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April 23, 2013
Comebacks keep coming, Belt comes through in 5-4 Giants win

SAN FRANCISCO -- Does this feel familiar? If the unofficial motto of last year's Giants was "never say die," it seems they've picked up right where they left off in October. Six of the Giants' 13 wins this season have been comeback victories, with the latest a 5-4 win over the Diamondbacks on Monday night in which Ryan Vogelsong battled himself to last seven innings, Buster Posey further validated everybody's lack of concern over his early numbers and Brandon Belt came through with the game-winning hit hours after a crash hitting course with the manager.

After waiting until the 19th game of the season to hit his first home run since last October, Posey wasted little time hitting his second -- a two-run shot in the eighth inning Monday to straightaway center off David Hernandez that tied the game at 4-4. In the ninth, Belt, who started on the bench for the second consecutive game and entered in the top of the inning as a defensive replacement, came up with Andres Torres on second base and one out and lined a 1-1 fastball into left-center field for the game-winning single.

"There's no quit in this team, I can tell you that," Vogelsong said. "We fight to the last out. It's pretty fun to watch. There's a lot of confidence in this team."

The Giants had trailed in the game 2-0 after a half-inning and 4-2 after the sixth, when Eric Chavez hit the second of two solo home runs off Vogelsong -- pitcher Wade Miley had the other -- to give the Diamondbacks a two-run lead. The Giants wasted lead-off singles in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings before breaking through in the eighth.

"They do a great job of not giving in or giving up, whatever you want to say, in a game where you get behind and you keep fighting," Bochy said. "They do a great job of it. I think it's something that does take time with some clubs, but this one certainly has shown it in the past year and this year."

Belt came up in the ninth 2-for-12 on the season against left-handed pitchers with six strikeouts. He was facing a lefty in the Diamondbacks' Tony Sipp, whom he had never seen in a regular-season game. Belt yanked an off-speed pitch foul to start the at-bat, let go a slider in the dirt, then lined the 1-1 pitch over the head of shortstop Didi Gregorius.

"I don't think there's ever a time where we feel like we're out of a game, and I think that's what makes this team so special," Belt said. "I'm not sure if it was from what happened last year -- I suppose it is, but there's just something about this team. We know we have a chance to come back at all times."

* For Belt, it was his first major-league walk-off hit. He said his last came in Double-A. He tossed his helmet away after rounding first base and before his teammates met him halfway to second.

"I'm pretty light-headed and my kidneys hurt right now," Belt said later. "Somebody got me."

Before the game, Belt had an early hitting session under the watchful eye of Bochy and coaches, in which Bochy said they worked on Belt quieting his body and trusting his hands at the plate. Belt was 11-for-60 (.183) before his ninth-inning at-bat.

"I think when you get to this point, you feel like you've heard a lot of things," Belt said. "Sometimes you forget, and it's nice to have another set of eyes kind of tell you what they're seeing. It kind of reminds you what you need to do and what direction you need to take, and I think that's what happened."

Belt didn't say exactly what was pointed out to him, but said when he came up against Sipp, "I know I felt better. I know I saw the ball better, so I think that's the main thing." Belt said he went up looking for a fastball, which he got on the third pitch after the two sliders.

"That was a nice at-bat," Posey said. "He was a little bit out in front on that first pitch he fouled off. It was like he stepped back a little bit. He took another slider down and then stayed on that last one there, and that was big."

Bochy said he was happy for Belt, who he acknowledged may have been pressing due to the slow start. He didn't give an answer when asked if Belt will be in the lineup tomorrow against another left-hander, Patrick Corbin.

Asked if he felt he needed a hit like this, Belt said: "I don't think I needed it. There's a ton of season left. I've been through some scuffs before and I've come out better on the other side. I know it's going to happen again, it's just a matter of time.

"So I'm not sure I needed that. But it was nice."

* A day before, it was Posey getting asked if he felt relief hitting his first home run all year, including spring training. That seems like a while ago.

Along with the home run off Hernandez on Monday, Posey hit an RBI double that one-hopped the wall in right-center in the first inning and almost had another extra-base hit in the sixth, when he was robbed by former teammate Cody Ross on a diving catch in the right-field corner.

"Like I told (reporters) in Milwaukee, I started feeling good there and felt like I've had a pretty good approach," Posey said. "It's just a matter of keeping that up, getting good pitches to hit and getting the barrel on it."

Against Hernandez, he barreled up a 2-1 fastball over the outer part of the plate and hit it to dead center field, where it cleared the wall by a few feet. Posey said when he hit it he was "50-50" on whether the ball would carry out. Bochy said he "thought it had a good chance." Vogelsong wasn't so sure.

"The first four innings the wind was pretty much blowing straight out," Vogelsong said. "(Later) I looked at the flags and they had kind of shifted and started going straight across to right field. When he hit it I thought it might get knocked down. But he's some kind of special."

It wasn't a completely painless night for Posey, who had a pitch from Vogelsong bounce in the dirt and catch him under the mask. He said it caught him more in the neck than the throat, where he was hit by a pitch last year that "was definitely worse than this one."

* Vogelsong, on a night where he was "in and out command-wise," rebounded from a rocky first inning to throw seven innings for the second consecutive start. Overall, he said, "My stuff was pretty good."

After the two-run first, Vogelsong retired 11 of 12 hitters and didn't allow another hit until the fifth. That was the solo home run by Miley, a career .146 hitter before Monday with two extra-base hits in 82 at-bats.

"Obviously that wasn't the best pitch," Vogelsong said. "At 2-0, just a challenge and pretty much threw it right in his bat path."

Vogelsong wasn't as unhappy about the breaking ball that Chavez hit out an inning later. He came back out for the seventh despite being at 99 pitches already and ended up with the no-decision.

"I think he's probably the unsung hero in this game," Posey said. "I know he felt like he was fighting himself a little bit the whole game, but to give us seven innings was great."

* Sergio Romo got the win by throwing one pitch -- he came in with two outs in the top of the ninth and got pinch hitter Eric Hinske to ground out to Marco Scutaro. Before the at-bat, the TV broadcast showed replays of Game 3 of the 2010 NLDS, when Hinkse, then with the Atlanta Braves, hit a home run off Romo in the eighth inning of a 1-0 game to give the Braves a 2-1 lead.

The Giants, of course, scored twice in the ninth -- thanks in part to Brooks Conrad -- and advanced to the NLCS, where Ross got the chance to be a hero. On Monday, in his return to AT&T Park, Ross did just about everything he could to get the Diamondbacks a win, driving in two runs with a first-inning single and robbing Posey, and drew some scattered boos before his final at-bat as a result.

* Pablo Sandoval drove in a run with a double in the first inning and now has 18 on the season, good for fourth in the National League. It's the most RBIs he's had in a month since July 2011, when he drove in 20. The Giants still have seven games to go in April.

-- Matt Kawahara

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About Bay Area Baseball

Matt KawaharaMatt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee’s sports staff in fall 2011.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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