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Giants lose Brandon Belt amid another losing skid

© John Hefti | 2022 May 11

The Giants have lost four straight games for the second time in May. They’re now 2-6 against the Padres and Dodgers combined. Not even Alex Wood, the stopper, could fend off a three-game sweep at home to San Diego.

The team’s biggest life preserver has also fallen overboard, as Brandon Belt hit the injured list with right knee inflammation. The 34-year-old first baseman told reporters that he’s frustrated with his inability to stay on the field and find a rhythm, but optimistic that it won’t sideline him for the long-term.

“It’s just some inflammation and some fluid in there,” Belt said. “I think we were hoping to get it out a little bit quicker than it has. Instead of trying to rush it and get me back on the field as soon as possible, I think they just want to give it a few days.”

Belt can’t pinpoint the exact moment his knee started to bark. Maybe it was a late slide in St. Louis. Maybe it started to swell in the Colorado altitude.

The right knee that’s sore is the same one that Belt’s had surgery on twice. But this specific injury doesn’t appear nearly as serious. It’s much closer to the pain he’s experienced during this past spring training, he said.

On both Friday and Sunday, Belt got the fluid drained out of his knee. On Sunday, he received a cortisone shot. He was placed on the 10-day injured list — retroactive to May 19 — after testing things in the pregame batting cage and not feeling confident in how his knee responded.

Both manager Gabe Kapler and Belt are optimistic he can return when he’s eligible to come off the IL: next Sunday’s series finale in Cincinnati.

By then, Belt will have missed eight games. San Francisco’s best hitter has played in 26 of the club’s first 40 games. He’s hit .228, with all four of his home runs coming in April.

“I feel like I get out there for a week, then I’m out,” Belt said. “It’s been tough to get into a rhythm so far. That’s why I just want to get this taken care of, so I can stay out there for an extended period of time and get going.”

Belt also missed the end of last season with a thumb injury. 2019 was his only fully healthy season since his All-Star 2016 campaign. His impact, though, is undeniable. Since the start of 2020, his 154 wRC+ is tied for sixth-highest in MLB.

Without Belt, the Giants were outscored 20 to nine in their weekend sweep to the Padres. Belt said the team has played “flat” for the past week or so.

“They came in and kicked our asses,” Sunday’s starter Alex Wood said.

San Francisco lost four consecutive games just once during its historic 107-win campaign last year. The Giants prided themselves on staying even through the highs and lows of a long season, but already the lows from this year have been deeper. And they got deeper even further with the first-place Mets coming to town this week.

COVID-19 issues and injuries to key players have disrupted the Giants out of the gate. Despite them, and despite the poor May, the Giants would have the third and final National League wild card spot if the season ended today.

The season, in fact, doesn’t end today. The calendar was jimmied by this winter’s lockout, but the season still ends in October. And over the course of the season, the Giants believe things like injury luck and off-field inconveniences tend to even out. SF currently has Belt, LaMonte Wade Jr., Jake McGee, Anthony DeSclafani and Steven Duggar on the IL.

Getting Belt back as soon as possible, and keeping him on the field once he returns, could be a big wave that turns the tide in that department.

“I really do believe in our team,” Belt said. “I think we’ve got a great team. We’ve got a good offense, we’ve got a good staff. We should be winning a lot of ball games, like we were earlier on in the year. And I believe we’ll do that again. We’ve just had a little trouble getting everyone on the field at the same time. Healthy at the same time. That stuff can linger all season, but I just don’t anticipate that happening. And once we get everybody going, I think we’re going to be right there in the thick of it.”

 

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