Belt learns valuable lesson, leads Giants past Nats

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Belt learns valuable lesson, leads Giants past Nats

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO Brandon Belt spent a solid half-hour in theweight room after Tuesdays 6-1 victory over the Washington Nationals.

You might be inspired to mix in a few more chest presses,too, if you missed two home runs by a combined three feet.

Of course, Belt came up even shorter on the basepaths, wherehe was thrown out trying to advance on both of those wall-bashing, RBI hits.

It made for quite a sight. Its one Belt pledges hell neverrepeat.

Ive never done that before and I can promise you Illnever do it again, said Belt, who copped to admiring his shot in the sixth inning,convinced it was a three-run home run.

The coaches didnt say anything to him. They didnt need to.

They knew I knew what happened, he said. We know. We playhere all the time.

Belt might have run the Giants out of two bigger chances,but lest anyone forget, he also contributed three RBI hits. The first two went nearly 700 feetagainst Jordan Zimmermann, a right-hander who entered with the best ERA amongN.L. starters, had held opponents to a league-best .140 average with runnersin scoring position and hasn't yielded a home run in six career starts against the Giants.

So yes, Belt felt badly about his lapses on thebases. But not too badly.

It definitely gives me a lot of confidence that I can facethe best pitchers and be successful, Belt said. It doesnt mean I will beevery time, but I can be. Im hitting it where its pitched.Thats the main thing.

Belt hit .186 in July. Hes sizzling in August, compiling 17-for-36record at the plate that includes multiple-hit games in five of his last ninecontests.

His low point came July 22 at Philadelphia, when he was 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and a slew of stranded runners in an extra-inningloss to finish a barren road trip. In an interview as he dressed for the flight home after that game, he acknowledged his issueswere mental and it was hard to stop the stuff (that) creeps into your mind.

A few days later, Belt authored a blog post in which hedenied that he lacked confidence, and that it wasnt a good idea to vent toreporters after such a bad game.

Asked for his mental outlook now, Belt painted a picture of aplayer who had internalized his own issues so deeply, he forgot he was playinga team sport.

He knows it now.

Im going to say this in the most positive way I can: Whenyou go out to play to win and to help your team, you play better personally,Belt said after Tuesdays game. I always knew that, but you get stuck in a rutand you feel like you need to get out of it. That (Philly series) was a lowpoint in the season and it opened my eyes.

"I was like, Ive got to help this team out. Since then,Ive felt a lot better at the plate.

Belts success is helping the Giants win. No doubt about that. He is lengthening a lineup that also returned abig piece in third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who contributed a walk as well as a sacrifice fly while making his first start since he injured his hamstring July 24.

Hitting behind Pablo is pretty cool. Hes got someamazingly fast hands, said Hunter Pence, who batted sixth on Tuesday asmanager Bruce Bochy immediately gave Sandoval the huge responsibility of protectingcleanup man Buster Posey.

Its a great lineup, Pence continued. Weve got a lot ofpotential and really, a huge part of it is how Belt is swinging it, and also(Brandon) Crawford or (Joaquin) Arias or whoever is at shortstop. All the wayup and down, weve got a chance to do damage.

Said Bochy: I really believe Pablo is going to lengthenthis lineup and help us. Its going to be important we score runs, especiallyagainst good pitching.

Theyll get another good one Wednesday afternoon in Stephen Strasburg, who owns a 95.7mph fastball -- the hardest, on average, among all major league starters. Itsstill hard to believe the Nationals will stick to their guns and shut downStrasburg somewhere short of 180 innings (hes at 133-plus now) in his firstyear back following Tommy John surgery.

But whether or not this is the last time the Giants seeStrasburg in 2012, theyll need to get through him to clinch a series victoryand do better than a 3-3 homestand.

Belt is confident -- in himself as well as his team.

I think we can match up with anybody out there, he said. Hesa tough pitcher, but I think were ready for the challenge.

'The Kid' Arroyo continues wildly impressive first week with Giants

'The Kid' Arroyo continues wildly impressive first week with Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — In a quiet moment in the dugout Friday, manager Bruce Bochy tried to figure out a nickname for his new budding star. During a week where Christian Arroyo has made the game look so easy, this has turned out to be the most difficult part. 

Bochy briefly settled on “Yo” before that was scuttled because the team’s video coordinator is Yo Miyamoto. Joe Panik said some players have tried C.A. or YoYo, but admitted that neither is all that good. The team’s Twitter account spent a few days trying to make Boss Baby a thing, but Arroyo wasn’t thrilled with that one and the experiment appears to be over. In a back room of the clubhouse, there’s a printout showing Arroyo and Buzz from “Home Alone,” but that comparison is much better made with Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman. 

Perhaps the answer is as simple as the path Arroyo’s bat takes to a fastball. As he watched Arroyo field grounders during batting practice, Dick Tidrow was asked about the 21-year-old. Tidrow, the team’s senior VP of player personnel, has seen and worked with Arroyo since he was drafted. 

