Extra Baggs: Pence's energy nourishes Giants

Extra Baggs: Pence's energy nourishes Giants
June 13, 2013, 10:15 pm
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"It’s not just the power but the clutch hits and the stolen bases. Fortunately, I do have some say.” -- Bruce Bochy on Hunter Pence's All-Star chances (AP)

PITTSBURGH – What does Hunter Pence do after he hits a three-run home run, steals his 13th base in 13 tries, hits a ball that ends up in a strange interference call that nets the Giants a run, and, just for good measure, gets called out when a line drive hits him on the helmet? 

[INSTANT REPLAY: Giants blow out Pirates to avoid sweep]

He tweets a photo of his dinner on the flight to Atlanta -- a massive plate of raw vegetables. Of course.

There isn’t anyone like Pence. And if Giants manager Bruce Bochy has his way, there won’t be anyone like him at the All-Star Game in New York, either.

Asked if Pence deserved consideration while on a pace for 27 home runs and 32 stolen bases, Bochy answered with a stump speech.

“Well, he should be up there,” Bochy said. “I mean, he’s having a great year. It’s not just the power but the clutch hits and the stolen bases.

“Fortunately, I do have some say.”

Yes, he does. He’s the NL’s skipper. He gets to round out the roster. And he has an established precedent of not giving a fig when he wants to pack some of his guys onto the club as reserves.

It’s not like the Giants have an overflow of worthy candidates for Bochy to justify this year, though. Sergio Romo is a straightforward choice, and there’s a good chance he’ll get in on the player vote. Buster Posey is the leading vote getter and almost certainly would make the player ballot if the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina manages to pass him in the fan voting to start the game. Brandon Crawford could find his way onto the club if he keeps hitting, especially now that Troy Tulowitzki has a broken rib.

But there’s no chance Bochy would overlook Pence, whose value goes beyond the home runs and the stolen bases. (He’s on pace to join Willie Mays, Bobby Bonds and Barry Bonds as the only 20-30 men in franchise history.)

Just look at what Pence did in his at-bats in the first inning each of the last two games at Pittsburgh. On Wednesday, facing Francisco Liriano, Pence lunged at a pitch an inch off the ground and hit it hard enough to get through for an RBI double.

In the first inning Thursday, he batted with no outs and runners at first and second. Charlie Morton threw a nasty, 1-2 curveball. Pence lunged and managed to tap it to shortstop, advancing the runners. It didn’t lead to another run, as Brandon Belt and Andres Torres both struck out on two more of Morton’s nasty curves. But by advancing the runners, Pence gave the Giants two shots at a two-run hit. He was able to make a productive out where the two batters behind him could not.

That’s the very same reason Pence was able to drive in 45 runs in 59 regular-season games with the Giants last season, despite hitting .219 following the trade that brought him over from Philadelphia.

A lot of people will tell you that RBIs are context dependent and thus shouldn’t be overvalued. There is truth in that, for certain. But there’s also value in being able to have productive at-bats that happen to result in outs. There’s value in putting the ball in play, and Pence does that with runners on base as well as anyone I’ve covered.

He also brings energy and durability every day. Not only has Pence started every game, but he’s played all but 3 2/3 innings in right field. One of those innings off came when Juan Perez replaced him in the ninth Thursday.

You’ll hear it said that power is such a precious commodity in this era of steroid and amphetamine testing. I think consistent, reliable energy is just as important. That’s what made Melky Cabrera such an impactful force last season. He showed up ready to play every day. Matinee after a night game, extra-inning affair, it didn’t matter. He seemed almost superhuman. Every at-bat was a quality at-bat, imbued with energy. 

We later found out that Cabrera wasn’t fueling his body with, well, plates of vegetables.

Pence, on the other hand, has been Pence his whole life – wide-eyed, gulping coffee when most folks are putting on their pajamas, working out for nearly an hour after night games.

The Giants don’t have Marco Scutaro, Angel Pagan or Pablo Sandoval right now. This is when the offense has to keep calm and carry on. But they have Pence going hard every day, and you have to know that Bochy deeply, deeply appreciates that.

You could have cauliflower for brains and understand that.

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Turns out there’s a new Ryan Theriot in the clubhouse. Nowadays, Pence said he can’t wait to see what Andres Torres will wear to the ballpark.

Torres wears clothes that are so tight, you’d think he shops at Gap for Kids. I kid you not: The other day in Arizona, a button popped off his shirt mid-interview.

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Pence was fine, by the way, after Joaquin Arias’ single hit him on the helmet as he was running between second and third.

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What about that interference call? Well, it shows you shouldn’t give up when you’re caught in a rundown. Brandon Crawford didn’t, and it helped the Giants get a run in the fifth inning.

First baseman Garrett Jones fielded Pence’s grounder and threw home. After two more throws, Crawford spun on the grass in fair territory and tried to turn back towards third base. That’s when he made contact with Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez, and umpire Marvin Hudson made the interference call.

“We’re taught if we see someone in front of us, run into them and get the call,” Crawford said. “At that time, I’m not thinking of that. I’m just thinking of getting in the rundown and getting Hunter to second base.

“I actually tried to get out of his way. It wasn’t some big collision, but it was enough for the interference call.”

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Crawford nearly became the first Giant since Tito Fuentes in 1973 to get hit by pitches three times in a game. But he walked in his last plate appearance.

It’s not like he emerged feeling like a pincushion. One was a curveball that hit his shoe and the other was a pitch that grazed his jersey.

“I Matrixed my way out of that one,” he said.

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I wrote a little about newest Giant Jake Dunning in the pregame notes. He’s having a good week. Not only did he get a big league call-up for the first time, and his Indiana Hoosiers are in the College World Series, but it turns out his younger brother, Dane, got drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays, too.

Jake was a 33rd-round pick in 2009. Dane went in the 34th round.

“I made fun of him, told him `Hey, I got drafted one round higher than you,’” Jake said.

But Dane could’ve gone higher. Teams were calling him as early as the second round to see if he’d sign, but they weren’t offering the money the family was looking to get. Dane is going to go to the University of Florida – the same school where Christian Arroyo, the Giants’ top pick, is committed.

You can bet the Giants did their homework before selecting Arroyo, by the way. They knew what kind of money he was looking for, and from what I understand, he’s expected to sign.

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It took almost a dozen trips to Pittsburgh, but I finally jumped in a kayak and paddled around all three rivers on Wednesday. What a great way to see the city.

There are so many bridges here – many more than necessary, really. But hey, if it kept steelworkers punching the clock, that was a good thing, right?

Looking at all the yellow bridges, the ballpark on the water, the football stadium, the railroad, the museums and parks and trails and skyscrapers, it struck me: Pittsburgh is what I built when I played Sim City as a 14-year-old kid on my Commodore Amiga.

I liked Sim City. But not as much as Marble Madness.

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