair flopping in the breeze, and clean-cut catcher Buster Posey each emerged from center field carrying one of this team’s World Series trophies, it didn’t even matter that the sure-handed Posey put his down backward on the platform behind the pitcher’s mound.

For an afternoon, all the little imperfections were overshadowed by the big picture, by the notion that the Giants had accomplished the unthinkable. For an afternoon, the bunting lined the stands, and the championship banner passed from Bumgarner’s hands to those of his teammates, the others who have been around long enough to play on all three World Series champions. And they carried they banner up into stands, up toward the pole in right field, where it was raised up next to the American flag.

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Michael Weinreb

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