Bochy opines on Belt's power, Sandoval's weight


Bochy opines on Belt's power, Sandoval's weight

CHICAGO -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he only had one real choice to make in Sunday's lineup, and that was whether to play Brandon Belt or Brett Pill at first base.

Belt was hitting left-handers very well earlier in the season, but his splits have gone back to what you might expect: .280 vs. right-handers and .232 vs. lefties.

So Pill, who has been playing every day at Triple-A Fresno, gets a shot.

One other oddity remains from Belt's splits: He has four home runs in 95 at-bats against lefties, and zero in 232 at-bats against right-handers.

Yep. Belt hasn't hit a home run off a right-hander all season. Bochy said he isn't fretting over that. He's pleased with the progress Belt has made, especially making more consistent contact. He also said he wouldn't recommend that Belt return to the Dominican winter league, and that a rest would probably benefit him more than anything.

"Without question, the progress has been pretty good with Brandon," Bochy said. "The contact, the swings and misses he had earlier in the season, he's made some adjustments which have helped him. His confidence has grown, too. Like all young players, it's the normal growth you see. He's turning on balls better but he's still using left field."

Does Bochy envision Belt hitting more home runs next year?

"I do think that's going to happen," the manager said. "He's shown more power, not with home runs, but he's driving the ball better. In batting practice, he's getting through the ball better. And he's strong. Yeah, I think with the adjustments he's made, it'll help him from the power side."

Bochy is keenly aware that the Giants haven't received a home run from a corner infielder since July 8. That's when Pablo Sandoval hit his last one.

And then you've got second base, where the Giants have received one homer all season. Their pitchers have hit two, by the way.

As a team, their 81 home runs are the fewest in the major leagues.

"It's really pretty amazing that we're putting runs on the board without the power," Bochy said. "Power really helps you when you get behind. But we got some timely hits (Saturday) and we got a bases-clearing double. That's been working for us."

It would help to get Sandoval's home run stroke going. He's on a pretty good power outage in his own right -- 104 at-bats -- and Bochy said the time the Panda has missed on the disabled list has messed with his timing. He's still out in front too often.

Then came the burning question: Is Sandoval too heavy?

"That's a good question," Bochy said. "It's an ongoing issue, obviously, and something he's been battling. He showed last year he's a different hitter when his weight is down."

Sandoval often rides an exercise bike after games while his teammates are attacking the spread. He hasn't gained weight in recent weeks.

"We're maintaining it," Bochy said. "We're happy with that. I won't lie, we'd like to get him down a little bit, get him back on the program he had two years ago."

Sandoval worked with trainers at Triple Threat Performance in Arizona last offseason, but it lacked the intensity of the previous winter. Bochy said no plans have been made for Sandoval yet this coming winter, but all parties are well aware that work needs to be done.

We've got a 40 percent chance of rain near the first pitch. Delays would be unwelcome, especially with the Giants playing a Labor Day matinee at AT&T Park on Monday. But overcast skies seem fairly bright as of this writing. So hold a good thought.

Odd fact: This is Matt Cain's fourth consecutive start on the road.

The lineup: CF Pagan, 2BScutaro, 3B Sandoval, C Posey, RF Pence, SS Arias, LF Nady, 1B Pill, P Cain.

Team USA dominates Puerto Rico to win 2017 World Baseball Classic

Team USA dominates Puerto Rico to win 2017 World Baseball Classic

LOS ANGELES -- Marcus Stroman tossed six hitless innings, Ian Kinsler slugged a two-run homer and the United States routed Puerto Rico 8-0 on Wednesday night to win its first World Baseball Classic in four tries.

Stroman dominated the tournament's highest-scoring team. Puerto Rico lost for the first time in eight games after outscoring the opposition 55-26. The U.S. territory finished runner-up for the second time, having lost to the Dominican Republic in the 2013 final.

Stroman, who was named the tournament's MVP, avenged his shakiness in the Americans' 6-5 loss to Puerto Rico during pool play. The right-hander from the Toronto Blue Jays retired the side on three grounders to open the game. In all, he gave up one hit, struck out three and walked one on 73 pitches.

He allowed just three balls past the infield until Angel Pagan's double in the left-field corner leading off the seventh, when Stroman departed to a standing ovation, having staked the Americans to a 7-0 lead.

Stroman walked Carlos Beltran leading off the second, but the defense helped him out. Yadier Molina hit the ball to shortstop Brandon Crawford, who started a double play before Stroman struck out Javier Baez to end the inning.

