It takes more than a couple of injuries to Nori Aoki and Hunter Pence – two of the Giants’ most indispensable hitters – to shake the confidence of Bruce Bochy, the club’s unflappable skipper.
“That’s the key to our success,” Bochy said Wednesday before the Giants thumped the San Diego Padres, 6-0. “We don’t dwell on these things. We figure [out] a way to keep focusing forward. There’s no point in talking about it.”
Against the Padres, the Giants let their bats do the talking. In the third inning, Buster Posey put the Giants on their way with a grand slam to left field.
“That’s a huge hit,” Bochy said. “A two-strike grand slam – those are hard to beat. It’s nice having a cushion. No question about it.”
The six-run outburst was an encouraging showing for a team which entered the night averaging just 2.97 runs per game at home – the lowest average in the big leagues.
While Posey did the heavy lifting, the Giants also benefitted from big nights by Gregor Blanco and Andrew Susac, two of the part-time players asked to take on more prominent roles in the absence of Aoki and Pence.
“I’m always looking for an opportunity,” Susac said after going two for four with a double and his first major-league triple.
Meanwhile, Blanco was right in the middle of both Giants rallies, ending the night two for two with a RBI.
Even with the strong showing from the reserves, Bochy couldn’t completely dismiss the impact of having to do without two-thirds of the team’s starting outfield.
“You lost your leadoff hitter and one of your guys who hits in the heart of the order,” Bochy said. “Both of them are catalyst-type players. It’s tough to overcome.”
There’s no clear time frame for when either catalyst will be rejoining the lineup. Aoki, who suffered a small fracture in his right fibula after getting hit by a pitch on Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, will be out for at least two weeks at which point he’ll be re-evaluated.
As Bochy explained, the Giants will have to exercise caution with the leadoff man because the team doesn’t want the injury to develop into a stress fracture and linger throughout the rest of the season.
The Giants are also playing it safe with Pence, who has been out of the lineup since June 2, as he deals with tendinitis in his left wrist. Pence is no longer wearing his splint – except when he sleeps – but he’s still five to seven days away from any baseball activity.
While Bochy will be counting on Blanco to fill the void in right until Pence is ready to reclaim his role, figuring out who will patrol the opposite corner remains a work in progress.
“I don’t think we’re going to have a set left fielder,” Bochy said.
On Tuesday, starting first baseman Brandon Belt got the nod in left and looked very much like an infielder trying to play outfield. In the first inning, Belt dove awkwardly for a shallow fly ball which landed for a single at his feet.
With Belt shifting to the outfield, Posey stepped in at first base and Susac went behind the plate. That’s an alignment that Bochy plans to use frequently, but he also intends to shuffle Justin Maxwell and the newly-promoted Travis Ishikawa through the lineup. The 2014 National League championship series MVP made his season debut in the sixth, pinch-hitting for starter Ryan Vogelsong. Ishikawa received a standing ovation from the crowd before going down on strikes.
Mixing and matching is a familiar drill for the manager.
“We’ve had to go in this well before – being challenged with injuries,” Bochy said. “That’s why depth is so important.”Brandon BeltBruce BochyBuster PoseyGregor BlancoHunter PenceJustin MaxwellMLBNori AokiSan Francisco GiantsTravis Ishikawa