Brandon Belt could be the spark the Giants need.
Everyone knows the San Francisco Giants have been struggling for offensive support while ranking dead last in the National League with just 416 runs scored as of Sunday. Their pitching has been solid, but the Jonathan Sanchez/Barry Zito debacle has only added to the offensive woes.
After beating the Florida Marlins on Sunday and winning the first series out of their last five, the Giants look like they could be getting hot. Over the last two games, Cody Ross has found a better swing and he broke the Giants' Major League record streak of 21 consecutive solo home runs with a two run shot. If he can provide some consistent pop at the top of the order, it will be a much appreciated spark plug that the offense needs with Andres Torres on the DL.
Nate Schierholtz seems to have fully recovered from his hip injury after hitting in the cleanup spot on Sunday. First, he crushed a ball that barely missed the foul pole then later he straightened one out for a solo homer to right.
Brandon Belt out did them both after homering twice—including a very impressive opposite field shot. Many have been calling for Belt to get more starts, but Bruce Bochy has made it clear that he wants to stick with his veteran, Aubrey Huff, who got Sunday off while Belt played first base. This means Belt will have to force himself into the lineup with his play and if he continues to hit like he did on Sunday, he should have no trouble with that.
Bochy called the decision to start Belt on Monday in Atlanta a "no-brainer." However, the probability of Belt hitting two home runs every game is pretty low. Will Bochy drop him out of the lineup the first time he goes 0-4 or let him ride it out for a little while?
Here is one possible solution to the whole Belt/Huff dilemma where the fans, the manager and hopefully the team can all win. Playing Belt and Huff at the same time would allow Bochy to stick by his veteran and it would give Belt a chance to prove himself.
So how can it work with them both in the lineup nearly every day? Keep Huff at first and play Belt in left. Belt is known for his defense at first, but Huff looked bad several times in the outfield earlier this year. Plus, Belt has decent speed to cover ground in left.
With Belt in left and Ross essentially taking over in center field for the injured Torres, that leaves right field for Schierholtz. This makes up for Carlos Beltran, who has missed the last six games due to a hand injury and is possibly headed for the DL. If Ross, Belt or Schierholtz gets hot then it could be enough to carry the offense while Beltran takes time off to fully heal.
Being in the lineup with Belt could be exactly what it takes for Huff to get going. Healthy competition is a great thing for a team. A confident rookie might be the best motivator for a struggling veteran. Plus, this way they could better compare their stats due to them facing the same pitchers the same amount of times.
Another interesting possibility is putting them back-to-back in the order. Placing Belt in front of Huff would probably result in the rookie seeing some good pitches. If that doesn't work, they could easily be flipped. Belt seems to be the more confident hitter lately, so perhaps Huff would see better pitches hitting in front of him.
There is a reason why managers like Bruce Bochy are so well respected. He has to make tough decisions every day, yet he almost always makes the right one. He guided his team to a World Series victory last year and he has done an amazing job of holding his team together this year after the pivotal losses of Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez.
With a smart manager, a great pitching staff and a lineup that could be heating up the Giants could be set for a strong finish to the 2011 season. Whether it's Belt, Huff or another player who ends up being a key figure, it sure will be interesting to see if they can pull off another run like last year.