The U.S. pounded out 13 hits and finished with a 6-2 record while making the final for the first time in front of 51,565 at Dodger Stadium.

Kinsler homered off an 0-1 pitch from Seth Lugo into left-center field in the third, scoring Jonathan Lucroy, who singled leading off.

Lugo of the New York Mets allowed four runs and five hits, struck out seven and walked four in four innings. The right-hander won his first two starts of the tournament, including in the second round against Stroman and the U.S.

In that game, Stroman gave up six consecutive singles in a four-run first inning and took the loss against Puerto Rico last Friday in San Diego.

The Americans made it 4-0 in the fifth on RBI singles by Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen.

Fans wore flags of both countries as capes and decorated their faces in team colors. Puerto Rico boosters pounded cowbells, tooted horns and blew whistles early on before their team fell behind 4-0.

Fans were on their feet chanting "U-S-A" when the Americans loaded the bases in the seventh with two outs. They were rewarded with Crawford's two-run single that chased J.C. Romero, extending the lead to 6-0.

The U.S. tacked on another run on Giancarlo Stanton's RBI single off Hiram Burgos past diving shortstop Francisco Lindor.

Burgos' wild pitch moved runners to second and third before he walked Lucroy to load the bases a second time. Kinsler flied out to end the inning.

The Americans led 8-0 in the eighth on McCutchen's RBI single with two outs.

The U.S. defeated two-time champion Japan, while Puerto Rico beat the Netherlands to reach the final.

The three games at Dodger Stadium drew 109,892.

Puerto Rico in scarce supply of hair dye amid World Baseball Classic fever

Puerto Rico in scarce supply of hair dye amid World Baseball Classic fever

AN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Pharmacies and beauty stores across Puerto Rico are running out of hair dye with even a top economist joining men going blond in support of the island's baseball players who bleached their hair ahead of the World Baseball Classic.

What began as a joke among team members playing in California has spread across the island in a trend that spiked Tuesday just hours after Puerto Rico beat the Netherlands in 11 innings to reach the championship game undefeated in the tournament, which is held every four years. Puerto Rico will play Wednesday night in the final against the United States, which defeated Japan.

"Ever since they began winning, this has not stopped," said Myrna Rios, a manager at a Sally Beauty Supply store in the capital of San Juan. "We have run out of the product in most of our stores."

Copper blond, platinum blond, golden blond - all shades of blond (even burnt orange) are turning heads in a U.S. territory where the majority of men have thick, dark hair. Bald men dyed their beards or goatees in a nod to Puerto Rico coach Carlos Delgado.

"We have been able to unite our country with our blond hair," said star Carlos Correa, who hit a two-run homer and scored the winning run against the Netherlands. "That's what we want as players to unite our country, our people, and give them the best."

Men ranging from news anchors to university students to professionals have embraced a trend that has sparked the rallying cry of "Team Rubio!" or "Team Blond" in Spanish.

Among them is civil engineer Christian Rodriguez, who dyed his beard Saturday after visiting four different pharmacies to find the product he needed. At first, he didn't dye his hair as well because he thought it would be too much at church on Sunday. But he noticed six male churchgoers had dyed their hair blond and decided to take the plunge, calling a hair stylist friend to help him go platinum.

Rodriguez complained of an intense burning sensation during the two-hour process and sent pictures to his wife, who responded with the emoticon of a monkey with its eyes covered.

"Anything for my island!" he said as he lifted his arm to cheer the team.

Rodriguez then sent a picture of his dyed hair to his mechanic, who responded with a selfie taken underneath a car of him smiling with a bleached beard.

Puerto Rico's undefeated run to the championship has boosted the spirit of an island mired in a decade-long recession that faces a rocky recovery amid looming austerity measures for its government. Even young students have been sporting blond do's, prompting public schools to suspend them until the island's education secretary stepped in and said in a letter made public Tuesday that they should be allowed to dye their hair during the tournament.

"We wanted to do this to unite the team, and then the people of Puerto Rico, they started dying their hair, too," pitcher Edwin Diaz said. "I saw that there were some students that were suspended from school. I think they shouldn't be doing that because it just means that we have united our nation."

Even the prominent Puerto Rico-based economist Sergio Marxuach joined the trend, sporting yellow hair as he walked into a seminar in Puerto Rico on Wednesday, drawing laughs.

"My youngest son asked me, 'Why did you paint your hair like Donald Trump?'" he recalled with a laugh. "If this team can give us hope, we're going to need it given what's coming down the pipe."