Panik provides pop in move to leadoff spot

Second baseman hits HR, two doubles filling in for Span

Panik provides pop in move to leadoff spot

CHICAGO -- After watching Joe Panik drill a home run and a pair of doubles in the Giants' 6-4 victory Monday night over the Cubs, San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy knows exactly how to use his second baseman in Tuesday's rematch against the reigning World Series champions.

Don't change a thing.

Barring any last-minute bright ideas, Panik will lead off for the second night in a row. Denard Span, San Francisco's usual leadoff hitter, is sidelined by an injured left thumb. Moreover, after seeing what transpired Monday, Bochy might be tempted to keep Panik at the top of the order even if he had Rickey Henderson at his disposal.

"Yeah, I'll leave him there," Bochy said. "That's a pretty good day he had."

For Panik, "pretty good" meant his second home run of the season to open the game, generating a pair of third-inning runs by lining an RBI double and scoring, then doubling in the sixth. Panik could have tried for third base, which would have left him him a single away from the cycle if he'd succeeded. As always, Panik was thinking about textbook baseball rather than personal glory.

Citing the strong, accurate throwing arms of center fielder Albert Almora Jr. and second baseman Javier Baez, Panik observed that he didn't want to make the inning's last out in the sixth at third base.

"I'd rather take my chances at second base with Christian [Arroyo] hitting rather than take a 50-50 gamble and possibly getting thrown out," Panik said.

Panik couldn't have been blamed for feeling a little greedy. He entered Monday in a 2-for-22 (.091) slump, with results that were only slightly better (10-for-58, .172) over a longer stretch.

Rarely, however, does Panik enter a deep tailspin.

"Joe has been battling a little funk he's been in, but lately his swings have been better, and tonight I thought he was more compact," Bochy said.

It all began with Panik's round-tripper off John Lackey, a fly to left-center that was the first opposite-field homer by a Giants left-handed batter this year, according to Statcast™.

With breezes blowing to center field at 15 mph, it was fair to categorize Panik's homer as windblown. Panik adopted the same perspective shared by all Giants hitters: When you play home games at pitcher-friendly AT&T Park, you deserve an occasional break.

"I definitely hit the the ball well," Panik said, "hit it on the barrel, definitely drilled it. I don't know all the Statcast™ [projections] and whatnot, but to me, that doesn't matter. We play a lot of games at AT&T Park. I'll take them where I can get them."

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for since 2007. 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.