If chick dig the long ball, they love the 2014 San Francisco Giants.
The Giants smacked three more home runs as they beat the Atlanta Braves 3-1 on Saturday in Atlanta.
That makes five solo home runs in the first two games of the series so far, accounting for all five of the Giants’ runs.
But the string of home runs accounting for the Giants’ offense on the road goes back further than that.
Going back to the Giants’ previous road trip in Colorado, the last 18 runs the Giants have scored on the road were accounted for by home runs — 12 of them.
Home runs have also accounted for 24 of the last 28 runs the Giants have scored on the road, and 29 of the last 34 runs they’ve scored on the road, dating all the way back to April 5.
During that span, only one play has a run-scoring hit that was not a home run: Angel Pagan (a two-run single on April 20 in San Diego, and an RBI double on April 5 in L.A.).
Here’s the breakdown (non-homer scoring plays in bold):
May 3 at Atlanta (W 3-1)
- 3: Solo HR by Michael Morse in 7th inning
- 2: Solo HR by Buster Posey in 4th inning
- 1: Solo HR by Brandon Belt in 2nd inning
May 2 at Atlanta (W 2-1)
- 2: Solo HR by Michael Morse in 6th inning
- 1: Solo HR by Angel Pagan in 1st inning
April 23 at Colorado (W 12-10)
- 9-12: Grand slam by Hector Sanchez in 11th inning
- 8: Solo HR by Hector Sanchez in 8th inning
- 6-7: 2-run HR by Brandon Belt in 7th inning
- 3-5: 3-run HR by Michael Morse in 3rd inning
- 2: Solo HR by Brandon Hicks in 3rd inning
- 1: Solo HR by Michael Morse in 2nd inning
April 22 at Colorado (L 2-1)
- 1: Solo HR by Hunter Pence in 5th innin
April 21 at Colorado (L 8-2)
- 2: Run scores on error in 9th inning
- 1: Run scores on double play from Buster Posey in 3rd inning
April 20 at San Diego (W 4-2)
- 3-4: 2-run single by Angel Pagan in 2nd inning
- 1-2: 2-run HR by Buster Posey in 1st inning
April 19 at San Diego (L 2-1)
- 1: Solo HR by Michael Morse in 5th inning
April 18 at San Diego (L 2-1)
- 1: Solo HR by Brandon Belt in 9th inning
April 6 at L.A. Dodgers (L 6-2)
- 2: Solo HR by Hunter Pence in 6th inning
- 1: Solo HR by Brandon Belt in 6th inning
April 5 at L.A. Dodgers (W 7-2)
- 7: RBI Double by Angel Pagan in 6th inning
- 6: Solo HR by Buster Posey in 5th inning
- 3-5: 3-run HR by Pablo Sandoval in the 5th inning
- 2: Solo HR by Michael Morse in the 4th inning
- 1: RBI double by Madison Bumgarner in the 2nd inning
- WP: Tim Hudson (2-0)
- HR: Brandon Belt (5)
Brandon Belt is off to a hot start, and that’s a good thing on many levels.
For one, it’s showing that the adjustments he made last season, when he finished the season with eight home runs, 28 RBI and hitting .346 in the final two months of the season, are still producing results.
And it’s gotten Belt, who has been plagued by poor Aprils in his young Giants career, off to a good start to the season.
In his first three big league seasons, Belt has hit .214 with three home runs and 20 RBI in the month of April (and March, too).
This season, through eight games, he has five home runs, nine RBI and is hitting .343.
Belt smacked his fifth home run of the season in the first inning Tuesday as the Giants beat the Diamondbacks in their home opener.
In doing so, Belt became the sixth San Francisco Giant to hit five or more home runs in the first eight games of the season, joining some nice company.
- Willie Mays in 1964 (6)
- Orlando Cepeda in 1959 (5)
- Kevin Mitchell in 1989 (5)
- Barry Bonds in 2002 (5)
- Jose Cruz Jr. in 2003 (5)
That’s two Hall of Famers (and a third who should be) and two players who would go on to win the NL MVP award.
In four of the five previous seasons in which a Giant hit five homers in the first eight games, the Giants would win 90 or more games.
