SAN FRANCISCO -- It was raining last time Mike Matheny stood in the visiting dugout at AT&T Park. Marco Scutaro looked up into that rain and caught Matt Holliday's pop-up for the final out of the NLCS, and the St. Louis Cardinals watched the Giants celebrate a pennant from which Matheny's club had been one win away.
Matheny (left) and the Cardinals are back in San Francisco for the opening series at AT&T, and there will be reminders of that series everywhere this week. Today the Giants raise their World Series championship flag. Sunday, they'll get their rings. This morning, Matheny was asked if it stings a little to be on hand for the pomp.
"Just coming back here is a good reminder of how things ended for us," Matheny said. "I think everyone has a great deal of respect for the Giants organization and the team last year. But we also respect the fact that we felt we could've put a better finish on it than we did. So it's certainly a good reminder of what has happened, and a good challenge for what's ahead."
The Cardinals won't be made to stand along the baseline for the duration of today's ceremony, which is scheduled to last about 40 minutes, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. That happened two years ago when the Giants raised their first flag with the Cardinals in town.
But the reminders won't stop there. Barry Zito takes the mound for the Giants. Last time he pitched against the Cardinals he pulled the Giants back from the brink of elimination with 7 2/3 innings in Game 5 of the NLCS and sent the series back to San Francisco.
"That game really stung," Matheny said. "We had a chance to finish off that series and do it at home and came up short. (Zito) certainly pitched a good game. So it's one of those opportunities for us to remember what happened and make adjustments."
Matheny said he remembered Zito simply doing a good job of making pitches in that game. Zito's fastball hardly registered above 84-85 mph but he induced most of his strikeouts with it, including several swingthroughs, while keeping the Cardinals guessing by locating his cutter and curveball.
About this time last year, the Cardinals were raising the flag from their 2011 World Series title. Matheny was asked if there are any similarities to explain these teams combining to win the last three World Series.
"The bond is it's two good teams," he said. "That's what makes it fun to play against these guys. ... Lot of similarities in the fact that we take a lot of pride in doing things the right way.
"It was a good run. I'm sure people enjoyed watching the postseason. Giants fans enjoyed watching it a little more."
* Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he expects today's ceremony to be a "similar feeling" to the flag-raising two years ago.
"It's an honor. It's a special day," Bochy said. "And these guys hopefully are going to take it in, enjoy it and savor it. This is what you play for."
One difference - Brian Wilson won't be in uniform to physically raise the flag as he did in 2011. The Giants have kept a lid on how they'll go about that.
* Bochy said he hasn't talked to the team about keeping its focus during what figures to be a long weekend with the commemorative stuff. Players did a good job of that by themselves in 2011, he said, and many of them are still around. He does expect there to still be some "goosebumps."
"It's so special seeing the flag go up and, again, realize you are the world champions."
* Brandon Belt is back in the lineup for the Giants today after missing the last two games of the Dodgers series with a stomach virus. Belt looked noticeably better this morning. Bochy said he probably isn't back to 100 percent strength-wise, but "this is our home opener -- these guys don't want to miss that. So he's good to go."
The return of Belt, and with Gregor Blanco starting in left field against Cardinals right-hander Jake Westbrook, gives the Giants the same starting nine they used in that Game 5 of the NLCS. Bochy said it didn't cross his mind this morning when he filled out the lineup card.
The Giants' lineup
* Finally, Bochy was asked this morning if any bad blood remains between the Giants and Holliday over his takeout slide of Scutaro in Game 2 of the NLCS.
"Until you mentioned it that didn't cross my mind," Bochy said.
Matheny also said the incident is in the past and was likely "overblown" because of the stage. Lest it be forgot, Matt Cain also plunked Holliday in the final game of the series.
-- Matt Kawahara