Brandon Belt had a big night Tuesday against the Nationals.
A few more inches, and it could have been a huge night.
Belt finished the night with a three-hit, three-RBI night, providing Madison Bumgarner with enough offense to pitch the Giants to a big win over the Washington Nationals.
But for Belt, it could have been so much more.
In the second inning, after Hunter Pence led off with a single, Belt sent a long drive to left center fielder that appeared to hit about one foot from the top of the wall for an RBI double.
When Bryce Harper’s throw went home, Belt tried to take third, but was easily thrown out by catcher Jesus Flores.
In the sixth, Belt came up with runners on first and second and one out when he sent a high, deep drive to right field that hit just inches from the top of the wall, scoring Pablo Sandoval from second.
But Belt spent to much time admiring his drive and less time running hard. That allowed Jayson Werth to play the ball off the wall and throw Belt out trying to take second base.
“Players have hit a lot of balls over their lives and usually you know which ones are going and which one’s aren’t,” Belt said. “It was one of those things where I decided not to go, and I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. I’m not going to do that again.”
Well, if it makes Brandon feel any better, Giants announcer Dave Flemming thought it was gone, too.
Stil, it was two near home runs. Two outs on the basepaths. But two RBIs.
Belt got another chance in the eighth with runners on first and second and one out. This time, he smacked a single to right, scoring Buster Posey to score just ahead of Werth’s throw from right. That was part of an four-run eighth.
From there, Bumgarner did the rest, finishing the complete game on 108 pitches.
He could have had a shutout.
In the seventh, Werth sent a drive into Triples Alley that Hunter Pence was able to get to, but was unable to catch. It went for a leadoff triple and led to the Nationals’ lone run.
It was the lone bump on the night for Pence, who was 3 for 4 with two runs scored at the plate.
Combined, it was a 6-for-8 night with three RBI and three runs by two players who Belt described as “awkward.”
But they are both two key guys the Giants need to deliver down the stretch.
They give the Giants lineup a dangerous bat up and down the lineup.
For far too long, the Giants lineup got pretty lean in the No. 6-7-8 spots. Now with Pablo Sandoval off the DL, Pence and Belt make up the Nos. 6 and 7 spots. And even Brandon Crawford has been swinging the bat better in the No. 8 spot.
After a very slow start with the Giants, Pence is 5 for 16 (.313) with a home run, four runs, an four RBI in his last four games.
Belt is 17 for 36 (.472) in the month of August, with multi-hit game in five of his past nine games. It’s pushed his season average all the way to .267.
Crawford is riding a seven-game hitting streak in which he’s hit 10 for 23 (.435).
There’s good news on Aubrey Huff — he hurt his knee again
OK, that may seem a bit harsh. But as it pertains to Giants fans, it’s the truth.
Aubrey Huff has been out since June 10 with a sprained knee sustained when he very ungracefully failed to leap out of the dugout to celebrate Matt Cain’s perfect game.
He was apparently set to be activated when the Giants return home from their East Coast road trip on Monday.
But those plans are on hold for now. Huff returned to San Francisco Friday to have an MRI on his knee after pulling himself out of a game with the Fresno Grizzlies because of knee pain.
With the Grizzlies set to open a weekend series in Salt Lake City, Huff was supposed to join the San Jose Giants for the weekend before being activated Monday. Manager Bruce Bochy viewed Huff was a potential alternate to the struggling Brandon Belt at first base.
But we’re not sure Huff would have had much of anything to offer.
Huff opened his 20-day minor-league rehab stint on July 4 with the Class A San Jose Giants. He went 4 for 16 (.250) with one home run, three RBI, a double, four strikeouts and three walks in five games with San Jose. Not exactly stellar numbers against Class A competition.
On Monday, he joined the Grizzlies. In four games at Triple-A, he went 2 for 13. Both hits were singles on soft loopers to center.
His 11 outs were recorded in this fashion:
- One strikeout
- Two groundouts to shortstop
- One groundout to first base
- Seven groundouts to second base
He drove in one run — on a groundout to second on Thursday — and he capped his stint with Fresno with his lone walk, before pulling himself out of the game in the third inning.
If Huff is doing THAT at Triple-A, I don’t know how the Giants think he’ll doing anything that would be an improvement on the .155 average he was hitting in 32 games with them this season.
I would rather see Belt, mired in his 3-for-30 slump, take his hacks as the Giants first baseman than Huff. With Belt, there’s at least a CHANCE he can turn things around.
But the Giants are clearly getting frustrated with Belt, as he becomes more frustrated with himself. So they must consider options, and they are not good:
- Start Buster Posey at first base with Eli Whiteside catching. They did this Friday against the Phillies, and may do it again with the lefty Cole Hamels pitching Saturday.
