EXTRA BAGGS: Bumgarner's homer inspires Belt, etc.

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EXTRA BAGGS: Bumgarner's homer inspires Belt, etc.

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DENVER A few weeks ago, Brandon Belt said a key to histurnaround at the plate was to stop internalizing everything, moping orworrying over his own struggles, and instead keep his thoughts external.

Think about helping the team win.

After the fourth inning Tuesday night, he had one morethought on the brain.

I just do not want to be outdone by Madison Bumgarner atthe plate at all, Belt said. I think he hit a three-run home run and I gotfour RBIs. So I beat him.

Bumgarners home run was an equalizer after the Rockiesscored four runs against him. Belt put the Giants in front with a two-rundouble in the fifth. Then he hit a solo home run in the seventh on a 95-mphfastball, no less, from right-hander Edgmer Escalona. The Giants needed all of those runs to hold off the Rockies in a 9-8 victory at Coors Field.

Belt helped the team win, all right.

It wasn't an isolated game, either. Belt is a .351 hitter over his last 36 games, including adominating .418 average against right-handers over that span. And hes gettinghis hits when the team needs them most. Hes 12 for his last 28 with runners inscoring position.

Its not changing my approach, Belt said. Earlier in theyear, Id put a little more pressure to get the runs in. Now Im treating itlike any other at-bat and Im confident I can put the ball in play.

His bat is too potent to keep out of the lineup, evenagainst a left-handed starter. Thats why Belt is expected to be in left fieldon Wednesday, with Buster Posey moving to first base so Hector Sanchez cancatch Tim Lincecum.

Its good to see him swinging the way he is, Giantsmanager Bruce Bochy said of Belt. Hes really starting to come into his own.The confidence is growing in him. This second half, hes showing what kind ofplayer he can be.

Especially when Bumgarner homers. The big lefty has gone deep twice this season. Belt has a home run in both those games.

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This is not turning into a good second half for severalmembers of the Giants rotation. Bumgarner, like Ryan Vogelsong, is turning froma mild concern into a major one. (Can you imagine the panic around here if theoffense wasnt coming to the rescue so often?)

Bumgarner gave up four infield hits including two fluky onesoff third base, but the Rockies collected 11 in all against him in just 4 13innings. And 11 hits are 11 hits.

Bumgarnersvery succinct summary: The ball was up a lot and that didnt work out toogood.

Everything was up. His slider and fastball werent cracklingon the fringes as they did so often in the first half. Weve never seenBumgarner just tired to the point of gassed. We might be seeing it now, eventhough all parties insist that isnt the case.

I didnt have a good command of any pitch away, Bumgarnersaid. I pitch in a lot, but youve got to be able to throw away too and theywere more or less sitting on one spot. Youve got to make adjustments andfinish pitches better.

A fresh arm finishes pitches. A tired arm drags.

At least Bochy took out Bumgarner after 92 pitches. Theywere stressful innings, so it might not qualify as a light load. But this timeof year, every bit helps.

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Speaking of time, this one clocked in at three hours, 43minutes and thats without any rain delays or stoppages due to some of thewet stuff that blew through in the early innings.

This is what happens when your starter works a short nightand Bruce Bochy has 14 relievers at his disposal in the bullpen. Were going tosee more of these down the stretch, I fear. Even Tony La Russa would roll hiseyes.

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Aubrey Huff is good for comic relief, but since joining theclub Sept. 1, hes been good for more than that. Hes 3 for 5 with a walk as apinch hitter, and yes, Hector Sanchez made sure to stick his phone in Huffsface to be sure he saw the replay of his diving act following his single offthe wall in the seventh inning.

He smoked that ball, Bochy said. He did a good jobturning that double into a single.

Like a cat, Huff said.

A cat that might be spending his ninth life by getting on the playoff roster

Oh, and good thing Bochy used Francisco Peguero to pinch-run for Huff. Ifnot, theres no way on this planet or any other that Angel Pagan wouldve beenable to advance to third base and tie Willie Mays franchise record for triplesin a season.

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Bumgarner has two home runs. Giants second basemen have combined for one all season.

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As I understand it, the Houston Astros havent askedpermission to interview Ron Wotus, Tim Flannery or anyone else on the Giantsstaff about their vacant managerial position.

Im not sure thats a job any sane person would want totake, anyway. But the new guy is going to need to be prepared and relentlesslyoptimistic, and I cant think of two coaches who possess those qualities morethan Wotus and Flannery, respectively.

