SAN FRANCISCO You know Angel Pagan has been the hottest hitter on the Giants in August. And you know Buster Posey has been sizzling ever since the All-Star break.But do you know who is hitting .352 over his last 28 games, and .371 over his last 19?Think for a minute.(Music plays.)Its Brandon Belt. The Giants first baseman has quietly lifted his average from.229 on July 24 up to a respectable .265. And his on-base percentage is up to .362, which is second only to Posey (.403) among Giants hitters who arent suspended.With all the talk of how the Giants would replace Melky Cabrera, there wasnt much mention of the resurgence of Belt. Thats partly because hes done it without hitting homers he hasnt hit one since June 23, and he has just four all year but Belt doesnt care. He said he decided to not worry about his numbers and just worry about helping the team win.I got in this low spot, he said. I wasnt doing anything to help the team. I was probably hurting the team, and it really bugged me. I said, No matter how I feel, Im going to go out and battle and see what happens. I think thats make me play better personally.In his second at-bat on Saturday, Belt did exactly what the Giants needed, even though it lowered his batting average. With runners on second and third and no outs, he hit a ground ball to second. It was the perfect out, because it drove in a run and moved another runner to third. In his next trip, Belt drilled a double over the head of center fielder Michael Bourn.I think its a changing mindset, Belt said. Im just going out there and battling whether I feel good or bad, just do anything I can to try to help us win. Its getting down to crunch time and we have to win as much possible.---The Giants optioned right-hander Eric Hacker to Triple-A after Saturdays game, with a corresponding roster move to be announced before Sundays game. Hacker appeared in three games since he was recalled Aug. 17, and he gave up runs inall three.Guillermo Mota will not be the guy who takes his spot on Sunday. That is the final day of his 100-game suspension. Mota will have to be activated or designated for assignment on Tuesday, after the Giants off day on Monday.--Speaking of Mota, Bruce Bochy said before the game that the decision on whether he comes back will be mostly baseball related, but its a fair question how much of his outside circumstances should be taken into account.Will fans forgive a two-time violator of baseballs drug policy? Does it matter if fans forgive him or not? Are the Giants better off not even reopening the discussion by putting him back on the mound?All good questions.From here it seems the Giants ought to do whatever wins them the most games, and thats probably what fans want too.--Jeremy Affeldt is scuffling. In his last seven games, hes allowed four runs on eight hits and six walks in 4 23 innings. He issued back-to-back bases-loadedwalks in the eighth inning on Saturday, turning a 4-3 game into a 6-3 game.Hes battling himself a little bit, Bochy said. He was so close to gettingout of that inning. Got two strikes and was so close to getting out of that. Once he walked the guy he was frustrated and then he walked another guy. Hes a big part of the pen and they all have their moments, which hes having now, but it wasnt too long ago he was pitching as well as anybody, and well get himback on track.--Francisco Pegueros major league debut was ok, Bochy said, hardly a ringing endorsement.Peguero did make a nice catch running back toward the fence in the first inning, saving a couple runs, but his two at-bats didnt go well. In the third inning he grounded out weakly. In the fifth, all he had to do was put a ball in play to drive in a run, and he struck out.---Pegueros big league debut prompted discussion of Bochys first taste of the majors, more than 34 years ago. Bochy was playing in Double-A when he got promoted to the majors. He said he got to New York, only to realize the Astros were playing that day in Houston.Someone is playing a joke on me, Bochy recalled thinking, before he realized that the team was arriving in New York the following day.Bochy also didnt come to the majors with a big league wardrobe, having been on a Double-A road trip at the time of his promotion.I think I broke even when I got called up because I had to buy so many clothes, Bochy said.A little baseball-reference search reveals a few fun facts about Bochys debut. He was in the lineup with another future manager (Art Howe) and a future general manager (Bob Watson). It was also the first of three consecutive doubleheaders the Astros played in New York and Philadelphia. No wonder they needed reinforcements from Double A.
There is no reason for us to waste your time by selling you on the last week of the baseball season. Being in the playoffs, or on their edge, makes the first 24 weeks well worth the slog, as you all remember from 2014 and as Giants fans remember from last year.
But for those towns in which doom has already been applied – say, like Oakland and San Francisco, just to name two we can drive to – the baseball season died awhile ago. Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge and Clayton Kershaw and Corey Kluber and the Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals – they are all a gray, indistinct blur that doesn’t touch us all that much.
As a result, all the notions in the middle of the decade that this is actually a baseball area turned out to be wrong again. What we are – what we have always been – is a great place for front-running.
Just like almost every other town in America.
There are few towns where this is untrue. St. Louis for the Cardinals, Green Bay for the Packers, Pittsburgh for the Steelers, Toronto for the Maple Leafs, Dallas for the Cowboys, Philadelphia for the Eagles, Los Angeles for the Lakers – they all maintain their audiences in good times and bad, both through hinders in seats and eyes on sets.
Here, though, bad teams get dismissed in the most passive-aggressive way of all. We stop attending, watching or talking about them and find other things to do with ourselves, which I would suggest is probably the healthier way to approach entertainment that doesn’t entertain. And because we are also incredibly provincial, we won’t pay attention to those people who are enjoying the week because in our collective world view, any party we’re not at is just people milling about.
But healthier isn’t always the same as viscerally better. Ignoring the Giants’ ferocious battle with Philadelphia for the first draft pick next year, and marveling at the invisibility of the A’s late-season winning just isn’t as much of a hoot when there are so many teams standing on their necks.
Anyway, there are six more days and then the playoffs begin, and they’ll be fascinating because pennant races always are. You'll all be missed.
PHOENIX — A few weeks ago, Nick Hundley said he preferred not to talk about his future until the end of the season. We’re close enough, so after hitting the go-ahead homer Monday night, Hundley was again asked about his 2018 plans. He smiled.
“How many have we got left? Five?” he said. “Ask me Sunday.”
It’s not just the media and fans seeking an answer from the popular backup who has nine homers. The Giants hope to get some feel from Hundley as they finalize offseason plans, and manager Bruce Bochy said he would talk to the veteran this week. Bochy left no doubt about what he hopes will happen.
“I think he knows what we think of him,” he said.
Hundley, a 34-year-old who came over in the offseason, has been one of the few overachievers this season. He has 32 extra-base hits in 274 at-bats, taking advantage of increased time with Brandon Belt done for the year and Buster Posey sliding over to first base. Hundley is one of the lineup’s more potent right-handed options, and he has earned praise from the starting staff. Johnny Cueto said Hundley helped him navigate a post-clinch Diamondbacks lineup that was essentially pulled straight out of Triple-A.
Cueto did so with ease, striking out eight in six innings. He evened his record at 8-8, and he’ll have a chance to clinch a winning season on Sunday. Bochy said Cueto will start the final game of the season, and he confirmed that Matt Cain will start either Friday or Saturday. Asked for more details, the manager kept it just as mysterious as his catcher.
“I’ll let you know tomorrow,” he said.