Yep, this offense has the potential to do some damage after all. For the second consecutive day, the Giants hitters went out and crushed the ball, hitting three home runs, accumulating a season high 16 hits, including three home runs and six extra base hits in all, dominating the Reds for the second consecutive day in an 11-2 victory.
That’s 18 innings of baseball over two days, 29 hits, 21 runs, 5 home runs, 11 extra base hits in total. Despite the uncharacteristic display of offensive firepower (and some will say the difference is the long ball), the real difference is what the team has done the past two days with runners in scoring position. We’ve been writing all year that this has been the team’s greatest weakness. Entering Thursday’s game, the Giants were 10th in MLB in batting average, but 29th in runs scored, averaging just 3.3 runs per game. Over the past two days games the team is 9 for 25 with runners in scoring position (a .360 average), generating 21 runs. They’re now averaging 3.7 runs per game and are 8th in team batting average at .265, and 25th in runs scored. What a difference a couple of days makes.
Hunter Pence’s return was much anticipated and he didn’t waste any time going right to work. Pence doubled in his first at bat in the second inning (following a Brandon Belt home run) and then raced around the bases on a base hit by Brandon Crawford to score. In his second at bat in the fourth inning, he singled to right field, then scored all the way from first base on a double by Crawford, the second RBI of what would become a 6 RBI day for Crawford. Pence ended the day going 2 for 3 with a walk and three runs scored. His presence on the bench, enthusiasm on the field, and fearlessness on the base paths clearly motivates this team. The beauty of Pence is that he’s contagious. You simply can’t be around him and not feed off of his energy and confidence. “It’s just nice to have him back and have his energy in the dugout and on the field,” Crawford said. “To have him flying around the bases like that, it’s fun to watch.”
But Pence’s return was overshadowed by the Brandons – Belt and Crawford, who continued their torrid hitting. Brandon Belt went 3 for 5 with a HR (second in two nights), two RBIs, and two runs scored and Crawford also went 3 for 5 with a grand slam, double, six RBIs and two runs scored. Crawford continues to lead the team in RBIs with 24, and is tied with Buster Posey with six home runs. Crawford lifted his average to .277 and Belt is now at .306.
Other offensive contributors included Gregor Blanco who got the start in left field with the hot bat (9 for his last 18), going 2 for 5 with a home run (his first), RBI, and two runs scored, and Posey who went 2 for 4, with an RBI, and run scored. For the fifth consecutive game, the Giants scored first as the team seems to no longer be pressing at the plate, taking a more aggressive approach.
Ryan Vogelsong gave a gritty performance, going 5 ⅔ innings for the win, giving up six hits, four walks and two runs, while striking out two. Vogey threw 95 pitches, pitching out of trouble on several occasions, getting help from his defense to avoid the big inning.
Today’s series finale features Giants rookie pitcher Chris Heston (3-3, 2.91), coming off of his first complete game, a two-hit 8-1 win over the Astros. He’ll be opposed by Anthony DeSclafani (2-3, 2.79). A win will move the Giants record for the season to 20-18, and they’ll finish the road trip at 4-2, including a series win over the Reds.
Notes: Angel Pagan left the game in the sixth inning due to back spasms. With an off day Monday, he’ll be able to get a couple of days of rest and hopefully be ready in time for Tuesday’s three game series opener in San Francisco against the Dodgers.