The heart of the Giants' batting order hasn't done much in the National League Championship Series. But the lineup has received a welcome kick from its rear end.
Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Hunter Pence were a combined 3 for 23 -- three singles -- during the first two games against the St. Louis Cardinals. The 3-4-5 men haven't driven in a single run, and they've scored just one.
But the 6-7-8 guys? Brandon Belt, Gregor Blanco and Brandon Crawford were 6 for 23 with five RBIs and six runs scored. They were the primary reason the Giants made a run at it in Game 1 after falling behind 6-0, and a huge reason they tied the series with a 7-1 victory Monday night.
From Crawford's view, the Giants' bottom three are simply taking a cue from the Cardinals' deep lineup and trying to make a difference in the same manner.
"They had big games in the Division Series (against Washington) from the bottom of their lineup, and I think that's how playoffs go," he said. "If you expect to win, you need to have a deep lineup and everybody has to contribute somehow, especially the guys in the lower half."
It was lost in the shuffle of Matt Holliday's controversial slide and Marco Scutaro's payback at the plate in a four-run Giants fourth inning, but it was the bottom three players in the order who ignited that rally in Game 2.
After Pence grounded out to start that inning, Belt lofted a chip-shot double down the left field line. Blanco followed with a single to left to put runners at first and third, and Crawford hit a chopper off the plate and over the mound that pitcher Chris Carpenter bobbled.
"I didn't know what they were going to do, go home or come to first, so I was just running as hard as I could," Crawford said. "It bounced up pretty high, so I thought Belt could score on it. That's what I was most worried about, getting that run home."
He did, and it wound up being the go-ahead RBI even though the play was ruled an error on Carpenter. Pitcher Ryan Vogelsong dropped a two-strike bunt that moved Blanco and Crawford up a base, Angel Pagan walked to load the bases and Scutaro then delivered the hit of the night, a two-run single that Holliday misplayed for a third run.
Crawford's 1 for 8 in the two games has been a bit deceiving. He stung the ball two other times in Game 2 and was robbed of run-scoring hits on diving catches by Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma in the fifth and center fielder Jon Jay in the eighth.
"With any luck, maybe I can get a bloop to fall in at the right time sometime this series," he said, shaking his head. "I'm feeling really good right now at the plate. Hopefully, I can find a couple of holes and get some more RBIs."
Blanco is having as good an offensive postseason as any Giant despite hitting out of the seventh spot. He boasts a .375 on-base percentage (six hits, two walks), leads the team with six runs scored, and has driven in four runs while hitting the ball with extra-base authority. He has a double, triple and homer in seven postseason games.
In short, the Giants couldn't have expected much more production if Melky Cabrera were in left field instead of Blanco, a genuine surprise considering how poorly Blanco hit in the second half after spending much of May and June as the team's productive leadoff hitter.
What's the difference?
"I think I'm just more relaxed right now," Blanco said. "I had to remind myself that this is a fun game and not to put too much pressure on myself. Since I started doing that, I've been hitting a lot better and playing like I know I can."
The performance of Belt, Blanco and Crawford is doubly important in that they are all left-handed hitters going against a St. Louis pitching staff that, save reliever Marc Rzepczynski, is entirely right-handed.
With that in mind, Belt feels it's critical that the bottom of the order match or exceed what the Cardinals deliver from the 6-7-8 spots.
"They've got a very good baseball club, and everybody in the lower half of their order has been hitting great," he said. "I think it definitely helps our chances when everybody in our lineup is hitting 1-8. We can't just leave it to the guys at the top."