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  • José Luis Villegas / jvillegas@sacbee.com

    Giants first baseman Brandon Belt watches his two-run homer in the first inning. It was the fifth home run of the season for Belt, who is batting .343.

  • José Luis Villegas / jvillegas@sacbee.com

    Giants left fielder Michael Morse hits a two-out double in the fifth inning in his regular-season home debut. Morse had two hits and two RBIs. He’s batting .391.

Giants continue road success in home opener

Published: Tuesday, Apr. 8, 2014 - 11:45 pm
Last Modified: Wednesday, Apr. 9, 2014 - 8:33 am

After they finished their seven-game opening trip leading the majors in home runs and top five in scoring, there was some suspicion the Giants’ early offensive surge would last about as long as the return trip to San Francisco and the expanses of AT&T Park.

For at least one sun-drenched Tuesday afternoon at Third and King, though, the early pattern held. Leadoff man Angel Pagan reached base three more times. Brandon Belt continued his season-opening tear with a two-run homer two batters into the first inning. Michael Morse added a two-run single – one of two by the Giants with two outs – in his regular-season debut before the Giants’ faithful.

And it was more than enough support for fellow newcomer Tim Hudson, who got the call for the home opener and threw eight strong innings before leaving to a standing ovation from a crowd of 42,166. Facing the Arizona Diamondbacks for the fifth time already this season, the Giants improved to 4-1 against their division rivals with a 7-3 win.

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The Giants jumped ahead 2-0 on Belt’s homer in the first and led 5-1 after three innings against Diamondbacks starter Trevor Cahill. Brandon Crawford’s two-run single in the fifth brought the Giants’ scoring total on the season to 47 runs – the most they’ve scored through their first eight games since 2003.

“This offense has more length to it,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “You put Morse in the lineup and it stretches it out even more to give you more power. We have a healthy Pagan, who’s doing a great job.

“Last year it was similar. We swung the bats very well early, and in the second half we had our struggles offensively. That’s what we want to stay away from, and the best way to (do that) is to stay away from the injuries.”

The prototype for that is Pagan, who has hit safely in all eight games and is batting .441. Tuesday, he fell behind 1-2 in his first at-bat before coming back to draw a leadoff walk from Cahill, who then threw a low sinker that Belt crushed over the high brick wall in right-center field.

It was the fifth homer of the season already for Belt, who became the first Giants player with five in the team’s first eight games since Jose Cruz Jr. in 2003. Belt, who is batting .343, didn’t hit his fifth homer of the season last year until May 14.

With the second-half adjustments he made last year – repositioning his hands and moving back in the batter’s box – Belt attributed his hot start to “in a word, balance. Just more balanced than I have been in the past. It’s helping me see the ball a little bit better and helping me get better contact.”

Pagan and Belt also kick-started the Giants’ third-inning rally with a double and single, respectively. After Pablo Sandoval flew out, Buster Posey drove in Pagan with a single to center, and two batters later Morse singled to right to score Belt and Hunter Pence.

With four more two-out RBIs on Tuesday, the Giants have scored 32 of their 47 runs with two outs. Collectively, they are batting .450 (18 for 40) with two outs and runners in scoring position. Last year, they hit .238 as a team in those situations.

Crawford, whose two-out, two-run hit in the fifth came after a Morse ground-rule double that Arizona left fielder Mark Trumbo appeared to lose in the sun, said the Giants’ approach in those situations was the subject of several hitters’ meetings during spring training.

“We’re just trying not to put too much pressure on ourselves,” Crawford said. “We know we have a good lineup.

“Last year, I think we had it where we wouldn’t be hitting, so we’d try and do too much. Like maybe we weren’t playing defense, so we’d try and do too much on defense. So I think there’s a little more sense of trust this year.”

Benefiting from the support was Hudson, who beat the Diamondbacks for the second time in a week and is 9-1 with a 2.01 ERA against Arizona for his career.

Twice the Diamondbacks put the first twobatters of an inning on against Hudson but came away with only one run. After Miguel Montero’s sacrifice fly in the fourth inning made the score 5-2, Hudson didn’t allow another runner past first until Tony Campana’s leadoff triple in the eighth.


Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. See his baseball coverage at sacbee.com/mlb. Follow him on Twitter at @matthewkawahara.

Read more articles by Matt Kawahara



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