Let’s get through the good stuff first, since the San Francisco Giants won for the first time in a week.
The batting order gets plenty of attention every day, and today was a bit of an odd one. Brandon Belt was in the eighth spot. The reason? Belt has trouble against Ian Kennedy, plus Gregor Blanco and Brandon Crawford have been swingin’ it better, according to Bruce Bochy. That seemed like a funny explanation, since Belt has performed pretty well since getting that one-on-one session with the skipper (7-for-18 with 2 BB).
In Belt’s first plate appearance against Kennedy, his swing looked the same as it did the last time Belt was in Arizona — when he led the Cactus League in home runs. Weight back, hips bring the hands through the zone, and a 91 mph fastball just above the belt and a little inside was “belted” (Jon Miller’s description, not mine) off the top of the right field wall … and over, for Belt’s second home run of the season.
With a five-game losing streak to hurdle, there was no way Belt’s solo shot that gave the Giants a 3-0 lead in the second inning was going to stand. But he got his chance in the eighth with two outs against a wobbly Brad Ziegler, and hit a 3-1 pitch up the middle with the bases loaded to give the Giants a 6-4 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Meanwhile, Marco Scutaro was still the No. 2 hitter tonight. It looks like Scutaro will be in that spot for a while, as he went 3-for-4 with a walk. You thought he needed a DL stint? (Okay, I thought he needed a DL stint?)
So the narrative du jour was, of course, motivation. The Giants were motivated to end the streak. Belt was motivated to prove to Bochy that he’s not a No. 8 hitter, gurshdurnit! Scutaro was motivated to show everyone that he doesn’t need to spend the next two weeks in a chiropractor’s office. There might be a kernel of truth in all three cases, or it could be this: six-game losing streaks are rare, Belt is heating up and Scutaro has always hit Kennedy fairly well … except that double in the ninth off Sipp was pretty well-hit.
– To keep the happy fun times rolling, the bullpen pitched three scoreless innings. Jean Machi struck out a couple guys and has a really, really nasty … splitter. It’s also nice to have Javier Lopez back, especially when he gets the benefit of a “Oh man, let this game end so I can make sure I still have testicles” strike call from umpire Dale Scott (more on that in a bit — sorry, guys).
– One last good thing: Bochy probably planned on getting ejected tonight anyway to rally the troops, but first base umpire Bill Miller provided a convenient opportunity to get justifiably tossed with two bad calls that went against the road team. Bochy kind of reminds me of an angry old grizzly bear when he gets in these moods. I half expected him to get back down on all fours and slowly meander back to the dugout, then turn his head back toward Miller and let out a loud roar before hobbling down the steps.
Capt. Buzzkill, reporting for duty
– Pablo Sandoval should’ve been on the good list for going 2-for-3 and raising his average to .327 (he was hitting .276 four days ago). But he left in the middle of the game due to the same ailment that made him a late scratch on St. Paddy’s Day: right elbow discomfort. Sandoval says he wants to play tomorrow and his elbow isn’t as bad as it was during the spring. Either this is just a false alarm and he’ll be able to play through this latest bout of neuritis, or he’s going to hit the DL at the beginning of May for the third consecutive year.
– Matt Cain walked four and gave up three home runs … in the fourth inning. The worst pitch that resulted in a home run was the one to Kubel. Chavez hit a Chase Field home run to left, although Posey probably went to the changeup well one time too many. Cain was probably just steaming mad by the time he faced Prado and wanted to throw one by him, but that pitch caught too much of the plate considering it was on a 1-2 count.
What led to all of this? A leadoff walk to Cody Ross on a 3-2 curveball when the Giants had a 3-0 lead. I still think this is a mechanical/mental problem Cain is struggling through, not anything physical. Nobody dares talk about Cain like he’s a neurotic mess like Belt can be at times, but the guy who threw the perfect game seems like too much of a perfectionist right now. Bochy talked about Belt looking at the scoreboard and wanting to lift his average to a respectable level in one night; unless Cain is a robot I’d have to imagine he sees an ERA over 6.00 and wants to get it under 4.00 in the same period of time.
It was a throwaway moment for most people I’m sure, but I liked it enough to mention it on Twitter. About two minutes later, Carmen humored me with a GIF. After his two-run single that propelled the Giants to victory, Kirk Gibson pulled Ziegler in favor of Tony Sipp. As CSN went to commercial, they showed Belt talking nonstop to Roberto Kelly, who (as @Every6thDay so aptly put it) was being polite. He was kinda/sorta listening, almost like Belt was his teenage son who just ate a bag of Jolly Ranchers and is REALLY EXCITED ABOUT ALL THE POINTS HE SCORED DURING LUNCHTIME BASKETBALL.