- They could start Joaquin Arias at third and Pablo Sandoval at first. Sandoval saw his first action at first base the other day in Atlanta. They could do this Saturday, but Arias has been getting starts at shortstop against lefties. But with Brandon Crawford swinging a hot bet, why not leave him in there.
- There’s always Brett Pill at Fresno. Pill is hitting . .283 with 4 HR and 27 RBI in 35 games at Fresno. Not bad, but over the past 10 games, Pill is hitting .195.
- They could give Conor Gillaspie another shot at third base, playing the Panda at first. Gillaspie is hitting .306 with 9 HR and 35 RBI for Fresno. But like Pill, Gillaspie is hitting .195 over his past 10 games.
- They can look to the trade market for help. But there doesn’t seem to be a lot enticing options out there.
Sure, we could focus on the negative: Barry Zito’s ever-climbing ERA, failing to sweep the Astros, the Giants’ post-perfect game hangover.
But we’re MoreSplashHits. So when there are more Splash Hits, we celebrate it.
Especially when it comes from Brandon Belt.
On Thursday, Belt hit …
- the first Splash Hit of 2012,
- the first since Belt accomplished the feat on Sept. 27 of last year,
- the 61st Splash Hit in the history of AT&T Park
- the 26th Splash Hit not hit by somebody named Barry Bonds
- and he became the 8th Giant with multiple Splash Hits, joining Bonds (35), Pablo Sandoval (6), Felipe Crespo (2), Michael Tucker (2), Ryan Klesko (2), Andres Torres (2) and Aubrey Huff (2).
It also helped the Giants avoid going the latest into the season before the first Splash Hit of the season. That came on June 15, 2009, when Andres Torres belted the first of three Splash Hits the Giants hit in 2009.
More importantly, it was Belt’s third home run in three games after hitting none in his first 48 games in 2012.
Belt came out of the gate in a funk, hitting .167 in his first seven games with seven strikeouts. Belt then found himself coming off the bench as a late-inning defensive replacement, as he continued to work with batting coach Hensley Meulens on his approach in the batters box.
The hits started to come for Belt. The strikeouts dropped off. His average rose to .294 on May 3. But those results came at the expense of his power stroke.
Then Belt took another turn, as he continued to find himself on the bench in favor of Brett Pill against left-handed starters. Belt went from May 18 to June 6 with just six hits and only one extra-base hit. He averaged hit its low-point Sunday against Texas at .224.
Then the Astros came to town. Belt, starting twice against left-handed starters, went 4 for 10 with two walks and three homers. All three homers came against lefties — a shot off Wesley Wright that one-hopped into the bay on Tuesday, a guacamole shot to center off J.A. Happ on Wednesday (it hit the avocado tree behind the center-field wall), and then finally his Splash Hit of Wandy Rodriguez on Thursday.
“I know from past experience I can hit righties as well,” Belt said. “That gives you a comfort feeling up there.”
He only hit two of his nine home runs last year at AT&T. Now, all three of his homers have come at home in 2012.
Belt’s opportunity came about in part from Pablo Sandoval’s activation, which led to Pill’s demotion to Fresno. Now, it looks as if the Giants will be without Aubrey Huff for a while (he sprained his knee trying to jump the dugout fence after Matt Cain’s perfect game).
Belt needs to the seize this opportunity, take over that first-base job and never give it back.
Giants fans have been waiting 1.5 years for this.
Giants fandom has been squealing all season about how Brandon Belt must be starting at first base for the Giants, even as the young first baseman has been hitting below the Mendoza Line and Aubrey Huff was having success at the plate.
But now Belt is hitting above the Mendoza Line … and Huff is not.
Belt is now hitting .238. Huff is hitting .182 after a 1-for-16 skid that included an 0-for-4 day reminiscent of the 2011 Huff (two infield pop ups and two ground balls to the right-side of the infield).
And as if that were not enough to compell manager Bruce Bochy to start Belt on Sunday, the Lord intervened on Saturday in New York.
With two on and two out in the top of the ninth and the Giants down 4-2, Bochy sent Belt to the plate as a pinch hitter.
After falling behind in the count, Belt hit what appeared to be a game-ending pop up to shortstop.
But as shortstop Ruben Tejada drifted out into the outfield, it looked as if maybe Belt’s hit could drop between Tejada and center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis.
Then as Nieuwenhuis came charging in, the ball inexplicably fell behind the Mets center fielder. In the scorebook, it was a two-run, game-tying double for Belt.
If that is not divine intervention, I don’t know what is.
But in the end, it didn’t matter much because the wackiness didn’t end there.
