New York Mets 5, San Francisco Giants 4: God intervenes on behalf of Brandon Belt and other wackiness
Giants fandom has been squealing all season about how Brandon Belt must be starting at first base for the Giants, even as the young first baseman has been hitting below the Mendoza Line and Aubrey Huff was having success at the plate.
But now Belt is hitting above the Mendoza Line … and Huff is not.
Belt is now hitting .238. Huff is hitting .182 after a 1-for-16 skid that included an 0-for-4 day reminiscent of the 2011 Huff (two infield pop ups and two ground balls to the right-side of the infield).
And as if that were not enough to compell manager Bruce Bochy to start Belt on Sunday, the Lord intervened on Saturday in New York.
With two on and two out in the top of the ninth and the Giants down 4-2, Bochy sent Belt to the plate as a pinch hitter.
After falling behind in the count, Belt hit what appeared to be a game-ending pop up to shortstop.
But as shortstop Ruben Tejada drifted out into the outfield, it looked as if maybe Belt’s hit could drop between Tejada and center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis.
Then as Nieuwenhuis came charging in, the ball inexplicably fell behind the Mets center fielder. In the scorebook, it was a two-run, game-tying double for Belt.
If that is not divine intervention, I don’t know what is.
But in the end, it didn’t matter much because the wackiness didn’t end there.
Bochy’s penchant for making move-upon-move — a strategy that paid off with a victory Friday night — ending up biting the Giants manager on Saturday.
First, in the top of the ninth, Bochy had his backup catcher, Hector Sanchez, hit for his shortstop Brandon Crawford to avoid having the lefty Crawford hit against the lefty Tim Byrdak. It was a risky move considering that the Giants’ lone backup infielder, Ryan Theriot, was still not available because of illness.
And the move didn’t pay off when Sanchez struck out.
Then Bochy had Brett Pill pinch-hit for the pitchers’ spot. Now, it’s worth noting that Pill actually had some experience playing second base last year at Triple-A Fresno and took some grounders at second prior to Saturday’s game.
But after Pill was announced as the hitter, the Mets brought in right-hander Jon Rauch. So Bochy then had Belt hit for Pill, taking Pill out of the game.
That move worked — because God decreed it to be so.
But in the bottom of the inning, it forced Bochy into a most unusal defensive alignment. Emmanuel Burriss went to shortstop, Belt went for first and Aubrey Huff went to second.
Yes, we said Aubrey Huff at second base.
Now, in 1,234 games in 13 major-league seasons, how many times, prior to Saturday, had Huff played second base?
Even in 339 minor-league games, he had never played second.
And it showed.
After a leadoff single, a sacrifice bunt and a walk put runners on first and second with one out, Mike Baxter hit, in normal defensive alignments, what should have been a custom-made double-play ball to shortstop. But in this defensive alignment, it should have at least produced a force out at second.
One problem, though. When Baxter hit the ball directly at Burriss at short, Huff broke toward first base. He actually broke toward first base.
By the time Huff realized he was playing SECOND BASE, Burriss had to adjust quickly and throw to first. But the throw to first was late and Baxter was safe (even though replays indicated he was out).
Now, we have the bases loaded and one out.
Nieuwenhuis followed by hitting a grounder to Belt, who threw to home to force out Scott Hairston.
And this is where Buster Posey, who made two great defensive plays to bail out the Giants in the eighth, made a bad decision.
Posey tried to throw back to Belt at first to double up the fast Nieuwenhuis. When Scott Hairston’s slide home clipped Posey in the foot (another questionable call by the umpire to allow that), Posey’s throw sailed into right field and the Mets won.
Tim Lincecum hopes to get things figure out when he faces Dillon Gee in 10:10 a.m. Sunday.