Gregor Blanco stepped in with two on and two outs in the second inning and yanked the first pitch he saw from New York Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler down the first-base line – just foul. Umpire Marty Foster signaled the call as Blanco, sprinting out of the box, put both hands on his helmet and turned resignedly back to retrieve his bat.
Four pitches later, Blanco pulled another line drive to right – and this time left no doubt by keeping it well inside the line as both Tyler Colvin and Brandon Crawford scored to give the Giants a 3-2 lead. Blanco, meanwhile, sprinted around second base trying for a triple, but was thrown out at third to end the inning.
“I guess the coffee this morning just made me want to go to third,” Blanco said later with a smile. “I should’ve just stayed at second. But the job was done, so it was good.”
The Giants did not trail again in their 6-4 win over the Mets on Sunday, finishing a three-game sweep at AT&T Park. They remain the team with baseball’s best record, having won two-thirds of their first 63 games, during which a major theme has been offensive contributions from throughout the lineup and bench.
Sunday, Blanco’s job was to stand in for Angel Pagan, with the regular center fielder and leadoff man getting a day off to rest a sore leg. Blanco answered with a season-high three RBIs, adding a seventh-inning single to score Ehire Adrianza, in his first start in a week.
“He’s really picked up his play,” manager Bruce Bochy said of Blanco. “He’s done a great job of just picking the club up when Angel needs a break. … He’s been swinging the bat much better.”
On May 11, Blanco was batting .100, struggling in inconsistent playing time. The latter hasn’t changed much – Brandon Belt’s injury and Michael Morse’s move to first has opened up some starts in left field that Blanco has mostly split with Tyler Colvin – but Blanco’s production at the plate has. After Sunday, his batting average is up to .253, and in the past five games he’s started he is 9 for 20 with seven of his 13 RBIs on the year.
“At the beginning of the year, I didn’t know what was going to be my role exactly, and I was trying to do too much, I guess, to play every day, or to impress I don’t know who,” Blanco said. “I don’t need to impress anybody. I think I just need to play my game and the things I’m doing right now are just because of that.”
Blanco said that meant taking a simpler hitting approach of “just trying to put the ball in play,” while keeping himself sharp between starts with focused batting-practice sessions. He said he has been treating BP sessions like a series of at-bats and emphasizing hitting low line drives and ground balls.
“It’s getting better every time,” Blanco said. “I think my last BP, I hit only one fly ball and the others line drives and ground balls. So stuff like that I think is going to help me and it shows in the game.”
Blanco’s double in the second gave starter Tim Lincecum his first lead after Lincecum had allowed two runs in the first inning on a homer by Curtis Granderson, who surprised Lincecum by jumping on a 3-0 fastball. The Giants added a run in the third inning when Morse hit into a double play with men on first and third, and in the eighth as Crawford doubled and scored on a single by Brandon Hicks.
Crawford had driven in the Giants’ first run in the second inning with a single, giving him 32 RBIs– second-most on the team behind Morse’s 42. Blanco’s day underscored the point Bochy made when asked after the game about the main difference between this year’s Giants team and last year’s, which finished 10 games under .500.
“I think the biggest difference is we have more depth this year,” Bochy said. “The club is getting contributions from everybody, where last year it seemed like you got through the heart of the order, then you had to wait for them to come back around. You look at the back end of our order, they’ve done a great job. … They’re all doing something to help.”
With their depth and power – the Giants have hit 69 homers after totaling 107 in 2013 – Bochy said this year’s Giants are somewhat reminiscent of the 2010 team that brought San Francisco its first World Series title. Lincecum, a member of both championship teams the past four seasons, was asked if he could remember the Giants playing this well during the regular season during his tenure.
“I can’t really think of a time we were as good as we are now,” said Lincecum, who won his fifth decision bouncing back from his worst start of the year in Cincinnati.
“But we’re going to ride it out, ride the wave, and just keep producing. Everybody’s got everybody’s back, and we’re all pulling on the same string, which is what you want. It’s fun to be a part of.”