Brandon Belt explains odd two-out, two-strike bunt in Giants loss
Belt explains odd two-out, two-strike bunt in Giants loss originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SAN FRANCISCO — Gabe Kapler talks often about doing things that make your opponent uncomfortable. Maybe the platoon matchups won’t always work or the decisions won't always pay off, but whenever possible, the Giants want to make the other dugout squirm. They do not want their opponents to feel good about a decision that's made in San Francisco's dugout.
Knowing that, the most interesting part of most interesting play in the Giants' 5-0 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday at Oracle Park was the reaction of the other team's starting pitcher.
After watching Brandon Belt bunt a two-strike pitch foul with two outs and two runners on in the seventh, Diamondback starter Zac Gallen smiled as he walked back to the dugout. He gave a little head nod, almost signaling, "Alright, I'll take it if that's what you want to do."
The decision by Belt was not what cost the Giants the game, not even close. They lost because Gallen was excellent and Logan Webb had a rare off day. Belt was far from alone in being frustrated at the plate. But the bunt attempt certainly stood out because of just how unusual it was.
Belt had already hit into a double play and struck out, and when he came up with the Giants trailing by five, he did not feel like his swing was in the best place or that he had his usual feel for the strike zone. That was confirmed when he watched a cutter go by a few inches off the plate only for it to be called a strike. Belt then checked his swing awkwardly on another cutter. He did not feel he had many moves left in his bag.
"He was really good today. He didn't miss a whole lot and I wasn't doing much with it," Belt said. "From my point of view I've been struggling a little bit. He was tough all day. He didn't have a whole lot of misses high and inside with his fastball. I took the best route that I thought would keep the inning going. I'm not saying I'm right about that, but that was the decision I made.
"I feel very comfortable bunting. I wanted to keep that inning going. I just didn't get it down. Unfortunately it didn't work out."
The attempt was not at all out of character for the Giants. They far and away lead the Majors with 25 bunt hits, and Kapler is especially fond of watching a player put down a perfect two-strike bunt when he feels it's his best option. Six weeks ago in Phoenix, Arizona's Josh Rojas was struggling and successfully put down a two-strike bunt that ignited a late rally and a Diamondbacks win. The next day, Kapler spoke glowingly of the self-awareness it showed.
Belt was in a similar spot when he walked up against Gallen. He had two hits in his last 29 at-bats and he's just 7-for-44 in August. He felt the bunt was his best way to reach base and extend the inning for J.D. Davis, who has been hot. Kapler approved.
"I trust Brandon completely," he said, before noting he trusts both Brandons completely. Crawford had earlier tried the same thing against Gallen and he also struck out on a foul ball.
Gallen told Diamondbacks reporters he was surprised. He knew he was having a good day, but nobody ever expects the No. 5 hitter to try and put one down with two on.
"It kind of caught me by surprise. It still caught me by surprise," he said. "I thought maybe we were giving them a hit over there and he was trying to take the hit, but then I thought about it, it's runners in scoring position. I will say the bunt strikeout is probably the easiest way to get a strikeout. It was odd. I'm still trying to process it."
Belt said that if he could go back, he would take more time. He feels like he rushed the attempt, and right now that seems to be a theme for the Giants.
They have been on their heels for weeks, and their five-game winning streak was followed by two rough losses with their co-aces on the mound. That dropped them back to .500 with 44 games to play, and they continue to search for answers.
It seems that every time they take a step forward, the step back comes quickly, and often the wounds are self-inflicted. Luis Gonzalez is back in the minors in part because of baserunning mistakes in huge spots. Mike Yastrzemski was picked off second after entering as a pinch-runner in the seventh inning Wednesday. Hardly a day goes by without a concerning inning or two from the bullpen.
That has left the Giants six games out of a playoff spot with games quickly coming off the calendar. They have been unable to consistently play the role of aggressor, and after failing to finish off the homestand in style, they now will play their next eight games on the road. It's another somewhat easy stretch on paper, but it starts with three games at Coors Field, where any mistake can kickstart a nightmare inning.
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As Belt packed up for the trip, he admitted that Thursday was not a very fun day at the plate. But he wants the team to continue to be optimistic.
"We're in a spot right now where we can't afford to give away games and we can't afford to give away series," Belt said. "We've got to make an adjustment and the games you saw us win -- the five in a row -- that's what we're capable of doing. We're capable of doing more than that.
"I still have all the confidence in the world in this team. We've won games with not everybody hitting on all cylinders. I think we can get that going and we can really do some damage."
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