04/18/2013 1:16 PM ET
Bochy hoping moving Belt down eases pressure
By JR Radcliffe / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Tuesday had the potential to serve as a breakthrough for Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, who notched three hits, a stolen base and two RBIs. But Belt struggled again the following night, going 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts and a flyout with the go-ahead run on third base. On Thursday, he was slotted seventh in the batting order, his lowest position this season.
With Buster Posey given a day of rest by Giants manager Bruce Bochy, Brandon Crawford -- batting outside of the eighth spot for just the second time this year -- was elevated to the fifth spot in the order behind cleanup batter Hunter Pence.
Belt's batting average improved from .254 in the first half last season to .293 in the second half, with an improvement in on-base percentage and OPS. He batted .410 with eight homers in Spring Training, but has started the regular-season slowly after a stomach virus limited his action early.
"We'll see how he swings [Wednesday], but I may keep him there for a little while until he gets more comfortable at the plate," Bochy said. "I know guys get hot and cold, that's going to happen. Brandon's really made some nice strides from last year and this spring with the bat. I think in the early go here, he's thrown up some good at bats. I'm liking where he's at today.
"Sure, you're hoping going down there will take a little pressure off him."
Bochy said he did toy with the idea of starting Posey at first base, but he elected to give his full-time catcher the breather, with Hector Sanchez getting his fourth start of the year and first in a game receiving a starting pitcher other than Tim Lincecum. Second baseman Marco Scutaro was also given the day off for the 10:10 PDT start, with hot-hitting Nick Noonan batting sixth and playing second base.
Crawford came into the game deserving of the upgrade in the lineup. He's hit safely in a career-best 10 games, batting .394 in that span and reaching safely in the last 13 contests. Crawford's 10-game hitting streak matched the run by teammate Pablo Sandoval and Pittsburgh outfielder Starling Marte for best active string in baseball.
"I like where he's at, the way he's swinging the bat and getting on base," Bochy said. "He shortens up really well now [with two strikes]; his swing is more compact. He uses the whole field well."
After an identical front eight for the Tuesday and Wednesday lineups in Milwaukee, Bochy gave Noonan his second career start. Noonan, who delivered another hit Tuesday and has now gone 7 for 13 in his first eight big league games, started for the first time April 11 and went 3 for 5 in Chicago.
Among position players who have spent the entire season on the active roster, Giants backup catcher Guillermo Quiroz and fellow backup catcher Tony Cruz (St. Louis) have seen the fewest trips to the dish, with two plate appearances and one official at-bat heading into Thursday. Both have appeared in two games.
"That's kind of his role right now," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I try to find spots to get him in there. I will say in the little bit he's played, he's had a couple good at-bats."
Posey feeling good, waiting for results
MILWAUKEE -- Miller Park figured to be a haven for Giants catcher Buster Posey. Coming into the series with the Brewers, Posey had gone 12-for-24 (.500) with eight runs scored, a double, six home runs and 15 RBIs in his seven games at Milwaukee's home stadium. He added another double Tuesday in four trips to the plate.
But after finishing 0-for-4 on Wednesday, that represented one of only two hits in the first six games (five starts) of the current road trip for the reigning National League Most Valuable Player. His 2013 batting average tumbled to .213 and his OPS to .634. Manager Bruce Bochy gave Posey the day off Thursday.
Posey batted .336 with a .957 OPS last season, helping the Giants to the World Series one year after sustaining a leg injury that abbreviated his 2011 campaign.
"I felt as good as I've felt at the plate," Posey said after his team's 4-3 loss Wednesday. "Obviously the frustrating one for me was the bases loaded, but with Hunter picking me up, it's a little easier to swallow. It's a matter of keep on grinding and keep working."
Posey was referring to a strikeout on four pitches in the sixth with the bases loaded and one out in a game the Giants trailed by two runs. Hunter Pence followed with a slow roller up the middle that tied the game against Brewers starter Kyle Lohse.
Posey did hit into some bad luck, smoking a shot back up the box that deflected off Lohse to shortstop Jean Segura, who rifled to first in time.
"You've got to take away whatever I can that's positive; I've felt pretty good at the plate these two days," Posey said. "The first two at-bats, I was happy with those, and then the one I struck out on, I don't feel like I wasn't on time in that at-bat, it's just a matter of not squaring the ball up."
Posey's six home runs were the most in any opposing stadium, and he's looking for his first blast in any park this year. Posey said he hasn't been pressing.
"That's what I've been pleased with the past two games here, is I feel like I've swung at strikes for the most part," Posey said.
The Giants have grounded into 16 double plays through 15 games, the most in the big leagues. Posey had hit into three.
JR Radcliffe is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.