In the last three seasons a Giant accomplished the feat, the Giants would go on to advance to the World Series.
Mays, Mitchell and Bonds would go on to hit 46 or more home runs for the season.
All good signs for Belt.
HOME SWEET HOME OPENERS
Tuesday’s win was the Giants sixth consecutive win in their home opener.
FINE IN SUNSHINE
The Giants improved to 4-0 this season when playing in the daylight. The Giants are averaging 7.5 runs in those four day games.
The Giants will send Tim Lincecum to the mound against the Diamondbacks and Bronson Arroyo at 7:15 p.m. in a pitching rematch of last Thursday’s game that the Giants won 8-5.
Giants announcer Duane Kuiper said it best after Brandon Belt’s go-ahead three-run homer in a 9-6 win over the Diamondbacks on Wednesday.
“And the Giants have done it again.”
Some Giants fans have tried to attach the “torture” label on the 2013 Giants. But this team is much different from the 2010 team which inspired the label.
The 2010 team didn’t score a lot and pitched really well. That meant they played a lot of close games. But they were different than this year. The Giants had a narrow lead late, then would torture fans by barely holding onto those leads.
Even though the 2013 team has also played a ton of close games, because the team’s starting pitching has been so shaky, they find themselves having to rally late.
It’s torture when you’re team has a narrow lead and struggles to hang onto it. When your team is behind, there’s a feeling that they’ll probably lose. When they end up winning, it’s a bonus.
The Giants are becoming so proficient at these late-game comebacks, it’s almost becoming expected. Almost.
“We believe somebody’s going to do it,” Belt said, “and somebody does it. It’s amazing.”
Belt’s home run was the Giants’ ninth this season in the eighth or ninth innings. When you consider that the Giants have hit 21 total home runs, that’s an impressive percentage.
Even more impressive is that six of those nine home runs either tied the game or gave the Giants the lead. Five of those home runs have come against the Diamondbacks bullpen.
“These guys have been amazing,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “They’re not base hits. We need the long ball, and they’re coming through.”
It’s interesting to look at the numbers on the Giants’ late-game performances.
The Giants have hit 12 home runs in innings 1-7, and 9 in innings 8-9. The Giants homer once every 68 plate appearances in innings 1-7. They average a home run every 24 PAs in innings 8-9. In the ninth inning alone, the rate drops to one every 19.4 PAs.
Yet the Giants hit better earlier in the game — they hit .268 in innings 1-3, .266 in innings 4-6, but only .240 in innings 7-9.
However, they are more aggressive and efficient on the basepaths. They have seven steals in 10 attempts in innings 1-6, but 8 for 8 in innings 7-9.
They’ve also feasted on relievers. They have 11 home runs in 706 PAs against starting pitchers (1 every 64); 10 home runs in 358 PAs vs. relievers (1 every 36).
So are the Giants clutch or living dangerously?
Well, both. They’re living dangerously because their starting pitching has been putting them in bad situations, except when Madison Bumgarner starts. In those cases, they don’t score runs.
When MadBum starts, the Giants have scored 3, 4, 3, 3, 2 and 2. And not all of those runs were scored when MadBum was still in the game.
While it would be nice to win a game 6-1, that requires the starters — other than just MadBum — to keep the other team off the board.
But it’s nice to know that there is no quit in the 2013 Giants.
When I flipped on the game Monday, I was surprised to see Gregor Blanco in the No. 6 spot of the lineup. I thought “huh, Gregor sixth, Brandon Belt seventh.”
Then Brandon Crawford came up, and I thought “Is something wrong with Belt?”
Nope. Nothing wrong. Belt was just batting eighth. Why? Well, it had to do with his history against Arizona pitcher Ian Kennedy. Belt was 2 for 15, which to me seemed like a pretty small sample over the course of two-plus seasons.
But the bigger stat that factored in for Bochy was the nine strikeouts. So Bochy put Belt at No. 8. Maybe he was playing the numbers, which is a little curious because the numbers says Belt was one of the hotter Giants over the past week.
But maybe he was simply trying to get a message to Belt to focus more on his approach against Kennedy … against every single pitcher he faces.
If it’s the latter, it worked.