Bochy’s penchant for making move-upon-move — a strategy that paid off with a victory Friday night — ending up biting the Giants manager on Saturday.
First, in the top of the ninth, Bochy had his backup catcher, Hector Sanchez, hit for his shortstop Brandon Crawford to avoid having the lefty Crawford hit against the lefty Tim Byrdak. It was a risky move considering that the Giants’ lone backup infielder, Ryan Theriot, was still not available because of illness.
And the move didn’t pay off when Sanchez struck out.
Then Bochy had Brett Pill pinch-hit for the pitchers’ spot. Now, it’s worth noting that Pill actually had some experience playing second base last year at Triple-A Fresno and took some grounders at second prior to Saturday’s game.
But after Pill was announced as the hitter, the Mets brought in right-hander Jon Rauch. So Bochy then had Belt hit for Pill, taking Pill out of the game.
That move worked — because God decreed it to be so.
But in the bottom of the inning, it forced Bochy into a most unusal defensive alignment. Emmanuel Burriss went to shortstop, Belt went for first and Aubrey Huff went to second.
Yes, we said Aubrey Huff at second base.
Now, in 1,234 games in 13 major-league seasons, how many times, prior to Saturday, had Huff played second base?
Even in 339 minor-league games, he had never played second.
And it showed.
After a leadoff single, a sacrifice bunt and a walk put runners on first and second with one out, Mike Baxter hit, in normal defensive alignments, what should have been a custom-made double-play ball to shortstop. But in this defensive alignment, it should have at least produced a force out at second.
One problem, though. When Baxter hit the ball directly at Burriss at short, Huff broke toward first base. He actually broke toward first base.
By the time Huff realized he was playing SECOND BASE, Burriss had to adjust quickly and throw to first. But the throw to first was late and Baxter was safe (even though replays indicated he was out).
Now, we have the bases loaded and one out.
Nieuwenhuis followed by hitting a grounder to Belt, who threw to home to force out Scott Hairston.
And this is where Buster Posey, who made two great defensive plays to bail out the Giants in the eighth, made a bad decision.
Posey tried to throw back to Belt at first to double up the fast Nieuwenhuis. When Scott Hairston’s slide home clipped Posey in the foot (another questionable call by the umpire to allow that), Posey’s throw sailed into right field and the Mets won.
Tim Lincecum hopes to get things figure out when he faces Dillon Gee in 10:10 a.m. Sunday.
Wednesday started out as just as any other mid-week day after a day off in Denver that followed a Barry Zito shutout.
Then things got REALLY wacky.
First came the announced lineup for Wednesday’s game at Colorado that did not include Brandon Belt.
This came just two days after manager Bruce Bochy said, when talking about Belt’s day off on Monday: “I think we’re getting a little caught up here. There’s no panic (with Belt).” And then he said Belt would be back out there on Wednesday.
Then Wednesday’s come, and no Belt. What?
We’re guessing Bochy wanted to get Nate Schierholtz his first start on Wednesday. Then after doing that, he looked at the lineup that would have had a struggling Belt No. 5 followed by Schierholtz No. 6, then Brandon Crawford and Emmanuel Burriss, and he didn’t like it. So Aubrey Huff, who had a nice game Monday, gets the start.
OK, it’s not unreasonable. But with the lefty Jamie Moyer starting Thursday, we would expect Brett Pill to start at first base. That means no Belt starting the entire Rockies series, which is a lovely park for a struggling hitter to find his stroke.
Then, Lincecum showed up to the park with four inches of hair lopped off, saying that he “just wanted a haircut.”
But that story would take a backseat to the next nugget: Buster Posey was out of the lineup with shingles.
Shingles is triggered by the same virus that causes chicken pox, leading to painful blisters. Posey has blisters on his arm, left shoulder and back. Posey said he had chicken pox as a young child, but the virus stays dormant in the box and can be flared by a cold, lack of sleep or stress.
So beware Ozzie Guillen.
Posey said he started to feel worn down toward the end of spring training and the blisters began to emerge Sunday.
“You feel zapped,” he told CSNBayArea’s Andew Baggarly. “I just feel worn down still. I’m planning on being in there (Thursday), though.”
Posey has been told the condition generally clears in four or five days, but can last as long as three weeks.
Given that, we wouldn’t be surprised if Posey plays first base on Thursday, with Sanchez drawing another start behind the plate.
Still two hours until game time, and no word if Brian Wilson is clean-shaven or not.
Things have been so discouraging with the big club that we haven’t been very inspired to throw up some more posts recently.
Then we thought that maybe there’s some encouraging news down on the Farm. So here it is.
