Sunday, December 4

Powering SF Giants’ 4th straight win, Joey Bart goes from ‘black hole’ to offensive catalyst

SAN FRANCISCO — Two months ago, the Giants would have considered their rally over, kaput and done with if faced with the same situation that presented itself Monday night. There were two runners on base, one out and Joey Bart was stepping to the plate.

On Monday, after a demotion to Triple-A, an overhaul of his swing and a “vote of confidence” from the Giants front office, the at-bat ended in two RBIs and Bart’s third hit of the night. No longer is Bart a “black hole” — the words used by former catcher Curt Casali — nor struggling to put together “competitive” at-bats, the criticism once leveled by manager Gabe Kapler.

The two-RBI single ultimately held little significance to the 6-1 final score Monday night — beyond tacking on the final of six runs against Madison Bumgarner in his third start back at Oracle Park with the D-backs — but Bart’s emergence could mean the world for a team gasping for its postseason life.

“It’s a pretty comfortable, pretty confident look at this point,” Kapler said of Bart after his 3-for-4, two-RBI performance Monday. “What it means is we have a threat at the bottom of the lineup, somebody that can drive the baseball, keep the line moving and is really grinding out at-bats right now. … Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but now it’s starting to get a little consistent. It’s very encouraging.”

After completing their first three-game sweep since June this weekend, the Giants kept the good times rolling Monday against the D-backs to extend their winning streak to four games, also the longest they have gone without a loss since sweeping the Dodgers and taking two from the Royals in the middle of June.

They have won seven of their past nine games, but their hot stretch still leaves them only a game above .500 and 5.5 out of playoff position, after San Diego was shut out in Miami.

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Asked recently what gives him hope that this squad can make up that ground in the little time left — 47 games remain after Monday — Kapler pointed to his club’s first clean bill of health all season.

Injuries to Evan Longoria, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Tommy La Stella and others have hampered the Giants’ ability to perform up to the potential of the roster as it was constructed this offseason, even if other faults — poor defense from the National League’s oldest group of position players, regression from the majors’ best bullpen last season — could have been predicted.

Now, the Giants are healthy. And they have a catcher they can count on. Will it be enough?

“We don’t go if Joey doesn’t go,” said starter Alex Cobb, who earned the win and lowered his ERA to 3.99.

Bart had already gained universal respect within the clubhouse for how he handled the pitching staff and carried himself amid his struggles to start the season. His resurgence garnered team-wide praise Monday night.

“Everybody on the team knows the tools are there. To see him start clicking, it’s just fun,” Cobb said. “He’s had more than half a season of constant struggles. And you would never know it in the clubhouse, in the dugout, behind the plate. … It’s almost like, well deserved, you battled through all this and now you need to go enjoy the positive results you’re getting”

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 15: San Francisco Giants' Evan Longoria #10 hits a two-run home run off Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner #40 in the fourth inning of their MLB game at Oracle Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, August 15, 2022. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 15: San Francisco Giants’ Evan Longoria #10 hits a two-run home run off Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner #40 in the fourth inning of their MLB game at Oracle Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, August 15, 2022. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group) 

Longoria, starting at third base for the first time since returning from a hamstring injury, went first-pitch swinging against Bumgarner in the fourth inning and sent a two-run shot to left field that got the Giants on the board.

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Cobb offered a reminder of what the Giants have had all season with another strong outing from a starting pitcher. The only damage he allowed over six innings came on Christian Walker’s 461-foot moonshot in his final frame.

It will be Bart’s line that sticks out in the box score, though.

In addition to his RBI single in the sixth, Bart reached base two more times.

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