AT&T Park — Brandon Belt simply dropped his bat. Carlos Gonzalez turned and briefly gave chase before stopping in his tracks. There was nothing the Colorado Rockies right fielder could do.
Belt’s 11th home run of the season was already soaring into the arcade atop the brick archways, breaking the 5-5 tie and sending the San Francisco Giants on their way to a 9-5 win to cap the week-long homestand.
The kind of 4-1 deficit that would have buried the Giants a season ago turned into a comfortable win on a windy afternoon in China Basin.
“I think we’re just pretty dang good, to be honest with you,” Belt said. “We have a good offense. We have a good defense and we have a good pitching staff. We’ve got some big guys missing so that’s tough but overall we’ve got a good team and we don’t ever feel like we’re out of it.”
The Giants (24-24) just completed a stretch of 17 games in as many days — one of two such streaks this season — surviving with a 8-9 record, headed into an off day before a two-game series at Houston.
Belt, with five homers in seven games and a 1.007 OPS on the season, is playing at an All-Star level.
“This guy’s got such a ceiling on him now we’re seeing it,” manager Bruce Bochy said.
Belt, who began the game in left before shifting to first in the eighth inning, said he’s been equally locked in in the past.
“I’ve felt pretty comfortable before,” Belt said. “But I think the main thing is I just feel like the experience I had over the past however many seasons has just kind of helped me get to the point where I am now.
“I just think it’s important to remember that this is a tough game and it’s a long season. So, I’m just trying to be as consistent as I can for as long as I can.”
The offensive outburst, which featured home runs from Belt, Nick Hundley and Gorkys Hernandez (plus a two-run triple from Kelby Tomlinson), overshadowed another underwhelming day for Ty Blach.
“It’s awesome,” Blach said of the run support. “It gives us a lot of confidence as a pitching staff. It’s okay to give up a few runs here or there. We don’t have to be as perfect maybe as we would like to be. So, you’re able to just go out there and attack and put the pressure on the other team.”
For the third time in as many starts, Blach failed to escape the fifth. The left-hander rambled through 4.1 innings on an afternoon that featured far too much traffic, and, as is his custom, not nearly enough swings and misses.
Two of the eight hits hits Blach surrendered — including the one that knocked him out — belonged to Nolan Arenado. The Giants nemesis is now batting .643 (9-for-14) in his career against Blach and hitting .421 (8-for-19) against San Francisco on the season.
Blach ended his outing with four runs on his ledger, with two crossing the plate as he watched from the dugout. After the bullpen entered the day with a 2.76 ERA ad a .198 opponents average in the past eight games, Cory Gearrin provided precious little, allowing the first inherited run on a Trevor Story infield single then walking in a second to make it 4-1.
Hernandez quickly cut into the deficit, lofting what appeared to be nothing more than a fly ball to center field. It kept carrying, landing just beyond the reach of Charlie Blackmon, bouncing off the netting that hangs over the kale garden.
“It carried a little more than I thought, to be honest,” Bochy said. “I didn’t think it was going out and it kept carrying. I mean, what a lift that was.”
The home run was Hernandez’s second of the series and his fourth of 2018. Heading into the season, Hernandez had five in 232 career games. The defensive-minded reserve was starting in right in the place of Andrew McCutchen, who bruised his knee sliding on Saturday afternoon.
With Mac Williamson and Hunter Pence both rehabbing in Triple-A, the Giants could have a new outfielder by the time they open the road trip in Houston. Bochy hedged pregame when asked about that possibility.
“Can’t say for sure,” Bochy said. “Right now there’s nothing concrete as far as plans but it’s good to see them swinging.”
Thanks to Belt’s blast — one of three Giants homers during the matinee — San Francisco heads to Houston — and a much needed off day — on a winning note.