Belt learns valuable lesson, leads Giants past Nats


Belt learns valuable lesson, leads Giants past Nats


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.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants drop finale in Miami


Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants drop finale in Miami


SAN FRANCISCO — The flight from Miami to San Francisco is one of the longest in the league. It will not be a happy one.

The Giants fell behind early and never recovered, losing 8-1 in the series finale with the Marlins. The Giants had won six of nine entering the road trip. They dropped a series in Washington D.C. and then lost two of three to the Marlins. 

You are here already, so here are five things to know … 

—- Matt Cain deserved better in the first, and it was kind of a stunning error that cost him. With two outs, Brandon Crawford dropped a liner that was hit right at him. The next batter, Tomas Telis, hit a two-run double. 

—- Cain was charged with five runs in four innings, but only two of them were earned. He struck out seven and walked just one, showing a good curveball throughout. Several times, he dropped down for a new look. Like I said, he deserved a bit better than that final line. 

—- Pablo Sandoval’s walk in the eighth was his first since returning to the Giants. His numbers, by the way, are right in line with his Boston numbers. 

—- Albert Suarez has seen his stuff take a tick up during this stint with the Giants, but it’s not leading to results. After giving up a walk-off grand slam on Sunday, he allowed three runs in 2 2/3 innings in relief of Cain. Suarez currently has a 7.43 ERA. 

—- Giancarlo Stanton was 2 for 4 with two singles. His run of six games with a homer came to an end. I suppose that’s a small victory for the Giants?

Giancarlo Stanton to Giants? Upside vs downside from Marlins perspective


Giancarlo Stanton to Giants? Upside vs downside from Marlins perspective

Because we are too cool to allow the games to sustain us and because we all think the purpose of sports is actually not to be the best player but the general manager, the new item on the baseball menu is not the pennant races but “Where should Giancarlo Stanton go?”

The usual suspects are listed – the Yankees, the Giants, the Chunichi Dragons, Real Madrid – and the $295 million still on his contract is not considered an impediment.

But the logic behind the Marlins keeping him is just as clear and more pressing. Namely, Bruce Sherman, the incoming owner, and Derek Jeter, the designated face, did not buy this team and promptly try to make themselves detested by the few people who still care about it.

So far, we know that the monstrous thing in center field (no, not Christian Yelich) is likely to be torn down, and that Stanton is don’t-go-to-the-bathroom-during-his-half-inning entertainment. Beyond that, we know only that the Marlins draw when they win a lot and barely at all the rest of the time. They are clearly a distant third in a four-team race with the Dolphins and Heat for people’s hearts, and now that hating Jeffrey Loria’s living guts are off the table for the fans, there really is no there, there.

So what’s the up-side of moving Stanton (and before we go any further, the Giants don’t have nearly enough assets to make that work, so calm the hell down) for the Marlins? Prospects, the dark hole that makes a three-year plan a six-year plan.

And the down-side? Sherman may as well move the team for the level of fun he’ll get from it, and the only reason to buy a team looking at a $60 million loss is for the fun. Besides, onlky a very few owners have ever made the full turn from villain to hero – the first impression almost always lasts forever.

So while Stanton may create immediate wallet relief for this aggressively average team (their current record of 57-61 is the 12th best in their 25-year history, and they’ve only had eight winning seasons ever), they also have nothing to sell the fans that they have to live with every day. And if they don’t have enough fans . . . well, I hear San Jose is always hot for a mediocre franchise that lurches between spending money and hoarding it.