Belt took a couple of pitches from Kennedy in his first at-bat, then turned on an inside fastball and sent it over the fence in right field for a home run. Belt finished 1 for 3 against Kennedy, flying out to deep right and center in his other two at-bats.
“Try not to panic,” he said, smiling. “But actually, coming into the game, I had a solid approach. I saw him a few times and had an idea what he was trying to do. I wanted to lay off all the pitches up and away he’s gotten me on.”
In the eighth, Belt came up with two outs and the bases loaded. He worked the count to 3-1 against Brad Ziegler.
He said the thought about taking another pitch in hopes of drawing the walk that would give the Giants the lead. Instead, he saw a pitch he liked and slapped it up the middle for a two-run single.
“You’ve just got to adjust and I’m doing a better job adjusting now,” he said. “I’ve got to be ready to adjust again the next time.”
Is that Belt talking? Or is it Bochy? Who cares, because right now it’s working.
- CAIN AND THE LONG BALL: The Giants got their first win in a game started by Matt Cain this season, although Cain didn’t get the win after surrendering three home runs in the fourth inning. It makes nine home runs Cain has allowed this season. But if there’s a trend, it’s that eight of those have come on the road … in hitter-friendly parks. His next two starts are at home, then May 16 … at Colorado … COLORADO. Hopefully, Cain will figure out how to keep the ball in the park by then.
- PANDA IN PAIN: Pablo Sandoval left Monday’s game in the sixth inning with pain in his troublesome elbow. It’s the same elbow that sidelined him more than a week during spring training and almost put his season-opener in doubt. Sandoval insists the move was purely precautionary and he wants to play Tuesday. Bochy was leaning more toward giving the Panda the day off.
- SWINGING SCUTARO: If you watched Monday’s game, you saw a rarity. Marco Scutaro, who almost always takes a first strike, swung at the first strike four times. The result was a 3-for-4 game with a double, a walk and two runs scored. It was almost as if Scutaro was using his own scouting report against the pitchers. Pitchers know Scutaro takes a strike, so they come early with fastballs. Knowing that, Scutaro pounced. Scutaro, who has been battling back stiffness early this season, was looking to break out of any early-season funk. His three hits Monday jumped his average from .222 to .237.
- KRUKOW’S NUTTY COMMENT: The quote of the day from Monday’s broadcast came during the Giants’ eighth-inning rally. Crawford fouled off a pitch that took one hop behind the plate and nutted home-plate umpire Dale Scott. Scott took a couple of minutes to compose himself before returning to his work. Duane Kuiper said: “He’s a gamer.” That led Mike Krukow to respond: “I’d be doing snow angels in the dirt.”
After the Giants tied the game in the eighth inning and two out, Joaquin Arias came up against right-hander David Hernandez.
Arias got his second consecutive start at first place against a left-hander in place of the struggling Brandon Belt.
But with a right-hander on the mound in Hernandez, I wondered why manager Bruce Bochy didn’t replace Arias with Belt in the eighth.
But Bochy showed why he’s a better manager than I am.
In the top of the ninth, after the Diamondbacks put the go-ahead run on second, Bochy made the double-switch. In came Sergio Romo from the bullpen for Jose Mijares. The other part of the double switch was Belt in for Arias at first base, meaning Belt would bat third in the bottom of the ninth.
After Romo ended in the top of the ninth on one pitch, Andres Torres led off the bottom of the ninth with a single. Brandon Crawford sacrificed him to second, bringing Belt to the plate.
Belt came into Monday batting .183. Not great, but there had been signs of improvement. Over his previous six games, Belt was hitting .294 (5 for 17), but six of his 12 outs were by strikeout.
Bochy along with hitting coaches Hensley Meulens and Joe Lefebvre met with Belt during batting practice Monday, telling Belt to slow down his body movements at the plate.
Well, the advice worked, as Belt slapped a pitch from Tony Sipp into left-center for a game-winning single.
“When you get to this point you feel like you’ve heard a lot of things, but sometimes you forget it, and it’s nice to have another set of eyes to remind you,” said Belt, who added that Monday’s single was his first big-league walk-off hit.
