SAN FRANCISCO -- Toward the end of the Giants’ last homestand, Matt Duffy said, catcher Buster Posey sat down with him and asked a straightforward question:
"Are you trying to do too much?"
With Hunter Pence still out at that point and Nori Aoki’s recently fractured fibula causing the Giants to rework their lineup, Duffy had begun getting starts in the No. 3 lineup spot. It was a big responsibility for a rookie, and Duffy acknowledges that when Posey asked whether he might be putting more pressure on himself to perform, Duffy had to say yes.
"He said, ‘Don’t try to do anything special. They put you there because of what they think you can do based on what you’ve already done, so you don’t have to do anything different,’" Duffy said. "And that really helped just kind of put me at a more relaxed state at the plate."
The past two nights, a more relaxed Duffy has caused all kinds of havoc for Philadelphia Phillies pitching. After setting a career high with four hits Friday night, Duffy had three more hits in the Giants’ 8-5 win over the Phillies on Saturday, including the two-run, go-ahead triple in a five-run sixth inning that keyed the Giants’ comeback.
The Giants entered their half of the sixth down 4-1 after the Phillies homered twice off of Ryan Vogelsong in the top of the inning. But with two outs, Angel Pagan laced a two-run double down the right-field line against Phillies reliever Luis Garcia, and after Joe Panik drew a walk, Duffy drove a 97 mph fastball into the gap in right-center field for his third and fourth RBIs of the series. Duffy then scored on a Posey single to give the Giants the lead for good.
After his 3-for-5 night, Duffy is batting .298 on the season with eight home runs and 41 RBIs. The only National League third baseman with a higher average is Washington’s Yunel Escobar (.315), and Duffy is one of five third baseman with at least 40 RBIs. The others: Nolan Arenado, Todd Frazier, Kris Bryant, Matt Carpenter.
"He’s certainly playing great ball," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "What a big hit he got tonight. I mean the first five innings, we just couldn’t get a hit to drive in a run. Then Angel, he really lifted us, then a big walk by Panik and Duffy came through. Good come-back, great comeback."
Is it too late to sneak Duffy into the All-Star Game?
"I don’t know," Bochy, the National League manager, said with a grin. "Is it?"
Regardless of that, the Giants are thrilled with the play they’re getting right now from the rookie, both with the bat and the glove. Duffy played another clean game Saturday night at third base, a position he hardly knew prior to this season, but where Bochy said before Friday’s game Duffy has made "tons of progress."
"If you’re going to say anything about Duffy, he’s a gamer, he’s a ballplayer," Vogelsong said Saturday night. "He’s taken huge strides over the year defensively and you know one thing: When he goes up there, he’s going to give you a good at-bat."
Duffy said his at-bats have been better recently, since he took Posey’s pep talk to heart.
"At first I was kind of maybe putting a little too much pressure on myself (batting third), but I think I’ve settled in a little bit, started to relax and gotten back to my approach," he said. "Just staying to the middle of the field, and trying to hit the ball low."
That may be where Duffy is aiming. His stock is taking the opposite trajectory.
* The Giants’ sixth-inning rally took Vogelsong off the hook for a loss, but afterward the right-hander had a positive take on his outing. Vogelsong allowed just three hits over the first five innings before giving up a solo home run to Ryan Howard and a two-run homer to Cody Asche in the sixth.
"That’s as good as I’ve thrown the ball all year," Vogelsong said. "Really, stuff-wise I had everything going, and the ball was moving good. I looked at those (home run) pitches and they weren’t altogether that bad, just a case where they ran into a couple. If I throw the ball the way I did tonight the rest of the year, I think the results will be different and I’ll be pretty happy."
Bochy took Vogelsong out after Asche’s home run and brought in Josh Osich, who faced one batter, Domonic Brown, and retired him on a groundout. When the Giants took back the lead in the bottom of the inning and held on, it gave Osich his first major-league win.
"That’s a vulture job, we call it, where you snake a win there," Bochy joked. "But he’s been throwing well, he’s really done a good job since he’s come up here. His stuff, it’s obvious you have to like it."
In five outings since being called up from Triple-A, the left-hander Osich has thrown four innings and not allowed a hit.
* The Giants, meanwhile, have broken out in two games against the hapless Phillies. In two games, they’ve totaled 23 runs on 37 hits. Bochy said he believes getting a day off Thursday helped the Giants’ hitters "catch their breat."
"It looked like that off-day really served them well," Bochy said. "I’m seeing different swings, different at-bats. It’s a case where I think they’re a bit more rested."
After losing seven in a row, the Giants have won three of their last four games, and both Bochy and Vogelsong said it will be good for the team to go into the All-Star Break with some positive momentum.
"It took us a little bit tonight to break through, but guys are having good at-bats," said Vogelsong. "And we gave up five runs tonight, but collectively we threw the ball really good … We’re doing some good things right now, just got to keep it rolling."
* Speaking of rolling, Bochy brought in George Kontos with runners on second and third and two out in the seventh inning and watched Kontos retire Maikel Franco on a spinning comebacker to end the threat. Kontos has now inherited 25 runners this season and none of them have scored.
"That’s why I put him out there," Bochy said of Kontos, who also has a 1.67 ERA. "He’s been really good in that situation. He’s really commanding the ball well, got a good fastball and cutter and a bigger slider, and I just said I’m going to go with George here because he’s been so consistent … He’s really had a nice year."
* The Giants announced they welcomed their 50 millionth fan to AT&T Park Saturday, becoming the first major-league team to reach that mark in their first 16 seasons at their home stadium. The Baltimore Orioles were the previous fastest team to 50 million, reaching the number in their 17th season at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
* The Giants will go for the sweep in their final game before the All-Star Break with right-hander Chris Heston (8-5, 3.51) opposing Phillies right-hander Chad Billingsley (1-2, 6.67) on Sunday. First pitch at 1:05 p.m.