"As much as I try to get him to be disciplined, it's like caging a lion," hitting coach Carney Lansford said. "He leaves the dugout ready to swing the bat. I literally tell him before every at-bat, 'Swing at a strike.'"
The switch-hitting Sandoval leads the Giants in most other major offensive categories, including home runs, RBIs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.Infielder Juan Uribe also provided a significant second-half lift. His .361 September batting average entering Wednesday was the NL's fifth-highest for the month. Uribe's 11 home runs since Aug. 12 were tied for fifth in the NL in that span. They and others furthered the Giants' vast improvement at AT&T Park. After posting underwhelming home records of 39-42 and 37-44 in 2007 and 2008, respectively, the Giants built a 51-29 mark, the league's best entering Thurday's home finale.
"I don't know if the mindset's different, but we get pumped up from our fans," Zito said. "They like to cheer loud and they're in every pitch."Mostly, they cheered for the pitching. Lincecum and Cain made the NL All-Star team and relievers Brian Wilson and Jeremy Affeldt formed a strong late-inning combination, helping San Francisco amass a Major League-high 18 shutouts. The most celebrated of those blankings went into the books on July 10 as Sanchez pitched San Francisco's first no-hitter in 33 years, an 8-0 decision over San Diego. Only Uribe's eighth-inning fielding error, a bobbled one-out grounder to third base, separated Sanchez from a perfect game. The Giants know they must upgrade their offense to make the leap from postseason contender to playoff qualifier. Due to the flexibility of their existing personnel, they don't have to limit themselves to searching for hitters to fill specific positions, though they could use a boost at the outfield corners and either first or third base, with Sandoval occupying the vacant spot. Signing Uribe, who's eligible for free agency, might go a long way toward settling the infield. "You hope that the issue of the offense is addressed and that they can take this a step further next year," said veteran infielder Rich Aurilia, whose active playing career with the Giants likely will end with this season.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less