August 11, 2022

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Bart's new approach helps Giants end skid

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PHOENIX — Fresh off a stint in the Minors, Joey Bart’s best swing in the big leagues in several weeks was one to remember and one he needed.

It’s also what the Giants were hoping to see from their young slugger.

Last month, Bart was sent to Triple-A Sacramento for what is best described as a reset. He would very likely still be in the Minors tweaking his overall approach if Curt Casali had not been injured earlier in the week.

So, on Wednesday when the catcher launched a 100 mph line drive to left in the fifth inning of the 7-5 victory to snap the club’s six-game losing streak, it provided a glimpse of what’s to come. Sure, his batted ball was initially called a three-run home run and later ruled an RBI double because a fan interfered with the ball.

But the result of the play wasn’t as important as how Bart responded to it. He let it go and remained optimistic.

“In Sacramento, it was an opportunity to grow as a player and learn a lot about myself,” Bart said. “I’m constantly learning and trying to improve wherever I am at. That’s the approach I’ve taken and that’s the best way to go about it. I just need to be where my feet are and work as hard as I can every day.”

Bart, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2018 Draft, was expected to succeed Buster Posey as the Giants’ everyday catcher this season but he struggled at the plate. He batted .156/.296/.300 with 49 strikeouts over 108 plate appearances during the first two months of the season. He eventually lost his job to Casali.

The job might be Bart’s again, but in some ways, he is a completely different player. He’s calmer. He’s more introspective.

“I just learned how to control myself and approach every day when things are not going your way,” he said. “I’ve never been at a point in my career prior to this year where I had a month or two where I was just not feeling good, and I was in my head. I was trying to make adjustments, but it seemed like there was no light at the end of the tunnel. It’s been good to reflect on that experience and learn from it.”

Where Bart goes from here is to be determined. What’s certain is that his club is going to need him to contribute if it expects to regain its footing in the National League West. The Giants travel to San Diego for a four-game series against the second-place Padres starting Thursday.

“First and foremost, his defense is a real boost for us,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “He’s very calm back there and he knows our pitchers very well at this point. He needs to continue to execute our game plans, continue to dominate the baseball and make sure strikes stay strikes and sometimes getting the pitches at the edges and have quality at-bats for us.”

Bart, who finished 1-for-2, had plenty of help Wednesday. Giants starter Alex Cobb, who was battling a stomach bug all day, gave up four runs on seven hits in six strong innings. Austin Slater, who pinch-hit for Bart in the eighth, reached on a bunt single and scored when the next hitter, Darin Ruf, followed with a pinch-hit home run, the team’s first pinch-hit homer of the season, to tie the game at 4. In the ninth, Slater drove in two runs on a double to push the Giants ahead, 6-4.

“When we did hit for [Bart], the message was ‘Way to swing the bat tonight. Great job and we are going to hit for you right here,’” Kapler said. “I think he’s coming out the gate feeling confident both on defense and offense. Sometimes, that’s valuable, too.”

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