Categories: MLB

Makeshift Giants lineup beats up on Brewers

AT&T PARK — In Wednesday’s matinee, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy threw out a lineup that had the feel of a spring split-squad game.

Gregor Blanco led off with usual table-setter Denard Span getting a day of rest after starting 15 games in a row.

Brandon Crawford batted third — for the first time since 2013 — with Brandon Belt nursing his swollen right ankle.

Conor Gillaspie, who took over for Belt at first, started just his fifth game of 2016.

Jarrett Parker got the nod in right to fill Hunter Pence’s void.

With big assists from Johnny Cueto and the Milwaukee Brewers porous defense, the B-lineup got the job done — and then some — tallying 16 hits in the 10-1 thrashing.

“We’ve been playing a lot of tight games,” said Bochy. “So, it was nice to take [Cueto] out after seven to give him a breather.”

Cueto, who’s now won each of his past seven decisions, didn’t need the extra rest and he didn’t have a profound explanation for his incredible run.

“What can I tell you? It’s hard work and trying to locate my pitches,” Cueto said via team translator Erwin Higueros.

That’s it?

“That’s what you have to do,” Cueto added. “ And I just have fun on the mound.”

The Dominican pitcher held the Brewers to one run on seven hits while striking out nine over seven frames.

“He got a bad break with that one run he gave up,” Bochy said. “He made a great pitch and a broken bat single is how they scored.”

That broken bat came in the fifth and the earned run was just the seventh Cueto’s allowed in his last eight starts. By that point — with the help of four Brewers’ errors — the Giants had already buried the visitors in an 8-0 hole.

On a day when Bochy made do without two-thirds of his Opening Day outfield and his starting first baseman, his trusty cleanup man enjoyed a monster afternoon.

“I think you definitely can see a difference without that little nerve thing that was bothering him [in his right thumb],” Bochy said of Buster Posey who was 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

Last week, while Posey was resting his thumb, Bochy was reluctant to link the damaged digit to the star catcher’s slump at the plate.

Posey’s offensive breakout — 8-for-12 in three games against Milwaukee — has changed the manager’s tune.

“When that hand’s not right, it makes it that much tougher,” Bochy said. “The time off served him well and now I think he’s back to who he is.”

The cortisone shot, which Posey received in St. Louis at the start of the month, helped too.

Just ask Blanco, who recently got an injection of his own to quiet his injured right shoulder.

Blanco entered the game in a 3-for-32 slide, but collected three hits in six at-bats while scoring a pair of runs.

Bochy deserves credit for the super-sub outfielder’s showing at the plate. Before the get-away-day contest, the manager explained that he was bumping Blanco up to the top of the lineup because sometimes a struggling player can get a lift from returning to a familiar role.

The trick worked.

“I love it, man,” Blanco said with a beam. “I feel more myself everytime that I get to be in the leadoff spot.”

As the Giants head out on a two-city, seven-game road trip — with stops in Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh — there will plenty of injury-related obstacles for Bochy to navigate.

The National League West leaders appear to have dodged a bullet after a 92-mph fastball tagged Belt’s right ankle in the sixth inning on Tuesday night. While X-rays were negative for the first baseman, Bochy explained that Belt could still have to spend part of the weekend series against the Tampa Bay Rays as the designated hitter.

Whether Jake Peavy will appear in the set is to be announced. For now, that’s how the Giants list Sunday’s start, which is Peavy’s slot.

“He’s still pretty sore,” Bochy admitted. “He’s a little beat up to be honest.”

Karl Buscheck

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