SAN FRANCISCO — Last season’s trade deadline killed the occasional and entertaining "Tortoise Race" between Joe Panik and Matt Duffy, but a couple of middle-of-the-order bats have brought back a supercharged version for a surging team.
Brandon Belt scored both runs in Tuesday’s 2-1 win over the Dodgers, the first coming on a solo shot to the arcade. Belt’s eighth blast of the season continued an odd run for a lineup lacking power the first six weeks of the season. For nine consecutive games, either Belt or Buster Posey has gone deep. It started last Monday in New York:
May 8: Posey HR
May 9: Posey HR
May 10: Posey HR
May 11: Belt HR
May 12: Posey HR
May 13: Belt HR
May 14: Belt HR
May 15: Posey HR
May 16: Belt HR
Posey helped push Belt along the bases in the sixth, when he singled, took second on a wild pitch, third on a grounder, and home on a Brandon Crawford single. Ty Blach did the rest. The young left-hander continued his mastery of the Dodgers, throwing seven strong innings to pick up the first win out of the No. 1 spot in the rotation. Madison Bumgarner and Blach had suffered from a lack of run support through eight starts, but it didn’t matter with the way Blach pitched Tuesday.
“He really had a good tempo, he was throwing strikes, attacking hitters,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He has just a great way about him. He’s poised and focused. He’s unflappable. He just keeps coming at you.”
Blach didn’t buckle in a couple of tight spots. The biggest was the fourth, when Justin Turner singled with one out and cruised into third on a double from Enrique Hernandez. Austin Barnes followed with a bouncer that got just past Blach and headed toward second, where Christian Arroyo was making his first big league start. Arroyo fired a surprising strike home, nabbing Turner, who had gotten a late start off third.
“Oh, that was awesome,” Blach said. “When the ball got past me my heart sank, like, ‘Shoot!’ You always try to keep the runner at third. That was awesome.”
Arroyo made a couple of standout plays, Eduardo Nuñez started a highlight double play, and Belt dug more throws out of the dirt. It was another clean night defensively, and that allowed Blach to be efficient, continuing a trend.
Since Johnny Cueto threw 119 pitches on Friday, Bochy has leaned heavily on his starters. Matt Moore threw 120 on Saturday, Jeff Samardzija threw 114 Sunday, and Matt Cain stretched it to 112 on Monday. Blach tossed a career-high 109 pitches.
“I didn’t make a conscious effort to push them to that limit as much as how they’re pitching will dictate how far they go,” Bochy said. “I think that’s gotten a little contagious.”
Blach said he was trying to keep up with the others, and Bochy is willing to let them stretch it out. While he never sat down and decided that he would rely more on his rotation, he did note that closer Mark Melancon remains out until Friday.
“That forces your hand,” he said. “I think it maybe got contagious on my part, that hey, I’m sticking with these guys.”
It continues to work. Tuesday’s win was the fifth straight, giving the Giants their longest winning streak since last June.