Giants

Top of Giants' lineup again does its part, slugs way past Diamondbacks

Top of Giants' lineup again does its part, slugs way past Diamondbacks

PHOENIX -- The most important thing is that Joe Panik looks the part.

Everyone knows that if you pull up your socks, you immediately look faster, and with his black socks tugged up to his knees Saturday night, the Giants second baseman strolled to the plate in the first inning looking like your typical leadoff hitter.

The second-most important thing is that Panik is playing the part.

He reached base three times, raising his on-base percentage to .342 and extending his streak to 16 consecutive games with a hit or walk. On this night, he had both, with a hit and two walks, while hitting leadoff for a Giants lineup that did what you should against a struggling pitcher.

The Giants knocked Zack Godley out early and cruised to an 8-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Eight players had a hit. Seven players drove in a run. There were productive outs and guys tagging up all over the place.

"I thought there was a sense of urgency early, and it kind of permeated," Giants center fielder Steven Duggar said.

Lately, the production has started at the top. Buster Posey was finding his swing before a concussion, and he has stayed hot since, with two more hits Saturday. Duggar has settled into the No. 2 spot. Ahead of them both, Panik has been a steady presence. He has raised his OBP by 73 points in the last two weeks after a slow start.

"The quality of the at-bats, he just looks comfortable up there," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's quiet. He's not making a lot of early outs. He looks like he's seeing the ball.

"I said it's just a matter of time before these guys get going. Joe looked really good in the spring."

That didn't immediately carry over, but it has here in May. The key to taking advantage is for the guys behind Panik, and behind Duggar and Posey, to come through in big spots, and on Saturday, they did.

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The Giants kept the line moving, which they absolutely must do. And then in the end, there was a little pop, which they absolutely need away from Oracle Park. Brandon Belt hit his seventh homer of the season, and Pablo Sandoval had a pinch-hit shot, his sixth in limited time.

"It's nice to start him, but when he doesn't start, it's nice to have him come off the bench," Bochy said of Sandoval, smiling. "You look across the offense, and he's been the silver lining."

Giants' Austin Slater embracing versatile role for Giants this season

Giants' Austin Slater embracing versatile role for Giants this season

When asked what position he'll play this season, Giants utility man Austin Slater went outside the box. Well, actually, he stayed right in the box

"Right-handed batter's box," Slater jokingly said Friday to KNBR's Mark Willard.

Slater, 27, fits the bill of what the Giants are looking for right now. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, along with manager Gabe Kapler, have preached positional versatility. And Slater might be San Francisco's very own Swiss Army knife.

Last season alone, Slater played four positions for the Giants -- right field, left field, first base and second base -- and that was over just 68 games. He also played 11 games at third base and three in center field for the Sacramento River Cats in Triple-A.

"I feel good all over the diamond, all over the outfield," Slater said. "Wherever they put me, I'm OK with it."

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Aside from catcher, the only position Slater for sure won't be playing is the same one he actually was drafted at by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of high school. Slater was a star prep shortstop in Florida before missing his senior season due to a freak accident, and went to Stanford originally as a shortstop as well. 

He primarily has played the outfield while wearing an infielder's glove recently more often. But Slater still is waiting to play his childhood position in the big leagues.

"I'll jab at Ron Wotus every once in a while and ask him when I'm going to play short," Slater said. "But he'll tell me the same thing every time. 'Get off the drugs, sober up.' But it's fun and I enjoy working at each position." 

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Slater hit a career-high five homers and nine doubles last season. He also had a .275 batting average off lefties with an .838 OPS. That should help him find playing time in the shortened 60-game season. 

More than anything, though, Slater's versatility could be his golden ticket. There will be plenty of competition for the Opening Day roster and beyond, but Slater gives Kapler a lot of options.

Funny Madison Bumgarner pitching routine shows some things never change

Funny Madison Bumgarner pitching routine shows some things never change

Some things never change. 

While Madison Bumgarner no longer is with the Giants, his time with the Arizona Diamondbacks is proving the switch of a uniform doesn’t mean the shift of a personality.

Prior to a recent simulated game, MadBum made sure his outing was all his:

He’s previously discussed some of the things he does, like participating in a rodeo under an alias Mason Saunders, that his hobbies are what they are, and he doesn’t “do anything just for fun, per se.”

So the music being shut off is a sentiment to that.

Perhaps this means he will thrive during the season as fans will not be in the stands due to the MLB safety protocol. However, some teams admitted they will utilize fan noise to be played out of the speakers with cardboard cutouts in the stands.

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Not sure that will be something he would be able to control, but he’s used to playing in front of crowds. Whether he’s listening to Max Muncy yell at him to fish a home run ball out of the ocean, or you know, throwing in a World Series, the noise never appears to distract him.

It’s nice to know he can control that -- at least for now.