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'Badass' Belt on tear, helps Giants extend NL West lead

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Belt homer

DENVER -- Before he was The Captain, the brash, super-quotable, homer-hitting first baseman who insists he will lead the way and then does it, Brandon Belt earned a different description from his manager. 

Gabe Kapler was complimentary of Belt in his awkward introductory press conference late in 2019 and continued to heap praise on his first baseman throughout that offseason. Early in his first spring as Giants manager, Kapler brought up Belt during a session with reporters. He was thrilled with everything he was seeing in the batter's box.

"He's kind of an assassin in there," Kapler said. 

That appreciation has just grown over time, and while Kapler might be more hesitant than most in the Giants clubhouse to freely throw around the Captain nickname, he believes in Belt more than ever. 

"From afar, I thought he was kind of a badass in the batter's box," Kapler said of Belt after a 7-2 win over the Colorado Rockies. "He's just a guy that really understood the strike zone and was dangerous every time he walked up to the plate, and I think those beliefs have been kind of been reinforced."

Belt is the streakiest Giants hitter of the last decade, often maddeningly so, but right now he's working on a lengthy stretch during which he's been one of the most dangerous hitters in all of baseball. Coming into Saturday's game, Belt had a 1.113 OPS over the last month, ranking fourth in the NL behind MVP frontrunners Bryce Harper and Juan Soto, along with Paul Goldschmidt, who has led the Cardinals to 15 straight wins. 

 

Belt is doing the same for the Giants. He hit two homers Saturday, giving them a 4-2 lead that would hold up. With the win and a Dodgers loss, the Giants pushed their lead in the NL West back to two games with just seven to go. 

Belt's third multi-homer game of the second half gave him 18 since the All-Star break, which ties his previous high for a full season. With seven games left, he needs just one to reach 30. Already, he is the only Giant other than Barry Bonds to get past 27 homers over the last 19 seasons. 

"To me it's more than a hot streak," Belt said. "It's just being resilient in my approach and not giving in and sticking with it all season until I was able to finally stay with it consistently in the games. It's definitely a hot streak, but to me it's just a little bit more than that."

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Belt said he feels great physically, perhaps partially the result of missing so much time this season and over the spring. He is fresher than most in the lineup and said he focused on building up his lower half whenever he had a break from playing. That's been the key, Kapler said. 

"I think the lower half is really firing right now," Kapler said. "He's on-time and I think that's allowing him to make really good decisions. The bat is just kind of whistling through the zone and he's turning up underneath it well -- instead of kind of smothering (the ball) he's getting the sweet spot to just underneath the baseball. He's hitting the ball as hard as he can with the right angles and it's happening because I think his body is working really well. He's on-time, and he's aggressive."

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