'Captain' belts two HRs as Giants pad lead

San Francisco holds two-game advantage, sets franchise record with 236 long balls

September 26th, 2021

DENVER -- Two weeks ago, felt the Giants needed somebody to step up and lead the way, so naturally, he took it upon himself to be that guy.

As the self-described “alpha” of the clubhouse, Belt jokingly proclaimed himself team captain, officially commandeering the post when he took the field with a makeshift “C” taped onto his jersey during a game at Wrigley Field on Sept. 10.

Fake or not, his captaincy is certainly going swimmingly thus far.

Belt blasted two home runs -- including the Giants’ record-setting 236th homer of the season -- to lead San Francisco to a 7-2 comeback victory over the Rockies on Saturday night at Coors Field. By taking the first two games of their final regular-season road series, the Giants (101-54) moved two games ahead of the Dodgers, who lost to the D-backs, 7-2, on Saturday.

Games remaining: 7
Standings update: Two games ahead of the Dodgers for first place in the National League West
Magic number for division title: 6

Belt launched a first-inning solo shot to tie the previous single-season franchise mark set by the 2001 club before breaking the record with a go-ahead, three-run shot off Colorado right-hander Jon Gray in the fifth.

“It means a lot,” Belt said. “It’s pretty cool. It says a lot about our approach. Making sure we get our pitch. That’s what leads to those homers for us. We don’t chase out of the zone a lot, and when we do get our pitches, we’re ready. It’s helped us win a lot of ballgames this year.”

The Giants trailed, 2-1, after the Rockies tagged Anthony DeSclafani for a pair of runs in the bottom of the first, but they rallied in the fifth, when Steven Duggar singled and Donovan Solano reached on a hit-by-pitch to set up Belt’s milestone blast. The 33-year-old veteran hammered a 2-1 slider from Gray out to right field for a towering, 421-foot shot that put the Giants ahead, 4-2.

It was the eighth career multi-homer game for Belt, who leads San Francisco with a career-high 29 home runs this year despite missing nearly two months with a right knee injury. Belt had never hit more than 18 homers entering this season, but he’s already matched that total over 41 games since returning from the injured list. He came into Saturday’s game with a 1.113 OPS since Aug. 24, the fourth-highest mark in the NL behind Bryce Harper, Juan Soto and Paul Goldschmidt.

“He’s kind of given the entire offense a boost of confidence,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “It’s just kind of the way he’s carrying himself right now. He knows he’s a dangerous hitter right now at the plate, a very selective one, at that. He trusts himself to lay off the pitches that he can’t drive and to be aggressive and get the ball in the air with authority when the ball is in the hitting zone for him.”

Belt said one factor that helped spark his second-half tear was that he had the opportunity to strengthen his lower body while rehabbing from his knee injury.

“I feel really good right now,” Belt said. “I might feel better than most, just because I’ve had some time off this season. My legs feel great. The one good thing about that six weeks that I was off was I got to really focus on working out my lower half and getting strong and ready for when I came back.”

While Belt has led the club’s power surge, the Giants have gotten home runs from nearly every member of their well-balanced offense. The 2001 Giants drew most of their firepower from legendary slugger Barry Bonds, who crushed a record 73 home runs that year. The 2021 club, by contrast, has 10 hitters who have hit double-digit home runs.

“I think getting contributions from the entire team, all of the position players -- Captain Belt leading the way -- and all of our bench guys have shown some pop, a lot of times in big situations,” Brandon Crawford said. “I think that’s how we’ve done it.”

Belt leaned into his captain persona on Thursday night, when he donned a full nautical getup and posed with the youngest members of the Giants as part of the annual rookie dress-up day.

“I’ve been talking a lot about Brandon’s management style as the captain,” Kapler joked. “He’s not a micromanager. He’s going to let his team do what’s best for them. He’s going to be communicative, and he’s going to let them do whatever they want -- as long as it’s what Brandon wants. He’s been very clear about how he’s going to captain the ship.”

The Giants still have a ways to go to lock down the NL West title, but it’s clear Belt is steering them in the right direction.