Belt: 'If the opportunity comes, you want to make the best of it'
Brandon Belt's walk-off single against the Diamondbacks Monday was the first of his MLB career. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SAN FRANCISCO – Asking Brandon Belt if he needed a walk-off hit was like asking him if he needed a bowl of his favorite Olive Garden salad.
You’ll never turn it down, right?
Belt began his day as a lost soul in early batting practice and ended it as the human punching bag. After entering on a double switch in the ninth inning, his single to left field scored Andres Torres and delivered the Giants a 5-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks Monday night.
[REACP: Giants 5, D'backs 4]
After weeks of getting pummeled by big league pitchers, Belt took shots from his happy teammates.
“I’m pretty light headed,” he said. “And my kidneys hurt right now.”
That’s better than your psyche. Belt didn’t start against a left-hander and was just 1-for-12 against them before he faced lefty Tony Sipp in the ninth. Andres Torres singled to start the rally and Brandon Crawford put down a sacrifice bunt that was so well placed it nearly resulted in a hit.
Belt saw three pitches.
“He was out in front of the first pitch,” Buster Posey said. “Then it was like he stepped back a little and stayed back. He took a slider down, and then he stayed back on that last one.”
That’s what Belt worked to do in early batting practice: Stay back, stand upright, keep your shoulder in, and pay no heed to that .183 glowing on the scoreboard beyond.
“When you get to this point, you hear a lot of things and you forget some of it,” Belt said. “It’s nice to have another set of eyes to remind you.”
He said his approach against Sipp was to be ready to hit the fastball, look for something up and over the plate, and be ready to adjust if necessary. On the third pitch, he got it.
It only raised his average to .195, not .295. But it’s a start. And it’s also his first walk-off hit in the big leagues. He couldn’t remember hitting one since 2010, when he played for Double-A Richmond at New Hampshire.
Not even last year?
“Naw,” he said. “I sucked.”
It remains to be seen if Bochy will start Belt Tuesday with another left-hander, Patrick Corbin, on the mound. The manager was non-committal when asked after Monday’s comeback win. Belt has shown hopeful signs before, only to tailspin yet again.
But for now, he is as happy as clam sauce on a Tour of Italy platter.
“I’m not sure I needed it,” said Belt, “but it was nice.”
Sergio Romo got the victory by throwing one pitch, but he did not tie a major league record.
There are instances when a reliever got a win without throwing a single pitch, usually via a pickoff play.
It was one heck of a pitch, though. It came against Eric Hinske, who so memorably homered off Romo at Turner Field in the 2010 NLDS. Romo would’ve been the losing pitcher, and the Giants would’ve gone down 2-1 in the series, if not for the two-out heroics of Freddy Sanchez and Aubrey Huff in the ninth.
I still think those were the two most important at-bats for the Giants in that postseason run. Ssory, Doc.
Posey called Ryan Vogelsong “the unsung hero” in the game for getting through seven innings and minimizing that first-inning jam.
Vogelsong is just 1-for-4 in quality starts after notching 19-for-20 to begin last season. But I’ll be the first to agree that the QS is an arbitrary statistic. Is there much less value in six innings and three runs vs. seven innings and four runs?
Vogelsong said he was upset at himself for throwing a bad challenge pitch to pitcher Wade Miley, but he felt pretty good about the rest of his outing. And I’ll tell you what, the way this team comes back, the starting pitchers had better be inspired to settle down and find a groove after they get off to a bad start. They might just get the win in the end.
Quietly, Pablo Sandoval has 18 RBI in 20 games. For what it’s worth, that puts him on pace for 145 RBI this season.
Have we mentioned the Giants are 9-1 against the NL West? They haven’t dropped a division matchup since opening day to Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium.
Not sure if he was using it during his two-hit night, but Marco Scutaro has a Melky Cabrera model bat in his rotation. The real Cabrera might want it back. He has just two extra-base hits for the Toronto Blue Jays.
As I told Scutaro earlier in the day, he picked a great year not to be a Colorado Rockie. It was in the mid-60s when the Diamondbacks left Denver after Sunday’s game. A day later, the game was snowed out yet again at Coors Field, with a low of 23 degrees.
Makes you grateful to be here at balmy AT&T Park.