July 7, 2022

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Towering homer 'cherry on top' of Belt's birthday bash

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NEW YORK — The Captain had quite the birthday bash on Wednesday night at Citi Field.

Brandon Belt celebrated his 34th birthday by hammering his fourth home run of the season as the Giants rebounded from Tuesday’s doubleheader sweep with a 5-2 win over the Mets.

Belt, who started at designated hitter, crushed a misplaced cutter from New York right-hander Chris Bassitt into the upper deck in right field to extend San Francisco’s lead to 4-0 in the second inning. The blast marked Belt’s first career hit on his birthday, snapping an 0-for-19 drought that included his flyout in his first at-bat against Bassitt in the first inning.

“I usually suck in April, so I’m not surprised,” said Belt, who noted that he once got demoted on his birthday during his rookie season in 2011. “I would imagine my birthdays aren’t that great when I don’t get hits on every other single one, but yeah, it’s fun. It’s cool because all day you’re getting texts from people, some of them you haven’t heard from in a while. It feels good to hear from people back home. To go out there and hit a homer is kind of just a cherry on top.”

The Giants serenaded their self-proclaimed team captain with “Happy Birthday” after he returned to the dugout, with Belt giving his usual high “Cs” to his teammates.

Belt has leaned into his Captain persona this year, riding into Oracle Park on a towed boat as part of the Giants’ Opening Day festivities earlier this month. Still, he’s backed up the schtick by continuing to carry San Francisco’s offense, as he currently leads the team in homers (4), RBIs (8) and OPS (1.019).

Despite his status on the team, Belt found no birthday cake awaiting him after the game, only a humble peanut butter and jelly sandwich served between two paper plates with a cake drawn on top.

“I’m a low-maintenance guy, so it’s OK,” Belt said.

He did get an early treat from his wife, Haylee, who surprised him by having birthday truffles from Milk Bar delivered to his hotel room on Tuesday night.

“They were delicious,” Belt said. “I was pretty excited about that.”

Rodón leans on heater to overpower Mets
Carlos Rodón is proving to be the frontline starter the Giants envisioned when they signed the 29-year-old left-hander to a two-year, $44 million deal over the offseason. Rodón continued his dominant start to the season by striking out eight over five scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 1.06 over his first three outings with San Francisco.

Rodón now has a Major League-high 29 strikeouts over 17 innings this year, the most by a pitcher in his first three starts with the Giants since 1901. All eight of Rodón’s strikeouts against the Mets came on his electric fastball, which he threw 81 percent of the time on Wednesday, the second-highest mark of his career behind the 88-percent clip he posted against the Yankees on July 5, 2016.

Rodón averaged 95.5 mph on his heater, topping out at 97.4 mph and inducing 17 of his 19 swinging strikes on the pitch. He said his high fastball usage stemmed from the fact that he couldn’t develop a good feel for his breaking pitches on Wednesday, specifically his wipeout slider and curveball.

“The breaking stuff was not very good, so we just decided to go with the fastball attack,” Rodón said. “Luckily, it worked in my favor today. I was kind of pitching with one pitch. I threw a couple of sliders that were maybe OK. I got some out with the fastballs. They worked some counts, and they worked that pitch count up. They did a good job with that.”

The Mets stacked their lineup with right-handed bats on Wednesday, but they produced only three hits and two walks against Rodón, who departed after throwing 95 pitches. He faced trouble in the fourth, when he gave up a single to Pete Alonso and a walk to Eduardo Escobar that put a pair of runners on with one out, but he escaped the jam by striking out Mark Canha and J.D. Davis on six consecutive fastballs to end the inning.

“The quality of that fastball is exactly what we should be talking about,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “These are really, really good hitters who are set up to handle that style of pitching and still are swinging and missing at balls in the zone and sometimes in the middle of the plate. It’s a unique fastball. We haven’t seen many like it over the last couple of years.”

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