Bruce Bochy has taken to calling the third spot in the Giants’ lineup a “black hole” this season for its seeming ability to neutralize any hitter he puts there. On Saturday, the manager tried hot-hitting Joe Panik in that spot. Panik went 0 for 4.
On Sunday, Bochy dropped Panik back to seventh in the order, and the second baseman homered in his first two at-bats for the first multi-homer game of his career. Panik’s mini-power surge highlighted the Giants’ lineup breaking out for 18 hits in a 13-4 win over the Atlanta Braves at AT&T Park.
The Giants took two of three from the National League-worst Braves to win just their second series since the All-Star break and first at home. But they remained two games behind the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West. The Dodgers edged the Chicago Cubs 1-0 to win that series 2-1 in Los Angeles.
It was a combination of getting some good counts where I can be aggressive and just not missing. In those spots, you don’t want to foul them off or roll them over. I put some good swings on those pitches.
The Giants’ Joe Panik, on his two-homer game
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“It’s great to take a series here – it’s great to take any series,” Bochy said. “We haven’t had many of those since the break, so it’s good to get one.”
Held to one run Saturday, the Giants’ offense found the other extreme Sunday. Denard Span and Eduardo Nunez also homered, giving the Giants their first four-homer game at AT&T Park in six years. And the Giants added four triples, one each by Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Jarrett Parker and Conor Gillaspie.
The Giants said it was the franchise’s first four-homer, four-triple game since at least 1900. It was also the first in the majors since the New York Yankees did it May 6, 1998, against the Texas Rangers. The Giants had 11 extra-base hits, their most in a game since July 2, 2002, against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.
“It was just one of those days,” Gillaspie said. “I think we all needed that. It didn’t matter necessarily who got the hits. Just to have a team effort where guys coming off the bench put together good at-bats, starters put together good at-bats, it was definitely a positive we needed.”
Three of the triples came in an eight-run seventh, the Giants’ biggest inning of the season. Crawford drove in the first run with his 21st triple at AT&T Park, passing Ray Durham for the most by a player in the stadium’s history. The Giants sent 14 men to the plate in the rally.
“We were hitting the gaps real nice today,” Bochy said. “It’s just good to see them break out, get some confidence and hopefully some mojo going with this offense.”
After struggling initially upon returning from a concussion in July, Panik is batting .340 in his last 16 games. That mark might be higher if he more frequently saw Braves right-hander Aaron Blair, against whom he has hit three of his 10 home runs this season. Blair also faced the Giants on June 2 and has allowed six homers in eight innings against them.
“It was a combination of getting some good counts where I can be aggressive and just not missing,” Panik said. “In those spots, you don’t want to foul them off or roll them over. I put some good swings on those pitches.”
Panik hit a solo homer in the second inning and a two-run drive in the fourth to nearly the same spot in the right-field arcade seats. Later in the fourth, Span hit a career-high ninth homer, a solo shot that put the Giants ahead 5-1.
Starter Madison Bumgarner allowed a two-run homer by Freddie Freeman in the sixth. This season, Bumgarner has given up 21 homers, matching his total from each of the previous two seasons. The left-hander said he “couldn’t have walked up there and set (the pitch) in a more perfect place.”
We were hitting the gaps real nice today. It’s just good to see them break out, get some confidence and hopefully some mojo going with this offense.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy
“Pretty impressive half-swing to hit it out to center,” Bumgarner said. “That was incredible.”
Bumgarner completed seven innings to earn his 13th win. Though he has allowed 12 runs in 17 innings in his last three starts and leads the N.L. in innings and pitches thrown, he dismissed the idea he is fatigued. Asked if he would admit to that if it were true, Bumgarner said: “I wouldn’t, but I’m not. I’m really not.”
His outing helped rest a bullpen that before the game lost key right-hander Derek Law (strained elbow) to the disabled list. That caused some concern, given Law had Tommy John surgery in 2014. But after the game, Law said an MRI showed no damage to the ligament or flexor tendon, just inflammation caused by scar tissue.
The Giants were concerned by a dip in Law’s velocity. Law said his elbow has bothered him periodically all year. The discomfort went away after the All-Star break and flared up again recently. He said he expects to be able to return after 15 days, good news for the Giants and their embattled bullpen.
“I knew if I couldn’t do it 100 percent I’d rather be ready for the postseason, end of September, than aggravate it more and not be able to do that,” Law said. “It’s just rest, literally nothing else.”