Giants' offense ignites during six-run eighth

Giants' offense ignites during six-run eighth

SAN FRANCISCO -- Brandon Belt's seventh-inning home run seemed to trip the switch that electrified the Giants' offense in a 7-0 victory over the Braves on Thursday night.

San Francisco settled matters by adding six runs in the eighth inning that pushed their scoring total to a season high for a home game. Variety was the outburst's theme.

Pinch-hitter Gregor Blanco contributed a single. Nori Aoki bunted for another hit. Joe Panik pulled a two-run double; Hunter Pence found the right-center-field gap for his two-run triple. Brandon Crawford, who pulled a single to right in his first at-bat, delivered an opposite-field double to left with his final swing.

The Giants occasionally have struggled to sustain offense at AT&T Park this season. But their late surge against the Braves proved that they're at least capable of using their home environs to their advantage, though it might happen infrequently.

Home and away, the Giants' offense has improved since Pence's return from a fractured left arm on May 16. Since then, he's batting .294 (15-for-51) with a .510 slugging percentage. That roughly coincides with Belt's awakening. He has hit all six of his home runs in his last 13 games since May 15. In 14 games from that date onward, the Giants have averaged 6.4 runs per game. In 35 previous games, they averaged 3.3 runs.

The Giants' improvement is so dramatic that they lead the National League with 139 runs in May.

Belt reacted to the offense's blossoming by saying, "It's probably what we thought it could be. There are a lot of good hitters on this team." In fact, each current Giants regular is batting .293 or higher.

Thursday, however, Atlanta starter Shelby Miller silenced the Giants on three hits for six innings until Belt deposited his opposite-field drive into the left-field seats. Launched high as well as deep, it didn't initially seem destined to clear the wall. But it landed several rows beyond the barrier.

"I thought it had a chance," Belt said. Referring to AT&T Park's tendency to discourage power hitters, he added, "This park will definitely make you second-guess yourself."

As the game drew to a close, there was no doubting the Giants' offense.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.