Giants get blanked by Braves, now have lowest-scoring team in majors

Giants get blanked by Braves, now have lowest-scoring team in majors

SAN FRANCISCO — Over in Cleveland earlier Friday, Brandon Moss hit a three-run homer for the visiting team and five other players chipped in a pair of hits. The Royals had six runs, which meant that when Jim Johnson closed the Giants out a few hours later, what has seemed true all season became officially true. The Giants have the lowest-scoring lineup in the majors.

At 3.32 runs per game, they have dipped below the equally-disappointing Royals (3.38). They are capable at the moment of making any pitching staff look dominant. A 2-0 shutout was the first of the year for the Braves, who previously had just two games this season where they allowed fewer than two runs. 

“Six runs in (the last) four games … I thought we would come home and get some rips in tonight, but it didn’t happen,” Bruce Bochy said. 

The manager’s frustration showed late in this one. After the only rally of the game — a two-run single by opposing pitcher Jaime Garcia — Bochy took his cap off and rubbed his forehead. He dipped his head and briefly stood as if he was going to fall asleep on the rail. The bats were equally still. 

The Giants had just four hits, all of them singles against Garcia, who is a nice pitcher but hardly one of the league’s best. One was an infield single by Eduardo Nuñez, another a single through Garcia’s five-hole, and a third a generous ruling by the official scorekeeper. 

“It comes down to, you’ve got to get some hits and create opportunities, and we’re not doing it very often,” Bochy said. “It’s just a matter of guys getting somewhat hot. We did, we had some success, and we won some games. The thing you like to see is some good cuts and I didn’t think we got enough of those tonight.”

That run, which spanned the last homestand and small parts of two road trips, has come to a screeching halt. The Giants have lost five of six. It seems silly to scoreboard-watch in May, especially when a team is playing like this, but it’s worth noting that the teams the Giants eventually need to catch keep winning. They fell 12 games back of the Rockies and 11 back of the streaking Diamondbacks. They are 9 1/2 back of the Dodgers, who might be the best team in the whole league. 

Matt Cain did his part to allow the Giants to keep pace. He got beat just once in seven sharp innings. The Giants intentionally walked Dansby Swanson to get to Garcia, who bounced a single into left. Brandon Belt had a play at the plate, but his throw was short and hit the runner. A second run scored. 

“That’s tough,” Cain said. “(Garcia) was throwing the ball really good and that’s what it comes down to, you’re looking for that one hit and he did it. He’s a good hitter. We’ve seen it in St. Louis. But it definitely is tough when the pitcher does that … it just stinks on my part to give up a hit to the opposing pitcher.”

Instant Analysis: Giants bats silenced, losing streak now at four games

Instant Analysis: Giants bats silenced, losing streak now at four games

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SAN FRANCISCO — The return to AT&T Park was a huge boost to Matt Cain, who has wild home-road splits this season, but it did predictable things to an already-limp Giants offense. 

The Giants entered the night as the lowest-scoring team in the National League and they got blanked 2-0 by Jaime Garcia and the Braves. Garcia out-dueled Cain and provided the only offense of the night, as well. The Giants have dropped five of six.

Here are five things to know from AT&T Park, where they keep having Star Wars Night but they’ve never once celebrated Super Troopers … 

--- Cain entered the seventh with a 0.94 ERA at home this season, but the opposing pitcher busted him. With one on and two outs, the Giants intentionally walked Dansby Swanson to get to Garcia, a career .145 hitter. He bounced a single into shallow left and it looked like Brandon Belt had a play at the plate, but his throw home hit the runner. That allowed Swanson to race home for a 2-0 lead. 

--- Cain’s final line: seven innings, one earned run, one walk, three strikeouts. Yep, that’s a Caining.

--- Justin Ruggiano is here for the opportunity he was given in the sixth. Ruggiano has always crushed lefties, and Bruce Bochy put him behind Buster Posey on Friday night. The Braves intentionally walked Posey to load the bases for Ruggiano, who grounded out to third. Even the platoon splits are failing the Giants. 

--- If you need a little perspective on Christian Arroyo’s struggles, look across the field. Swanson, the former No. 1 overall pick, is batting .198. The shortstop slashed .302/.361/.442 as a rookie but his numbers are way down across the board, and he’s nearly two years older than Arroyo. These things take time. Having said that, Arroyo’s hole is pretty deep. He’s hitless in his last 21 at-bats after an 0 for 3.

--- There were three no-pitch intentional walks. I hope you used the extra ninety seconds wisely.