Giants

Down on the Farm: Ray Black and his 100-mph heater are back

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MLB.com

Down on the Farm: Ray Black and his 100-mph heater are back

Ray Black nearly retired before this season. Ray Black was designated for assignment to help make room for names like Aaron Hill, Chris Marrero and Neil Ramirez just last year. Ray Black can also throw a fastball 104 mph. 

With injuries and anybody's guess where the ball is going, Black's career hasn't paved a fast path to the big leagues for someone with a rocket right arm. But now at 27 years old -- he'll be 28 in June -- Black is back and maybe better than ever. 

Take a look at how Black was blowing up the radar gun for the River Cats Thursday night in Sacramento.

Black faced four batters Thursday night. All four outs came from strikeouts and only one batter reached base as the lone hit he allowed.

After only pitching 2.1 innings last season due to elbow surgery, Black began the season in Double-A Richmond this year. His start to the season was nothing short of dominant.

Before being promoted to Triple-A, Black appeared in 10 games for the Flying Squirrels. Over 10 innings, he allowed just two hits and one earned run. Batters had no chance in Double-A against Black as he finished with 20 strikeouts, and what was even more encouraging, he only walked four.

Once he arrived in Sacrameto, things didn't start as smooth out of the bullpen. Black's first  two appearances don't look great in the box score as he allowed five earned runs over 2.1 innings and three walks. But, all five of those runs came off two home runs and he still struck out five. 

Since Black's first two bullpen appearances for the River Cats, he's been nearly unhittable. Including Thursday night, Black has allowed only one hit in 4.1 innings with no runs, one walk and nine strikeouts. 

Healthy and back on the mound, Black has 34 strikeouts to eight walks in 16.2 innings between two levels this season. It has been a long road, but the Giants could have quite the treasure at the end of this map. 

As they head home for long stretch, Giants get a solid win over Dodgers

As they head home for long stretch, Giants get a solid win over Dodgers

LOS ANGELES — While dealing with multiple concussions, Brandon Belt was often forced to sit peacefully in a dark room to avoid noise and light. This latest DL stint also included some sitting in a room, but this time the focus was on visualization. 

Belt said he sat down and repeatedly told himself that he would be fine physically when he returned from an appendectomy. He needed to trust his body and his approach, and in his first at-bat back, he got validation. Belt flied out to the track in the second inning Saturday night. A day later, he cleared the wall, giving Chris Stratton insurance that would hold up in a 4-1 win over the Dodgers. 

The homer was Belt’s 12th of the season and 110th in the big leagues. It was his first without an appendix, and it came after no rehab games. 

“I knew I felt alright,” he said.”I didn’t need (rehab games). I guess there’s always a concern when you come back and try to be up to speed, but the way I felt in the cage, I figured I would be alright.”

Belt’s blast was the second of just three hits for the Giants, but they didn’t need any more than that. Nick Hundley had a two-run shot himself and Stratton battled without his best stuff, throwing six innings for a staff that needed a boost in the worst way. 

For the third time on this trip, the Giants won before taking a flight. This one is a short one and will get them back home, where they are 19-11 this season. The winning clubhouse was full of players and coaches eager to get away from hotels. 

“It’s awesome,” Belt said. “We’re through our toughest part of the schedule, I believe.”

The Giants have played 42 games on the road, the most in the majors. They’re just 16-26 away from home, and Bruce Bochy has said repeatedly that the team needs to play better on the road to have a chance at the postseason. But thats a goal the Giants can focus on in a couple of weeks. For now, they’re starting a stretch where they’ll play 20 of 26 at home. Those six road games are nearby — in Phoenix and Denver — and the three “road” games after this 26-game run are in Oakland. 

The Giants will spend just six nights away from their home beds from now until July 23. In other words, it’s go time. Despite their issues, they are just 4 1/2 games out in the National League West. This upcoming stretch will determine if they are a real contender, and could determine whether or not the front office is selling at the deadline. 

“We have a very, very good home field advantage with our fans and how well we’ve played at AT&T Park,” Hundley said. “If we’re going to win the division, we have to win at home. We know that, and we expect to win at AT&T Park and we’ll carry that confidence over to the next series.”

Belt, Hundley power Giants past Dodgers to avoid sweep in LA

Belt, Hundley power Giants past Dodgers to avoid sweep in LA

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES — The Giants sure know how to clinch a happy flight. 

This was a road trip that should have been better, but at the very least, the players made sure they didn’t have any depressing travel experiences. They beat Max Scherzer on getaway day in Washington D.C. and won a 16-inning game on the final day in Miami. Before flying back to San Francisco for a 10-game homestand, they toppled the Dodgers 4-1 to avoid a sweep and finish the trip at 5-5. 

After scoring two-or-fewer runs in 11 consecutive games at Dodger Stadium, the Giants got to four in the first three innings Sunday. Here’s how it all went down … 

—The Giants had just two hits in five innings against lefty Caleb Ferguson. Luckily, one was a two-run homer from Nick Hundley and the other was a two-run homer from Brandon Belt. Hundley’s homer was his eighth, giving him twice as many as Buster Posey. Belt’s homer was his team-leading 12th, and first since having his appendix removed. 

— Chris Stratton gave up plenty of loud outs, but got through it. He ended up allowing just one run on three hits in six innings. The Giants have won six of Stratton’s last seven starts. 

— Quietly, Will Smith has been outstanding. He lowered his ERA to 0.96 after striking out Cody Bellinger and Yasmani Grandal and getting Yasiel Puig to fly out to right.