Brandon Belt

Why Bruce Bochy kept Brandon Belt in the lineup (and in the No. 3 spot)

Brandon Belt Spring Training SF Giants

Some thought Brandon Belt might get a day off tonight against the Padres after striking out 11 times in his last four games, but he’s starting at first base. Not only is he in the lineup, he’s hitting third — despite some thinking that the pressure of hitting in the three-hole (as Bruce Bochy would call it) is melting Belt’s psyche.

In prior years, a Belt slump was usually followed by a Belt benching. But Belt is tied with three other sluggers for second in the National League in home runs, and Bochy liked dingers.

“He’s our first baseman. He’s our best first baseman. So he’s going to be out there for the most part,” Bochy said.

Bochy also likes how Belt hasn’t let his lack Mark Reynolds-like strikeout rate cause him to field his position like David Ortiz.

“I’m sure he’s frustrated and down a little bit at times, but yet he goes out there and plays great defense for us. So he’s not letting it affect his defense or his game, so that’s why I’m going to throw him back out there tonight,” he said.

However, Bochy may not be starting Belt simply because he’s “the guy” and keeps making plays with his glove.

See, Bochy also likes to make decisions based on a hitter’s past performance against that night’s starting pitcher.

Enter Tyson Ross, a right-hander (another bonus in Belt’s favor) who Belt has gone 4-for-9 against in his career with two walks. So even though Bochy said he likes Belt’s body language and focus during his slump, this might be a decision based on matchups as much as makeup. Belt is 3-for-15 with no walks or extra-base hits against lefty Eric Stults, who’ll take the mound tomorrow for the Padres. If Belt goes o-for-4 tonight with two or more strikeouts, he might get a day off in this series after all.

Pregame Extra BASGs

— It’s been a while. I last wrote about the Giants’ extra-innings extravaganza at Coors Field that started this current four-game win streak, but family and Warriors-related obligations kept me from writing about the Giants at all over the weekend, let alone coming to the ballpark.

— The Giants are in first place in the NL West, which means next to nothing but is still a little surprising after they lost five out of six a week ago.

— Just to play a little catchup, Ryan Vogelsong surprised the hell out of me yesterday as I followed his pitching line while the Warriors were defeating the Clippers. Now his ERA (5.40) and WHIP (1.54) are better than Tim Lincecum’s (5.96 and 1.64). Lincecum has the edge in FIP, because his strikeout-to-walk ratio is 4.50 and Vogelsong’s is 1.70.

— The beat writers (led by Alex Pavlovic) have started #MarcoMonday, so I guess Bochy is going to repeat something close to today’s statement every Monday:

“I don’t have any Marco news or update, except for he’s still doing some baseball activities. He has been feeling a little better but I don’t have a target date or anything like that.”

— I asked Bochy if it looks like Pablo Sandoval is showing signs that his hitting is starting to come around. He went 2-for-4 yesterday to raise his average to .180.

“Yeah. Nice piece of hitting yesterday down the right field line. When they get a hit, you’ll start with that. But when they go the other way, that’s a good sign,” said Bochy, who noted that Pence came out of his early-season slump with line drives the other way.

— I asked one other question, about the bullpen arms that just missed making the team. I specifically mentioned Derek Law’s name, but he spoke about a few other pitchers instead.

“They’ve done just fine down there. (Heath) Hembree got a four-out save yesterday. (Erik) Cordier was throwing over 100 last time out. (George) Kontos, he’s had his ups and downs but lately he’s picked it up and throwing better. (Jake) Dunning, I think his ERA is in the mid-threes. He’s doing just fine. That’s a tough league to pitch in. They start in Vegas. That’s the worst place for a pitcher,” said Bochy.

What about his son?

“Brett’s doing fine. He’s in the threes. He’s not pitching late in the game there. I’ve talked to him, he feels good.”

As for Law, he has a 0.96 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 9.1 innings for Double-A Richmond.

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