07/08/12 2:04 PM ET
Giants looking for Belt to bust out of slump
By Mark Emery / MLB.com
His manager addressed his problems before Sunday's series finale in Pittsburgh, saying he thinks the issue has more to do with Belt than opposing pitchers.
"He's out of sync up there at the plate with his timing," Bruce Bochy said. "His confidence is shaken a little bit. Those are tough at-bats he had [Saturday]. You could tell he wasn't seeing the ball very well.
"He's not one that usually chases pitches very often, and he was going out of the zone more than we're accustomed to. We'd like to get him back to being a little more patient and taking his walks."
Belt came into Sunday with a .255 average, four home runs and 30 RBIs. He's off to a slow start in June, however, hitting .235 (4-for-17) with eight strikeouts already in the month.
Bochy expressed confidence in Belt, though, saying he doesn't expect his role to change much for the second half.
"We're in a pretty good position right now," Bochy said. "I think as we open up the second half, you'll pretty much see the same lineups you've seen."
Bochy pleased with first half, expects more
PITTSBURGH -- As the Giants prepared for their last game before the All-Star break, manager Bruce Bochy had one eye focused on the second half of the season while the other remained reminiscent of the first.
Speaking before Sunday's series finale at PNC Park, Bochy talked about improvements he'd like to see in the Giants' offense and mentioned a few first-half surprises that have been good for his ballclub.
"I think we have to do a little better job against the right-handers," Bochy said. "We have some guys that have had a lot of success against right-handed pitching. I think that's got to pick up."
The manager added: "I think our at-bats with runners in scoring position, you know, we're going to have to get a little better there, both with less than two outs and the two-out hits. We're near the bottom on those two. We'll need to improve in those areas."
Entering Sunday's rubber match against the Pirates, the Giants have hit .224 with runners in scoring position, 28th in baseball. With runners in scoring position and two outs, San Francisco is hitting .184, second to last in the Majors. Over the last 11 games, the Giants' RISP average is .202 (21-for-104).
"I think we have the talent here," Bochy said. "If you look at what we're hitting, the guys we're getting on base, the opportunities we're creating, we should be able to score four-plus runs a game."
Bochy has been worried about fatigue lately, especially during the club's recent road trip, which saw high temperatures in Washington and Pittsburgh.
"As we get into the second half, we'll have to make sure we keep some guys rested that need it," Bochy said.
All of this notwithstanding, the manager is pleased with the way the first half has gone. His club came into Sunday trailing Los Angeles by just a half-game in the National League West. With a Giants win and a Dodgers loss, San Francisco would enter the All-Star break leading the division.
They've been helped along the way by All-Star Buster Posey, whose effectiveness and stability was a concern coming out of Spring Training, considering the devastating leg injury that ended his 2011 season after just 45 games.
"He's held up well. That's been nice," Bochy said about his catcher, who in 76 games this year has hit .288 with 10 homers and 43 RBIs.
In addition to Posey, Bochy mentioned Gregor Blanco and Melky Cabrera as guys who have exceeded his expectations. Blanco made the club out of Spring Training and has been a steady outfielder with a .255 average. Cabrera, of course, is an NL All-Star starter who entered Sunday ranked second in baseball with a .353 average.
Bochy said the Giants knew Cabrera could hit the baseball, but "seeing him day in and day out, you get a chance to see how good this guy is," the manager said. "He's even better than we thought."
"We'll take where we're at right now," Bochy said. "This is what you play for, to be right in the thick of things at this point, and we are."
Entering Sunday, the Giants had played 31 one-run games this season, putting together an 18-13 record in such contests. Pittsburgh's 34 one-run games were the most in baseball. The Pirates are 19-15 in games decided by one run.
Cabrera's .353 average entering Sunday ranked second in baseball, trailing only the .359 mark by Pirates All-Star Andrew McCutchen. If Cabrera could overtake McCutchen in Sunday's head-to-head showdown, he would become the first San Francisco player to lead the National League in batting average at the All-Star break since Barry Bonds hit .365 over the first half of the 2004 season.
If Matt Cain is named the NL starter for the 83rd All-Star Game, it would be the seventh time a Giants pitcher has received the honor. The most recent San Francisco hurler to start the game was Tim Lincecum, who did it in 2009. Jason Schmidt (2003), Rick Reuschel (1989), Vida Blue (1978) and Juan Marichal (1967, 1965) have also done it.
Lincecum entered Sunday's start against the Pirates having gone 1-5 on the road this year, compiling an 8.45 ERA away from AT&T Park. The righty had lost his last four road decisions and hadn't earned a victory in an away game since April 23.
Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.