Despite the big hit, it’s unlikely he’ll be in the lineup Tuesday, as Arizona sends another left-hander in Patrick Corbin. Look for Posey at first base, with Hector Sanchez or Guillermo Quiroz catching Matt Cain.
Posey took a shot to the neck off a foul ball in the second inning. But Posey also delivered some shots to the ball with his bat.
His first-inning double helped the Giants tie the game 2-2. He also had another RBI double in the sixth inning when he was robbed by a nice catch by former teammate Cody Ross in his first game at AT&T since leaving the Giants as a free agent after the 2011 season.
But Posey got the last laugh, blasting a two-run home run over the center-field wall, tying the game against at 4-4. It was Posey’s second home run in as many games. The normal mild-mannered Posey even showed a little emotion with a pump fist around the base paths.
We figure he’s earned a day off from catching duties for that.
Sure, the Giants ended up losing to the Diamondbacks Tuesday. But the Dodgers also lost, preserving the Giants’ lead in the NL West to 4.5 games and reducing their magic number to clinch the division to 22.
But we’re MoreSplashHits, so we can let a Splash Hit go by without by homage to it.
In the Xth inning, Brandon Belt got a hold of an Ian Kennedy pitch and sent it deep into the night, over the wall and into the bay on the fly — the 62nd Splash Hit at AT&T Park.
The last three Splash Hits have come off the bat of Belt: Sept. 27 of last season vs. the Rockies, June 14 vs. the Astros and Tuesday night.
Belt’s three career Splash Hits put him in sole possession of third place for the most Splash Hits, behind Barry Bonds (35) and Pablo Sandoval (6).
And here it is. Enjoy:
WASHINGTON NATIONALS 6, SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS 4: BOX SCORE
In need of a prayer, the San Francisco Giants added a Christian.
As expected, the Giants recalled Justin Christian from Triple-A Fresno to fill the roster spot created by outfielder Melky Cabrera was suspended for the rest of the regular season.
It won’t excite any Giants fans, but GM Brian Sabean said available options through trade were “not too compelling or interesting.”
So it looks like Gregor Blanco will be the Giants’ starting left fielder for the immediate future, with Christian providing an option against left-handed pitchers.
Christian has hit .348 at Triple-A Fresno this season. But in his brief stint with the Giants, he’s produced a batting average that would only be impressive to Aubrey Huff. He hit .158 in 41 plate appearances before being sent down on Aug. 1.
When Dan Otero was also headed to Fresno, MoreSplashHits thought that perhaps the Giants would have enough good sense to call up another position player, returning to the 13 player/12 pitcher roster. Instead, they called up Eric Hacker from Fresno to serve as the long man in the bullpen, until either Brad Penny comes off the DL or Guillermo Mota returns from his suspension.
Manager Bruce Bochy went to a 13-pitcher roster a couple of weeks ago to lessen the strain on a bullpen that had begun to show signs of weakness, particularly in a 20-game-in-20-day stretch.
But now with the day off Thursday and another on Aug. 27 before rosters expand on Sept. 1, that seems to be less of an issue.
Also, with a lineup that included Cabrera, Angel Pagan, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence, Bochy said he wouldn’t be doing much pinch-hitting or double switches.
Take Cabrera out of that mix and insert Blanco, and Bochy may want to have more flexibility in his lineup.
One potential option the Giants should consider to fill the Cabrera void is a lineup in which Posey plays first base, Hector Sanchez catches and Brandon Belt plays left field.
Posey played quite a few games at first this season as the Giants looked to keep his bat in the lineup and give him a bit of a break from catching.
But with Belt swinging a hot bat of late, would it not make sense to keep both Posey’s and Belt’s bat in the lineup?
Plus there would be less of a drop-off in offensive production from Cabrera’s .346 average with Sanchez’s .279 average than than Blanco’s .236.
But that’s not the only advantage. It keeps Posey in the lineup more, and keeps him fresh as the season grinds into its dog days.
While it’s true that Belt has not played a game in the outfield since spring training this season, he did play 31 games in left field last season and handled himself well enough.
The Giants could make this work by sending Hacker back to Fresno and calling on Eli Whiteside to serve as the No. 3 catcher.