“We always just called him The Kid,” Tidrow said. “He would turn around when I called him Kid.”

The Kid is growing up quickly. Arroyo’s second homer of the week was the game-winner Friday, an eighth-inning blast that put a lead in Mark Melancon’s hands. The new closer made sure the new third baseman’s homer didn’t go to waste, clinching a 4-3 win that got the Giants out of the National League West’s cellar. 

The homer might have surprised Arroyo as much as anyone. He came here with a reputation as a mature and talented hitter, but power is not his calling card. 

“I’m not trying to hit a homer there,” he said. “Get the head out, see a pitch over the plate, barrel something, just keep the line moving. I got a good pitch, elevated it, and fortunately it went out.”

Arroyo already speaks like a hitting coach, but he is not afraid to admit that there are things he doesn’t know. It’s easy to get film on opposing starters, but there’s little a rookie can do to prepare for late-inning pitching changes. Arroyo consulted Buster Posey and Conor Gillaspie before facing Ryan Buchter, who has been in the division for two years. Gillaspie told him Buchter’s fastball has some late life and gets on a hitter. 

“I wanted to see it and the first pitch was a little low so I got a good read on them,” Arroyo said. 

The second one was right at the belt and Arroyo pulled it down the line for his second big league homer. He had just three last year in Double-A, but the Giants felt the 36 doubles showed that power was on the way. 

“He’s got pop,” Bochy said. “He’s not a guy trying to hit homers. He tries to put a good swing on it. But he drives balls and you saw it tonight. We see him more as a gap guy, but he’ll get more power as he gets older. We’re not asking him to hit homers, trust me, but it’s good to see him letting it go.”

The homer secured a win on a night when a lot went right. Jeff Samardzija was sharp, paying for one pitch to Ryan Schimpf that left the park but otherwise pitching seven strong. Panik and Brandon Belt ignited the offense early and Michael Morse came through with a game-tying sacrifice fly in the fifth. Derek Law and Mark Melancon closed it out, with Melancon getting help from Panik, who made a spectacular tumbling catch on a flare to shallow right-center. It was a big first out given that Melancon was pitching for the third straight day. 

“It was going to be in no man’s land,” Panik said. “You give it everything you’ve got. Fortunately the ball stayed in the glove.”

When it was over, the youngest Giant was in for another round of interviews to cap a hectic week. On Monday he made his debut and on Tuesday he picked up his first hit. Wednesday brought the first homer and Thursday was the first multi-hit game. What will the weekend include? Maybe a real nickname? 

For now, the Giants are fine with leaning on The Kid, because many of them didn’t even know how young the star of the week was until he was a couple of days into his big league career.

“I was thinking he was 23 or 24,” Samardzija said. “This has been really impressive.”

Instant Replay: Arroyo's late-game heroics lifts Giants past Padres

Instant Replay: Arroyo's late-game heroics lifts Giants past Padres

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — On Monday, Christian Arroyo made his MLB debut. Tuesday brought his first hit and on Wednesday it was the first homer. Thursday’s game was his first multi-hit game as a big leaguer. What was in store Friday? The best swing yet.

Arroyo hit a go-ahead shot to left while leading off the eighth, giving the Giants a 4-3 win in their series opener with the Padres. The player coaches simply call “The Kid” has two homers in his first five games, and both have come in huge spots. Friday’s sent another jolt through AT&T Park and got a lead to Mark Melancon, who closed out the Padres. 

For four innings, a long-haired right-hander was no-hitting the Padres. Jeff Samardzija was sharp early and he got a nice cushion in the first. Joe Panik and Brandon Belt led off with singles and Panik scored on Erick Aybar’s two-out error. A Conor Gillaspie knock made it 2-0. 

The first hit allowed by Samardzija was a painful one. He plunked Yangervis Solarte to open the fifth and Ryan Schimpf hit a long dinger to dead center to tie the game. Cory Spangenberg followed with a single to left that skipped under Belt’s glove. Spangenberg went to third on the play and scored on a bloop. 

Belt made up for the play in the bottom of the inning, beating the outfield shift with a double and scoring on Mike Morse’s sacrifice fly to right two batters later. Samardzija ran into trouble in the seventh, but with two in scoring position and one out, he got a strikeout and a grounder to third. The Giants put the go-ahead run on second in their half, but Hunter Pence and Morse struck out. 

Starting pitching report: Samardzija has allowed six homers. He’s tied for fourth in the NL with a handful of players, including Johnny Cueto and Matt Moore. 

Bullpen report: Melancon has five straight saves since blowing his first opportunity as a Giant. 

At the plate: Belt reached base four times. His on-base percentage is sitting at a cool .390. 

In the field: Panik made a brilliant diving catch in center for the first out of the ninth. 

Attendance: The Giants announced a sellout crowd. One of the fans looked just like Samardzija, possibly on purpose. 

Up next: Matt Cain has a 2.42 ERA but he left his last start with a tight hamstring. He’ll face Jhoulys Chacin (2-3, 5.90).