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LAD@SF: Belt belts a go-ahead two-run double

SAN FRANCISCO -- The big-time hitter the Giants have been craving showed up Tuesday night at AT&T Park.

It wasn't Carlos Beltran, who remained with the New York Mets. It wasn't Willie McCovey or Will Clark, who were both on the premises but finished terrorizing opponents decades ago.

No, the impact hitter who helped the Giants subdue the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-3, didn't arrive by trade or the wayback machine. It was somebody who was expected all along to bolster San Francisco's offense this year: Brandon Belt.

Belt celebrated his return to the Major Leagues by homering and driving in three runs, including two with a bases-loaded, tiebreaking double in seventh inning.

Whether Belt can come close to sustaining this production remains to be seen. The 23-year-old rookie, San Francisco's most prized position-player prospect, hit only .211 in his previous two tours of duty with the Giants.

But the Giants insist that Belt has gained the self-assurance he needs to cope with the challenges of the Majors. Manager Bruce Bochy said that Belt proved this not with anything he did between the foul lines, but with his good-natured response to teasing about his final game for Triple-A Fresno before being recalled. Belt struck out four times, yet the Giants recalled him to fill in for first baseman Aubrey Huff, who's enduring back woes.

Belt's inglorious farewell appearance with Fresno prompted Clark, making one of his periodic visits as a special assistant, and even Bochy to insist that he surely was the only player in history to receive a big league promotion after such a dismal performance.

"He was laughing about it," Bochy said. "That's the sign of some confidence."

Said Belt, "I think normally it definitely would do a lot of damage to my confidence. But I've been feeling good the past couple of weeks. I tried to make sure it didn't get my confidence down too much. I wanted to come out here, be aggressive and take my hacks."

That he did. Dodgers starter Rubby De La Rosa wowed all witnesses at the outset by reaching 100 mph with his fastball and flinging wicked-looking breaking pitches at 90 mph. But Belt proved that De La Rosa was vulnerable by driving a 91-mph delivery onto the right-field arcade to lead off the second inning. It was Belt's second homer as a Giant -- both against Los Angeles.

Belt generated more excitement -- and offense -- with the score deadlocked, 3-3, in the seventh inning.

Andres Torres, batting only .103 (3-for-28) off left-handers, drilled a leadoff double against Dodgers southpaw Hong-Chih Kuo. Torres advanced to third on Mike Fontenot's sacrifice bunt and waited there as Pablo Sandoval drew an intentional walk and was replaced by pinch-runner Emmanuel Burriss, who stole second base while drawing a pickoff throw. In the vast majority of such situations, runners trapped in that fashion would be thrown out. But Burriss reached second base safely with a headfirst slide underneath first baseman James Loney's high relay.

"That's an out we can get," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "It's not quite a catch-and-throw with a tie game, a runner at third, and James has got to peek. It's still a big out we don't get."

That prompted a two-out intentional walk to Cody Ross that loaded the bases but set up a potential force play at all of them. Belt defied the lefty-versus-lefty percentages by lining Kuo's first pitch inside the left-field line to score Torres and Burriss.

Bochy said that he had faith in Belt's ability to produce.

"Brandon gives you a good at-bat. He has discipline up there and, more than likely, he's going to put the ball in play," Bochy said. "The thing I liked about him, he was aggressive. That's always a good sign for a young kid. Sometimes they're a little tentative, but he wasn't."

That made a winner of Madison Bumgarner (5-9), who lasted eight innings and surrendered three runs and four hits -- all in the third inning. Receiving more than three runs of support for the first time in a home game, Bumgarner retired the final 16 batters he faced.

Bumgarner believed that the pitches he threw in the third inning were just as good as the pitches he threw in the other seven innings, which all were perfect.

"I felt just as strong at the end as I did early on, which was nice," he said.

The Giants lengthened their National League West lead over second-place Arizona to 4 1/2 games and extended their winning streak against Los Angeles to six games, their longest since July 19-Sept. 26, 1969.

The only unwelcome development for the Giants was the discomfort that Sandoval felt in his right quadriceps muscle, which forced the third baseman's departure in the seventh inning. Sandoval aggravated his quad in the fifth inning while sliding into second base but stayed in the game long enough to make a nice diving stop of Aaron Miles' sharp grounder leading off the seventh. Sandoval also contributed his 16th RBI of the month with a fifth-inning single that erased Los Angeles' 3-2 lead. Comments