San Francisco Giants

Surprise! Pence in lineup as Giants open series against Phillies

SAN FRANCISCO -- Here’s a factoid that should shock nobody: Hunter Pence is in the Giants’ lineup tonight, batting second and playing right field in the series opener against Philadelphia and left-hander Cole Hamels.

Pence owns the longest current active streaks for games played (342) and started (292). Before tonight’s game, he’ll be recognized as the Giants’ winner of the Heart and Hustle Award -- all 30 teams have a preliminary winner, and the final winner from all of MLB will be announced in November.

That Pence should be the Giants’ honoree is, as manager Bruce Bochy said today, "a no-brainer." Pence takes a play off about as often as he takes a day off, running out routine ground balls and careening around the outfield. That he remains in the lineup every day speaks to his conditioning and how well he takes care of himself.

After Pence played all 162 games last season, Bochy said this spring that Pence probably would get a few days off this year. So far that hasn’t happened. Pence has played all but five defensive innings for the Giants this season, so it’s not like he’s coming out of games late to save his legs, either.

"It’s hard to take his presence out of the lineup," Bochy said of Pence, who is also second in the N.L. in hits (141) and runs (81). "And you watch him, you don’t see him let up. He is relentless. He’s got so much energy, you go, ‘Well, why take him out?’ Guys who are getting days off are having a hard time keeping up with him."

One thing Pence does do is take advantage of off-days, of which the Giants had two this week. "He like doing nothing on a day off, so that’s a good thing," Bochy said.

"I’m glad he doesn’t golf or fish or anything. Can you imagine him doing that all day?"

While you are imagining Hunter Pence spending a day fishing, here’s the Giants’ lineup tonight against Hamels:

CF Pagan

RF Pence

C Posey

3B Sandoval

LF Morse

1B Duvall

2B Panik

SS Crawford

P Bumgarner

And the Phillies’ lineup against Bumgarner:

CF Revere

SS Rollins

2B Utley

1B Howard

RF Byrd

C Ruiz

LF Ruf

3B Asche

P Hamels

* It does not sound as though Brandon Belt (concussion) is close to playing. Bochy said that when the Giants travel to Chicago after the final game of this homestand Sunday, Belt will fly to Pittsburgh, where he’ll see a specialist for another opinion on why his symptoms are continuing to linger.

"He’s about the same," Bochy said. "So we think it’s important that we get another look at him, another opinion.’

Bochy said it’s not even a case of Belt being bothered when he gets his heart rate up. "In Kansas City he was just resting and didn’t feel good," Bochy said. Belt had an MRI early this week to see if there’s anything going on beyond a concussion, Bochy said, which the evaluation in Pittsburgh should also help determine.

* Hector Sanchez, also on the concussion DL, came out of his Triple-A rehab game last night with back spasms. But Bochy said that Sanchez "should be fine, and we’re hoping he’s OK to go today."

* Hamels has been in one of the best individual stretches of his career -- the Phillies lefty has pitched seven or more innings and allowed one or fewer runs in five straight starts -- the first time he’s done that in the majors. Hamels is 3-1 with a 0.73 in that span, which includes beating the Giants and Tim Hudson, 2-1, on July 24.

Bumgarner, meanwhile, will again try to address one of the more baffling aspects of the Giants’ season. Bumgarner has won 13 games, but nine of those have come on the road, where he has a 1.72 ERA. At home, he’s 4-6 with a 5.60 ERA. Bochy has been asked a number of times about those splits and admitted they’re just as confusing to him. What’s obvious, though, is it’s a trend the Giants could benefit from seeing Bumgarner break.