The word traveled fast before last night’s game – Hunter Pence was on his way to Cincinnati to join the team and would be activated for Saturday’s game. It seems that even the mention of this great news regarding the team’s emotional leader was enough to kick the Giants offense into a higher gear, a gear they hadn’t reached before in this young season.
Brandon Belt crushed a three-run homer in the first inning, Buster Posey launched a two-run home run in the third, and Madison Bumgarner pitched seven innings, allowing just two runs on eight hits as the Giants pounded the Reds 10-2. And with the win, the G-men evened their season record at 18-18, this road trip at 2-2, and the four game series here at 1-1, while remaining 5 ½ games behind the Dodgers.
The struggling Giants offense scored the most runs in a game this season, while rapping out 13 hits, including five extra base hits. Most importantly, the Giants batted .267 (4 for 15) with runners in scoring position, an improvement for this team, a number that’s actually higher than the overall team batting average (.261). And with the return to the lineup today of Hunter Pence, suddenly this offense is looking more formidable:
Aoki, Panik, Pagan, Posey, Pence, Belt, Crawford, McGehee, pitcher’s spot, with Maxwell and Duffy coming off of the bench to pitch hit and spot start. Look for this offense to improve upon the 3.3 runs per game average they sported at the beginning of last night’s game. Yes, the race to the top of the division is officially on, and yes, the Dodgers have been forewarned.
MadBum pitched well again, and the run support certainly helped his cause. “Ten runs is pretty nice when you’re out there pitching,” Bumgarner said. “The offense hit the ball really good. We’re playing good right now.” MadBum has pitched very well his last five starts, going 3-1 with a 2.14 ERA. After the win, he’s now at 4-2, 3.20 on the season.
Other offensive contributors included Gregor Blanco (2 for 4 with a double, walk, and run scored), Joe Panik, who extended his hitting streak to 11 games (2 for 4 with a walk and run scored), and Brandon Crawford (2 for 4 with a RBI), who continues to lead the Giants in RBI with 18. With Belt’s 3 for 5 night with four RBI, he’s now hitting .291 on the season.
Pence is expected to start his first game of the season tonight in right field, and the players and fans couldn’t be more ready and more excited to have the emotional spark plug of the team back in the dugout and lineup. It will be tough to send Justin Maxwell to the bench, as he’s done a great job filling in for the season with great defense (including two awesome catches last night) and offensively as well (.250/.309/.400), with three home runs and 16 RBI. But with the return of Hunter Pence, this offense is more potent and deeper for sure.
Ryan Vogelsong (1-2, 5.67) hopes to continue his strong pitching tonight as he opposes Mike Leake (2-1, 2.36 ERA). Vogey has allowed just one run over 14 innings covering his last two starts. He credits adjustments made after a horrendous start against the Dodgers on April 29th when he allowed four home runs in a 7-3 loss. Leake is 5-1 with a 3.83 ERA against the Giants in his career. Pence has hit Leake well, with a .379 average (11-for-29) against him with two doubles, a triple, and a home run. Welcome back Hunter!