San Francisco Giants

Casey McGehee takes confidence from three-hit day in Giants’ 5-4 win

Casey McGehee singled in his first at-bat Saturday, but said what really helped him settle in was when he fielded Johnny Giavotella’s grounder cleanly in the top of the third inning.

"The first ground ball hit to me was kind of a tough hop, I came up with it, and it was like oh, we’re playing baseball again," McGehee said. "Just kind of a sigh of relief, really. You never know what’s going to get you to relax, and sometimes it’s something small or insignificant that can help."

McGehee, the struggling third baseman, went on to play perhaps his best game as a Giant in a 5-4 win over the Angels. He collected a season-high three hits, drove in his first run since April 8, scored once and made several nice defensive plays, including a diving stop of a Drew Butera grounder to end the eighth inning.

It was the kind of game the Giants envisioned this offseason from McGehee -- and that was all too rare in April, which McGehee finished batting .169 with two RBIs. McGehee was limited for part of the month by a left knee strain, which manager Bruce Bochy said "set him back, no question." But his lack of production hurt the Giants, too, in particular his grounding into eight double plays and going 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

It complicated the already-difficult process of transitioning to a new team -- the virtual hometown team, no less, for the Santa Cruz native, and one that acquired him to replace one of its biggest personalities from three recent World Series runs.

"I understand that -- when I got traded to Atlanta, it was kind of the same deal," said Tim Hudson, a Georgia native. "But he’s a pro. It’s one of those things that once the novelty wears off, he’s going to start feeling more normal … He just has to understand that this game’s hard enough to play without putting added pressure on yourself."

McGehee has said little about pressures -- external or self-administered. But he did say Saturday that, after contributing to a win as he did, "I was able to kind of breathe a little bit of a sigh of relief."

"I think just for whatever reason, it’s taken a little bit to kind of just settle in, period," he said. "It’s all on me -- it’s not anything anybody else has done or anything like that. It’s just kind of finding that rhythm of maybe trying to do too much, and being able to finally start to relax.

"Sometimes the hardest thing to do is not focus so much on the results and just kind of focus on the things you can control. I think I’ve done a little better job of that maybe the last week or so, and I can tell by doing that it’s helped me settle in a bit."

McGehee said he was starting to see the results the past few games through better at-bats and contract. He went hitless Friday night but smoked a line drive to center that hung up for an out. Saturday, he hit line drives in his first three at-bats -- two for singles and one that was caught -- before grounding a single in his final time up.

His second-inning single started a two-run inning for the Giants. He then drove in Justin Maxwell from second base with a single in the fifth, his first hit with a runner in scoring position. Last season, when he had 76 RBIs for the Marlins, he hit .319 with runners in scoring position.

"He had good at-bats the whole game," Bochy said. "It’s coming with him, and it’s a matter of time. This guy can hit. And he just seems like he’s getting more and more comfortable."

McGehee certainly looked more comfortable moving around the field Saturday, diving for ground balls and going first-to-third on Brandon Crawford’s single in the second. He was adamant not to blame the leg injury for his early numbers, but said getting healthy has helped him feel more confident on the field. "Sometimes you’ve just got to do certain things and see how you come out of it," he said.

The biggest confidence-builder, though, is seeing good results. And Saturday, McGehee saw his best yet in a Giants uniform.

"Today’s just one day," he said. "You can’t think just because you had one day that was a little better, that you’ve got it all figured out and stop working or focusing. The trick is to come back tomorrow and try to keep the same mindset, keep trying to find -- even if it’s something small -- some way to help the team."

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

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