If it felt chilly Tuesday night in San Francisco, it’s because Brandon Belt absorbed every bit of heat that was for the taking.
At this point, his bat may as well be lit aflame.
Belt had gotten on base in 11 straight plate appearances, which is about as ludicrous as it is helpful for the Giants. The first baseman’s hell of a few days is turning a season to forget into a season to remember, perhaps as much as for himself as for the Giants. Belt’s best day came on Joey Bart’s worst, and the good, by the thinnest of margins, outweighed the bad.
The second pitch Belt saw from Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning he crushed to right-center, his second homer of the game and the one that tied it in an eventual 10-8, 11-inning Giants victory at Oracle Park, their seventh straight as they continue to push Farhan Zaidi toward a trade deadline he surely did not plan on.
If Belt were Batman, Donovan Solano played Robin with a two-run homer in the last frame to end a game that wouldn’t.
Belt resuscitated a team that entered extra innings 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position, failing to turn little innings into big innings repeatedly. Belt did not need a runner to be on second or third to be clutch, going 4-for-5 with a walk, the two dingers and five RBIs. His reached-base-safely streak, which ended right before Solano’s homer, was the longest since Barry Bonds went 11 straight from June 23-27, 2006, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Giants’ (15-16) bullpen was nearly as impressive. Before the extra frames, the unit went a strong six scoreless innings, while Jarlin Garcia and Tyler Rogers — on an accidental, swinging-bunt single from Justin Turner — each allowed the extra runner on second to score in extra innings but allowed no further damage.
Before their work, the standouts included Sam Coonrod, who must be well-rested after a strained lat put him on the shelf and who was clocked at 101.4 mph in his eighth inning, in which he got AJ Pollock to fly out and struck out Joc Pederson on filthy heat.
Trevor Gott, too, gave himself new life in appeared for the first time in eight days. He struck out Kike Hernandez before walking Will Smith, then Mookie Betts flew out to end the sixth inning. Gott, whose blow-ups had cost him his ostensible closing job, got plenty of congrats in the dugout.
Bart, who struggled with his bat, pitchers and arm, watched the game temporarily sail away by making an errant throw to third that went over Evan Longoria, Justin Turner then racing home and scoring a go-ahead run in the 10th. It would not be the deciding one, but it would be painful one during the young catcher’s first poor game — and it was a doozy — of his very brief major league career.
Bart could not seem to get on the right page with the Giants’ staff all night, and a passed ball had Turner advancing with two outs in a frame Garcia was close to escaping. Instead, the go-ahead run scored. The Giants tied it in the bottom with an infield single by Mauricio Dubon, which got the Giants to the deciding 11th.
Johnny Cueto’s worst start of the year came at a poor time for the Giants. The Dodgers’ six runs off Cueto were split between the first and third innings, two long innings that both drained his pitch count and dug the Giants’ holes.
Max Muncy, though he didn’t quite reach the “ocean,” could have asked Cueto to retrieve his first-inning, three-run homer from the Arcade in right.
Belt’s bottom-of-the-first shot canceled out the scoring, though Cueto would again take out a shovel two innings later.
Eight Dodgers batted in the third, the second of whom, Corey Seager, homered for the go-ahead run. A Cueto wild pitch brought another run, while Joc Pederson’s double over the first-base bag added the sixth and deciding LA run. Cueto hadn’t gone just four innings since his first start — against these same Dodgers, when he was on a strict pitch count — and struggled in his first start since without Chadwick Tromp catching him.
He and Bart met on the mound twice, the two never seeming on the same page. It was Bart’s first tough game as a big leaguer, the top catching prospect going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, including 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position.
Belt’s best would be better than his worst, though.