Rewind: Blanco runs, Giants kick it old school to beat Braves

Rewind: Blanco runs, Giants kick it old school to beat Braves
May 14, 2014, 6:30 pm
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Gregor Blanco became the first Giants player to steal three bases and score three runs in a game since Darren Lewis in 1991. (USATSI)

Programming note: Marlins-Giants coverage starts Thursday at 6:30 p.m. with Giants Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (Channel Locations)

SAN FRANCISCO – Gregor Blanco’s nickname is the White Shark, and if you’ve ever seen a documentary on those pelagic predators from the deep – and who hasn’t? – then you already know this: 

When they stop moving, they die.

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Blanco was standing still, in a 4-for-40 slump that was the baseball equivalent of a gill net. When he’d get a rare at-bat, he’d try to whallop it out of the park. Then he stopped to look at video of his at-bats from last season, to remind himself who he was and what skills he possessed. He realized that when he tried to take a big bite, he had it all wrong.

Before Blanco took the field on Wednesday, getting a rare start atop the order and in center field, he told me he would do three things: work good at-bats, hit the ball on the ground, and run.

He never stopped moving as the Giants scrapped for a 10-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves. Blanco walked twice, hit an RBI single, stole three bases and scored three runs. He and No.2 hitter Hunter Pence couldn’t have been more menacing without circling the pitcher’s mound. Pence had four hits, including a tying, two-run homer in the first inning as the Giants won their fifth consecutive home series.

How rare was Blanco’s day? He became the first Giant in 23 years, and just the fourth in the club’s San Francisco era, to score three runs and steal three bases in a game. See the Instant Replay for all the pertinent names and dates.

We’ll repeat it here, though: Willie Mays never had a three-run, three-steal game in his career.

“Oh, wow,” Blanco said, smiling. “He’s done a lot of good things. It’s good he never did that. Maybe he’s a little jealous.”

Mays had to appreciate what Blanco did in the second inning, when he drew a walk, stole second base, stole third and scored on catcher Evan Gattis' throwing error.

As I wrote before the game, the addition of Tyler Colvin, another left-handed hitting outfielder, threatened to minimize Blanco’s role even further. Angel Pagan will be back in the lineup on Thursday, which means Blanco will fall back into a competition with Colvin for starts in left field against right-handed pitchers.

It’s clear that Bochy wants to give Colvin a look. But Blanco took advantage of a start to make a statement.

“This game is hard enough but when you’re not getting your hits, and you’re a pinch hitter usually against top notch relievers, it can knock your confidence down a little,” Bochy said. “This should pick him up.

“Gregor, I mean, he gets it. He’s a good teammate. He knows your (performance) will dictate how much you play.”

Pence gave Blanco credit for working a tough walk against hard-throwing right-hander Julio Teheran in the first inning, after Madison Bumgarner gave up two runs in the top half. It was Blanco’s presence on first base that made Teheran slide step, and perhaps that contributed to the belt-high fastball that Pence crushed over the 421-foot marker on the right field arcade.

“He’s got to worry about the slide step and that takes away from his comfort level,” Pence said. “Those are the kinds of things that can make (a hot lineup) contagious.”

Bumgarner didn’t feel great about his performance, saying the Braves made so many good adjustments they were almost unrecognizable from the team he held to a run 10 days earlier in Atlanta.

“I might have been a little flat but they hit some good pitches,” said Bumgarner, who coughed up one lead but didn’t relinquish the second one – surviving Gattis’ deep but foul fly -- in the fifth. “I tell you what, they picked me up today, big time. They battled all nine innings.

“They got another lead and I was doing my dangest to keep it for them.”

Dang if it isn’t fun for the Giants right now. Despite one of their flatter losses of the season Tuesday night, the clubhouse the following morning was filled with old school Hip-Hop (think Kriss Kross, Salt-n-Pepa and “The Humpty Dance”), courtesy of Brandon Crawford.

When Javier Lopez walked to the mound in the ninth, he appropriated “The Humpty Dance” as his entrance music.

The Giants did the “Yes-Yes-Yes” celebration after Pence’s home run, then they did it again a little later when Michael Morse went deep. Pence was sheepish when asked about it, saying he saw the clip of the chant being led by Michigan State football players at a basketball game and thought it would be neat to borrow. He and Colvin devised it in spring training, and when Colvin was added to the roster last week, they decided to go ahead and use it. (The chant started with WWE wrestler Daniel Bryan, but Pence wasn’t initially aware of that.)

[RELATED: Instant Replay: Giants run over Braves, 10-4]

The Giants might have occasion to use the chant more often. They’ve hit 17 home runs in 18 home games. When they won the World Series in 2012, they hit just 31 homers in 81 regular-season home games. And Brandon Crawford already owns two splash homers this season after tagging another Wednesday.

“This team has got some personality,” Pence said. “It’s just one of those things we think is fun. We think it’s cool.”

That’s the kind of stuff that happens when you’re winning. Plus you can fully appreciate those rare at-bats by the relief pitchers. Juan Gutierrez had a good one, complete with a jackknifed called strike and an eyes-shut half swing.

“I told him you can’t hit with your back leg in the air,” noted batsman Jeremy Affeldt said.

“Oh,” said Santiago Casilla, asked about Gutierrez. “I am a better hitter.”

Well, there you go. The gauntlet has been thrown now.