CHICAGO – The Giants’ third comeback in four games will not leave a lasting mark in the standings. But the residue might be real for Brandon Belt.
With the Giants down to their last out in the ninth, Belt came through. He took a couple of borderline pitches from Cubs closer Kyuji Fujikawa and then picked out something to his liking, lashing it down the right field line for a two-run double that gave the Giants a momentary 3-2 lead.
Sergio Romo couldn’t hold it while failing to convert a save for the first time in seven tries in a 4-3 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field. But Belt could carry himself a little taller knowing he did something to contribute. He got one to fall in when the team needed it most.
[Baggs Instant Replay: Cubs 4, Giants 3]
The Giants need Belt, no question. He was the Cactus League’s leading home run hitter, and unlike previous years, the club has no choice but to let him ride out his slumps. They don’t have any other options at first base, although Giants manager Bruce Bochy hinted prior to the game that it would be easier to give Buster Posey more starts at first if Belt continued to stay in a funk.
Belt was getting a little George Clinton around the edges, all right. He was 5 for 36 (.139) and missed two games in the season-opening series with a pretty violent case of the stomach flu.
He mixed some bad at-bats with some good ones that resulted in hard outs – including two well struck outs earlier Friday. But there comes a time when you can’t take solace in hard outs. So that double in the ninth was significant, and not just to the team.
Belt said he found something in his swing earlier in the day.
“You’ve got to go through the checklist when it goes wrong,” Belt said. “I think I figured something out and put good swings on the ball today, and I had one fall in. So that gives you confidence.”
Prior to the game, Bochy said he noticed Belt getting “turned a little too much” and needed to shorten his swing.
“Lately he’s backed off a little bit,” Bochy said. “He’s not letting it go like he was in the spring. He’s gotten himself a little more closed off.”
Belt agreed, calling it “an old habit I’ve gotta watch.”
The Giants still could start Belt in left field on occasion when Posey plays first base, but that’s only an option they’ll consider if Belt is producing at the plate. So even though his job wasn’t in jeopardy like it was two Aprils ago, he was running the risk of reduced playing time.
The situation is different now. And, Belt maintains, so is he.
Was the slump beginning to wear on him?
“I can say it wasn’t wearing on me the way it was before,” he said. “It’s a long season. You know eventually you’ll come out of it. I know what kind of hitter I am now.”