The San Francisco Giants fan base and Brandon Belt have had a strained relationship over the entirety of his career and the latest frustration has come from a trend of Belt watching strike three in critical situations.
The Giants were down 5-1 in the 7th inning. However, Joe Panik singled to left to get that first run in the previous at bat, and there were two on and no outs.
Belt came up and watched a low pitch be called a third strike. It was a bad call from the home plate umpire, but as many fans will point out, with two strikes, you need to protect.
This is the enigma that is Brandon Belt, and his relationship with the strike zone. Belt has a strong eye and that eye leads to many walks over the course of a season. However, it has also led to many strikeouts when umpires call the borderline strike.
While this happens with all major league hitters, it seems to happen most often with Belt. To make matters worse, it seems the most recent occurrences have come in those critical situations at the end of games.
When a batter takes a called third strike in the first inning, fans tend to forget those as much as called third strike late in games. Belt has only struck out looking three times, but those have come in the seventh, ninth, and tenth innings.
Kenley Jansen was facing Belt as a pinch hitter with the tying run on second base. Instead of protecting with two strikes, Belt watched a low pitch be called strike three and the game was over.
After the game, Belt doubled down and told reporters “it wasn’t a strike.”
Then, the very next night, the Giants were facing the best team in the division and Belt had a chance at redemption. Zack Godley pitched a gem, but so did Derek Holland. The Giants were losing 2-1 and Archie Bradley was pitching the ninth inning. With one out, Belt came up with a chance to tie the game with one swing.
Instead, Belt looked at strike three on a pitch at the bottom of the strike zone. The Giants had now lost two games in a row where Belt had a chance to help his team in a close came and had to walk back to the dugout.
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The loss to the Diamondbacks and the loss to the Dodgers the previous night is magnified by the fact that the Giants are trying desperately to tread water while they wait for their pitchers to return from injuries.
With Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Mark Melancon and Will Smith all out with injury, the pitching staff has been put together with rookies that have kept the Giants in games. Ty Blach, Chris Stratton, Pierce Johnson, Reyes Moronta and Roberto Gomez have all pitched well despite their collective lack of experience. The lineup, however, has not come through enough to take advantage of the pitching.
With the seventh inning at bat today, that is now three times this season that Belt has been called out on strikes in a crucial moment of the game. While that is not the only reason the Giants lost those games, it seems to be what stands out the most in most fans eyes.
It seems to be fitting that Belt was left standing in the on deck circle tonight in the ninth as Panik hit into a game ending double play. Had Panik kept the inning alive, I’m sure most Giants fans would have been overly pessimistic that he would have come through.
Such is the relationship with one of the Giants best players and the fan base.