SAN DIEGO – Kensuke Tanaka listened to the question in English. But instead of turning toward translator Taira Uematsu on his left, he turned to Brandon Crawford on his right.
And he smiled from ear to ear.
“He’s like that lovable character,” Giants closer Sergio Romo said. “And he can contribute.”
Tanaka has done more than bring a little levity to a clubhouse badly in need of a laugh. He singled in the tying run in the sixth inning of the Giants’ 4-2 victory at Petco Park Thursday night, then singled to start the tiebreaking rally in the eighth. He stole his way into scoring position, too.
And he hasn’t looked lost in left field, although more tests will come for the career second baseman.
For now, his contact skills are badly needed by a team that is striking out far too often for a group that isn’t hitting home runs – especially with runners in scoring position.
“He looks comfortable, I tell you,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “That’s what’s impressive. It’s nice to get a shot in the arm, which he’s given us. He’s played a few games and played well. He’s thrown out good at-bats. He’s putting the ball in play.
I’m happy for him. He’s worked hard to be here, he earned this promotion and he’s taken advantage of it.”
Pablo Sandoval began bowing to Tanaka in spring training. Now it’s a team-wide thing. A sign of respect?
“Yeah, respect,” Sandoval said. “He came here to fight and to support this team. He did his job today. Every guy did their little piece.”
The question, by the way, was about Tanaka's comfort level in the big leagues.
"I was able to show my strengths in baseball, what I’m good at," he said -- with Uematsu's help and not Crawford's. "I was able to do a little something for the team today."
Sandoval did his piece as well. It wasn’t just his home run in the fourth inning – his first since May 19, breaking a span of 101 at-bats without one. It was the fact he crossed the plate by any means. Hard to believe, but Sandoval hadn’t scored in 16 games.
He hadn’t scored twice in a game since May 11. He was able to do that in the sixth, when he walked and ended up scoring the tying run on Tanaka’s single.
“I do think Pablo is quieter at the plate,” Bochy said. “He said, `I’m feeling better’ coming into this game. I think his confidence has grown a little bit.”
Sandy Rosario has been huge for the Giants in Santiago Casilla’s absence, which should last just another day or two before he returns.
And quietly, Romo has put together another solid half. He’s 21 for 24 in save situations, and likely headed to the All-Star Game for one of the Sunday starters.
I know some of the friction between Romo and the media has been aired in public, including on his KNBR show Thursday morning. He’s frustrated that the media doesn’t make him a priority after saves or victories. I can only say that I certainly don’t just want to talk to Romo when he has a rough one. He always brings valuable perspective on the team and he speaks with the same passion that he takes to the mound. He’s a thoughtful person and it was nice to get his perspective on the team after this victory.
One minor league note: The Giants signed John Riley, the catcher from Willow Glen High in Campbell, so reports his brother on Twitter. He was a 31st rounder but considered a tough sign since he had a commitment to Cal. Sorry, Bears.