Brandon Belt, 1b-of, Fresno (AAA): Ok, so we know Belt can hit minor-league pitching. In his first eight games since being sent down to Triple-A, Belt is hitting .458 with two home runs and 8 RBI. He has eight walks and seven strikeouts. His OBP is .594 and he’s slugging .833 for an OPS of 1.427. Belt has been playing more OF than 1B since heading to Fresno, partly to prepare him to play there when he returns to the bigs and partly to keep Brett Pill in the Fresno lineup.
Brett Pill, 1b, Fresno (AAA): Pill continues to hit at Fresno, batting .360 with 4 HRs and 23 RBI. His OPS is .950.
Thomas Neal, of, Fresno (AAA): Neal continues to play well after a slow start with a foot injury. He’s hitting .333 through 12 games. But 10 of his 13 hits are singles, he’s only drawn two walks and stolen just one base.
Connor Gillaspie, 3B, Fresno (AAA): The next option in the farm system at 3B while Pablo Sandoval is on the shelf, Gillaspie has shown more discipline at the plate. He’s hitting .273 over the past 10 games with an OBP of .400. For the season, he’s hitting .261 with 2 HRs and 17 RBI with an OBP of .356.
Steve Edlefsen, P, Fresno (AAA): The Fresno bullpen has been good, led by Edlefsen, who has a 1.29 ERA in 14 innings of relief. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is 10/1. That’s good because of the five starting pitchers still at Fresno, four have ERAs over 5.00.
Charlie Culberson, 2b, Richmond (AA): Culberson remains the bright spot on a roster in which only two players have batting averages above .240. Culberson is hitting .292 with 1 HR and 9 RBI. He’s scored 10 runs in 23 games. He’s still striking out too much, 9 times in past 10 games. But he’s starting to works some walks (5 in past 10).
Eric Surkamp, p, Richmond (AA): We’re guessin the league Richmond plays in is a pitchers’ league. Because the Flying Squirrels have three starting pitchers with ERAs under 2.22. Surkamp is 0-2 despite a 2.21 ERA. He’s struck out 31 batters in 20 1/3 innings of work. Justin Fitzgerald is 2-0 with 1.45 ERA, but he’s walked 12 for a team-high WHIP of 1.66.
Gary Brown, of, San Jose (A): Brown continues to play well with .333 average through 23 games. He’s 17 of 23 in stolen base attempts, and has scored a team-high 20 runs. He’s also worked 10 walks for an OBP of .418.
Chris Dominguez, 3b, San Jose (A): Dominguez remains San Jose’s big power pat with 6 HRs and 18 RBI in 24 games. But he’s also struck out a staggering 29 times.
Zach Wheeler, p, San Jose (A): Wheeler is 2-0 with 3.38 ERA and his strikeout-to-walk ration is 27/6 in 21 1/3 innings.
Kelvin Marte, p, San Jose (A): Marte is 3-1 with 0.94 ERA in 28 2/3 innings.
So what did the San Francisco Giants give Brandon Belt for his 23rd birthday on Wednesday?
An all-expense-paid trip to Fresno. Go crazy, Brandon!
“Yeah, a pretty good birthday present,” Belt told reporters after learning of his demotion to Triple-A Fresno.
OK, not the greatest news to learn on your birthday, but it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to the first baseman.
First of all, he was hitting .192 with 13 strikeouts in 60 plate appearances. Projected over a full season, that would be almost 100 whiffs. Not exactly what the Giants had in mind.
Big-league pitchers quickly found the hole in Belt’s spring and exploited it. Meanwhile, Belt struggled to close that hole, developing a hitch in his swing.
Also, Bruce Bochy had said many times that he wanted to add offense to the lineup with Cody Ross on the DL. And that played a role in Belt opening the season in the majors.
The implication is that if Ross were healthy, Belt may have opened in Fresno. So now that Ross is back, it comes as no surprise that Belt is headed down.
Some bloggers believe the Giants are doing Belt wrong by sending him down, contending that they should have either committed to him from the get-go or sent him to Fresno to start the year.
MoreSplashHits does not believe a demotion after three weeks in the majors will have any ill effect on Belt’s development. We believe it gives Belt a clearer picture on what he needs to do to be major-league ready.
This is the best move for the Giants. Belt gets to work on his swing in the minors, rather than scuffling in the majors at the expense of potential wins for the Giants.
Some feel the Giants didn’t do right by Belt. But they did right by the Giants. And that’s just fine with MoreSplashHits.
Oh yeah, and Brandon, if it makes you feel any better, MoreSplashHits spend his 22nd birthday deathly ill with food poisoning. The next day, I sat down to watch Game 3 for the 1989 World Series — which wasn’t played because of an earthquake.
So it could be worse.