Giants

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.

Brian Sabean not sure why 'star in the making' Brandon Belt is so polarizing

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Brian Sabean not sure why 'star in the making' Brandon Belt is so polarizing

So far this season, Brandon Belt is hitting .304 with six home runs and 12 RBI.

He boasts a .402 on-base percentage.

"We need him. The guy is a star player in the making," Giants executive VP of baseball operations Brian Sabean said on KNBR 680 on Wednesday. "We hope with the strength of a deeper lineup -- which I think in time will prove to be true -- that he's got a lot that can really help this ball club and contribute in a big way."

So why then is Belt so polarizing?

"I'm not sure," Sabean answered. "There are folks that do swing and miss (Belt has struck out 22 times in 20 games). He's kind of a study in contrast. And while I say that, he's probably got one of the best eyes in the big leagues and can work a count, work an at-bat and take a walk with anybody.

"But what I'm seeing this year is that he's getting to more pitches, where in the past he would not put it in play. He's doing that in a big way. There are just some guys for whatever reason don't square up as many balls as you think they would be capable of.

"He's been a work in progress. He's still a young guy and I think that once he finds his power, he'll be a guy that will be very dangerous in anybody's lineup."

Belt was an All-Star in 2016.

The 30-year old is making $16 million this season, and will earn $16 million each year through 2021.

Samardzija, other Giants pitchers need to move on quickly from 15-2 loss

Samardzija, other Giants pitchers need to move on quickly from 15-2 loss

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ten minutes into his start Wednesday, Jeff Samardzija got a mound visit from manager Bruce Bochy and a member of the training staff. 

His fastball was sitting 89-91 at the time, and given that Samardzija is just two starts removed from a DL stint for a strained pectoral, the concern was understandable. 

"He's fine. We just wanted to check on him at that point," Bochy said. "He said he was fine and as you saw his stuff picked up, which you see sometimes from starting pitchers."

Samardzija did get back to the 93-94 range by the third, which is still a couple ticks from normal for him, but at least isn't concerning. He didn't make it to the fourth, though. A Matt Adams homer put the last three of six runs on his line.

"Just one of those days," Samardzija said. "I've been feeling really good. It just took a little longer today (to get loose). There's really no explanation for it sometimes.

"Obviously it's a little bit of a different script for me right now (coming off the injury). We're going to learn from it and keep getting better and get on to the next one." 

A few Giants need to move on quickly after this one. Josh Osich, coming off a sparkling spring, continued to backslide at the worst possible time. The Giants will need to clear a roster spot for Will Smith next week. Osich was charged with four earned runs. Cory Gearrin walked two of three he faced and cashed in two of Osich's runners. He, too, has fallen down the depth chart a bit.

"They're not on track. O really had some good moments today, lots of swings and misses, but also had trouble getting the ball where he wanted at times," Bochy said. "Cory is battling too much right now instead of going out there and attacking the strike zone. This game is all about confidence and if they get shaken a bit they don't throw the ball with as much conviction."