PHILADELPHIA Brandon Belt walked to the plate in the 12thinning and locked eyes with third base coach Tim Flannery. Brandon Crawford hadjust hit a leadoff double, and Belt was expecting the bunt sign.
Once he gave me the hit sign, I was a little pumped upabout it, Belt said. I wanted to go up and make something happen.
And I couldnt get it done.
It made the result that much more frustrating as Beltdressed for a five-hour flight home. Belt struck out, so did pinch hitterEmmanuel Burriss, and right there the Giants weaknesses were exposed in a 4-3loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday.
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The Giants need more threats on their bench. They certainlyrequire more production out of their first basemen. They arent getting it fromBelt, who was 0 for 5 with three strikeouts to finish a rotten, 1-for-20 roadtrip. Hes in a 2-for-27 slide since the All-Star break that has the Giantspondering anything and everything.
Asked if he would discuss his options at first base with GMBrian Sabean, Giants manager Bruce Bochy glanced at his phone: Getting a textright now.
So there you go. Could the Giants swap Belt with Brett Pillat Triple-A Fresno? Could they unearth a first baseman on the trade market? Orcould they move Pablo Sandoval to first base and try to acquire a thirdbaseman?
Is all of this going through Belts mind?
Thats part of the problem, Belt said. Some of that stuffcreeps into your mind. The battle is to keep those thoughts out of your headand play baseball.
Hes not fighting a winning battle at the moment. A dayearlier, Belt stranded the bases loaded twice. His average is down to .231 andhis .341 on-base percentage doesnt appear to be much of a saving grace when hesonly got a .370 slugging percentage to pair with it.
He looks completely, utterly, totally lost at the plate.
Its just more mental than anything, probably, Belt said. Itsnot fun. Ive been through it before. You just have to see the light at the endof the tunnel and believe youll come out of it. You start guessing too muchinstead of seeing it and hitting it.
Can he figure it out against major league pitching?
Yeah, pretty much because Ive moved up levels andstruggled before, Belt said. Its always been a confidence issue. Its alwaysbeen a mental thing for me. Once I get that mindset right, it sorts everythingout. That helps, knowing Ive done it before and I can do it again.
One thing hes never done: Put down a sacrifice bunt. Inhis professional career, majors and minors, Belt doesnt own one sac hit.
Thats one of the reasons Bochy didnt order Belt to bunt Crawfordto third base.
I know hes struggling, but youve got to think hell getit done, Bochy said. Im not really big on bunting a guy over when youre notin the heart of your order. We just had two tough at-bats there, he andBurriss. Those little things come back to get you, and they got us today.
The Giants dont have many options on their roster. IfHector Sanchez were still healthy and active, itd be a no-brainer to have himstart Monday against Padres left-hander Clayton Richard and put Buster Posey atfirst base. But now the backup catcher is Eli Whiteside, whose bat is nowherenear as welcome a sight.
The Giants could move Sandoval to first base and startJoaquin Arias at third, but that would mean giving Crawford astart against a left-hander.
Or they could replace Belt with Pill, who was hitting .282with four home runs, 14 doubles and 27 RBIs in 36 games for Fresno.
Bochy let Belt swing away in the 12th. But thosesigns of faith are not without their limits.