Apparently the Giants’ commitment to Brandon Belt as a regular lasted all of three games.
He went 1-for-10 with five strikeouts and has been on the bench for each of the past four games, including this afternoon’s matchup against the Pirates despite right-hander James McDonald being on the mound.
In fact, three of the four benchings have come versus right-handed pitching, so it’s not as if manager Bruce Bochy is simply shielding the left-handed-hitting Belt from tough southpaws.
There’s been lots of talk–or rationalizing, depending on your point of view–about how the Giants want Belt to make some major adjustments at the plate and he’s been hesitant to do so, but ultimately he’s a 23-year-old top prospect who’s crushed the ball at every level of the minors and was hardly disastrous in his 63-game debut last season (his OPS was higher than Aubrey Huff’s, for instance).
Belt is a career .343 hitter in the minors and hit .378 this spring, yet Bochy is perfectly happy to keep him on the bench while playing Huff, Nate Schierholtz, and Brett Pill. Maybe the Giants are right and Belt won’t thrive in the majors unless he makes some key adjustments, but at some point he deserves a chance to show what he can do without worrying about an 0-for-4 game getting him benched for a week.
The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.
After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.
But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.
- They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
- They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
- They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
- They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.
The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.
Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.