Blach dazzles, Belt matches Posey as Giants continue to roll

Blach dazzles, Belt matches Posey as Giants continue to roll

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. 

New Giants catcher Erik Kratz leaves a presence everywhere he goes


New Giants catcher Erik Kratz leaves a presence everywhere he goes

Death, taxes, and Giants transactions.

That appears to be the theme of the week.

A few transactions were made on Saturday, and on Sunday morning, the Giants acquired veteran Erik Kratz in a trade for minor league infielder, C.J. Hinojosa.

But this isn't an article about moves being made, or trades being implemented. This is about the 38-year-old catcher who leaves a presence behind with anyone he meets -- and he's met a lot of people.

Kratz coming to the Giants means this will be the eighth big-league team he will roster for and, in total, 11 organizations -- er, 12 now. 

Last season, during his time with the Brewers, he became the oldest position player to make his first postseason start since Lave Cross did in 1905.  

And how did he do during that debut? Well:

During Game 2 of the National League Division Series, he hit a two-run, eighth-inning single that gave the Brewers a 2-0 advantage in the eventual 4-0 win over the Rockies. And he was beyond thankful for the opportunity as he told's Adam McCalvy last year.

"If you told me 16 years ago that I'd be here today I wouldn't have changed the path that I took," Kratz said. "I never gave up. I've been blessed every day to be in this situation."

His friends had surprised him during the postseason -- and each one of them sported one of his jerseys from each of the teams he played on. And when he was asked about what they would think about seeing him on the big stage, they would probably ask about his "nasty facial hair" and say he "looks fat on TV."

I spoke to Robert Murray who is the Brewers' beat writer for The Athletic. Through the phone, you could hear his excitement at the opportunity to talk all things Kratz.

"This is right up my alley," Murray told NBC Sports Bay Area. "I love Kratz."

Then Murray told me a story about him. One that made Murray a little sad Kratz would no longer sport a Milwaukee uniform.

"I had asked Josh Fields if he knew anyone in the Brewers' clubhouse besides Yasmani Grandal when I heard Kratz say in the background, 'Robert, that's a stupid question." After the interview, I asked him what made the question stupid when he replied, 'You should know by now that basically everybody in baseball has played baseball with Erik Kratz." Even in the toughest of situations, knowing on Feb. 1, that he wouldn't make the Brewers, he was a true professional and kept a strong sense of humor."

Murray said that is what he will remember about Kratz.

Don't worry, I didn't rub it in his face too much the Giants had gained a great human, but I will say it got me excited to see what he can add to that team, to that clubhouse, to that organization.

For those of you who say, "I don't care, give me his stats." This isn't one of those articles.

You know where to find his numbers.

Giants acquire veteran catcher Erik Kratz in trade with Brewers


Giants acquire veteran catcher Erik Kratz in trade with Brewers

SAN FRANCISCO -- A day after they made a seemingly endless series of transactions, the Giants got going with an early morning trade. 

Catcher Erik Kratz was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers, with minor league infielder C.J. Hinojosa headed the other way. The deal was made a day after the Giants released Rene Rivera, a similar veteran who appeared in line for an Opening Day job. 

When Rivera was let go, Aramis Garcia looked to be in line for the backup job. But Kratz is a right-handed-hitting veteran who is out of options, so the Giants may keep him instead. Kratz, 38, will be playing for his eighth big league team. He hit .236 for the Brewers last year with six homers and six doubles in 203 at-bats. 

Kratz was a surprise contributor in the postseason, hitting .292 in 26 plate appearances. He is known for doing good work defensively and is a strong clubhouse presence. 

It's unclear why the Giants elected to go with Kratz over Rivera, who worked with their pitchers all camp. Or why they may be shying away from sticking with Garcia, who had a good spring and also knows the pitching staff well. Those questions will be answered in the next four days, and the Giants figure to make many more moves before the dust settles. 

[RELATED: Giants trade Matt Joyce after three days with team]

Hinojosa was once viewed as a future utility man at the big league level, but he was suspended 50 games last season for a positive test for a drug of abuse. When he returned, he posted a .689 OPS. 

To clear a 40-man spot for Kratz, the Giants DFA'd pitcher Jose Lopez, acquired at the start of the spring from the Reds.