Belt learns valuable lesson, leads Giants past Nats

August 15, 2012, 6:36 am
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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.

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