Giants’ Brandon Belt homers twice in first game back

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The Giants’ handling of Brandon Belt this season has been frustrating and confusing. He hasn’t produced, but that’s mostly because the San Francisco front office hasn’t given him an opportunity to produce.

(Belt entered play Sunday with only 90 major league plate appearances to his name).

If the talented 23-year-old is going to earn a more active role, he’ll have to make serious noise in the inconsistent spurts of playing time that he gets.

And that’s exactly what the kid did in Sunday afternoon’s 5-2 victory over the Marlins.

In his first game since returning to the majors, Belt crushed his third and fourth home runs of the season — both solo shots. He’s still batting just .232/.330/.415 and the Giants still seem to prefer Aubrey Huff at first base, but the tide can always change. Belt does have the ability to play in a corner outfield spot.

A native of Nacogdoches, Texas, Belt posted a .352/.455/.620 batting line, 23 home runs and 112 RBI in 136 games between Single-A San Jose, Double-A Richmond and Triple-A Fresno last season. He was rated the 23rd most-promising minor league player in the sport this past winter by Baseball America.

Braves clinch NL East title

Ender Inciarte
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So much for a last-minute, nail-biting finish to this division race. The Braves cemented their division title with a dominant 5-3 finish over the Phillies on Saturday, laying claim to the NL East title for the first time since 2013.

The Braves asserted themselves right off the bat after amassing a four-run lead from Johan Camargo and Freddie Freeman, both of whom cleared the bases with two-run singles in the first two innings. Ronald Acuna Jr., meanwhile, found another way to make his presence known after swiping his 15th stolen base of the year and joining Alex Rodriguez, Orlando Cepeda, and Mike Trout as one of the youngest players to collect at least 25 home runs and 15 stolen bags in major league history.

Not to be outdone, Atlanta right-hander Mike Foltynewicz delivered one of the strongest starts of his season to date. The righty set down six innings of no-hit ball against the Phillies, and, with just 62 pitches under his belt, looked ready to go the distance before he lost his bid on Odubel Herrera‘s leadoff single in the seventh.

Unfortunately for the Braves, the Phillies not only upended Foltynewicz’s no-hit attempt, but the shutout as well. In the eighth inning, Cesar Hernandez and Rhys Hoskins wrestled two RBI singles from Atlanta’s bullpen and brought Philadelphia within one run of tying the game. Hoskins was the last Phillies batter to reach base, however, as Jonny Venters and Arodys Vizcaino tossed a combined 1 2/3 scoreless innings (backed by a final RBI hit from Kurt Suzuki in the bottom of the eighth) to cap the Braves’ win — and the NL East title.

With the loss, the Phillies sit seven games back of a wild card spot in the National League. They’ll need to outpace the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Cardinals in order to make 2018 their first postseason-qualifying year since 2011.