Panik, Belt keep showing promise with bats

Panik, Belt keep showing promise with bats

PHILADELPHIA -- If the Giants chose to do so, searching for encouragement amid the disappointment of their 6-4 loss on Sunday to the Philadelphia Phillies was an easy task, particularly if they broadened their focus to the big picture.

Second baseman Joe Panik went 3-for-5 with a double to lift his batting average to .316, lengthen his hitting streak to a personal-best 12 games and gain momentum for a spot on the National League All-Star team.

The only other Giant with multiple hits was first baseman Brandon Belt, who ended a 0-for-Citizens Bank Park slump by rapping a pair of singles.

It was a promising afternoon for the Giants' youthful right side of the infield.

Panik, who isn't technically a rookie though he's experiencing his first full Major League season, isn't entertaining serious thoughts of participating in the July 14 Midsummer Classic at Cincinnati. Miami's Dee Gordon almost surely will be elected as the National League starter, and Colorado's DJ LeMahieu likely will be considered a top reserve.

"Obviously, it would be an honor," said Panik, 24. "But it's way too early to think about that right now. I have to focus on one day at a time. That's always been my motto."

The fact that Giants manager Bruce Bochy will pilot the NL squad can only help Panik come selection time.

"He's playing great, isn't he?" Bochy said. "He's done a really nice job this year. He's been consistent. You look at second base, he's playing as well as anybody."

Panik's prospects look even better from a long-distance perspective. Having played 128 Major League games, his statistics compare favorably with those of Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia, the 2008 AL Most Valuable Player and four-time All-Star, at the same juncture. Panik's batting .309 (147-for-475) for his career with 23 doubles, four triples, five homers, 40 RBIs and 60 runs scored; Pedroia's 128-game figures were .300 (130-for-433) with 28 doubles, one triple, seven homers, 42 RBIs and 57 runs.

Belt began his day with a second-inning single, ending a career-long hitless stretch of 17 at-bats here. It also extended his streak of reaching base safely to 22 games, the longest active streak in the Majors.

One inning later, Belt beat out the back end of a potential double-play grounder to enable Angel Pagan to score. And in the ninth, Belt delivered a two-out single off Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon to prolong a last-ditch Giants rally.

The rest of the season will determine whether this was a pivotal performance or just another good day for Belt, who's batting .298.

"It seems like this place has been the turning point of the season for me the last couple of years," the 27-year-old said.

He pointed out that he changed his batting grip here during the Giants' late-July visit in 2013, which prompted a sustained offensive surge for the rest of the season. Belt actually didn't make last year's trip, having sustained a concussion in the preceding series at Miami.

"I don't have too many good memories here," he said.

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.