SAN FRANCISCO - There are two steps to this breakthrough. Alen Hanson has done his part. The next step is up to manager Bruce Bochy.
Hanson has been a revelation, not just as a Joe Panik fill-in, but as a bat off the bench. His two-run blast with two outs in the ninth inning Wednesday was one of the biggest swings of the season for the Giants, who escaped with a 5-4 win over the Diamondbacks when Brandon Crawford lined a walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th.
Now, it's up to Bochy to figure out a way to ride the hot bat, and see if Hanson truly is as talented as he has appeared thus far. The timing couldn't be better for a manager who has just one lineup hole, and at a position (first base) Hanson doesn't play. The Giants are about to embark on a tough trip: Three games in Washington D.C.; four games in muggy Miami; three games in Los Angeles.
That kind of stretch requires a few off days for regulars, and Bochy said Crawford and Evan Longoria, in particular, are due. Hanson is the backup shortstop and he'll start taking grounders at third to get sharper there. He also will take fly balls, Bochy said. He nearly left Hanson in as his center fielder after the shocking blast off Brad Boxberger, but Gorkys Hernandez also pinch-hit and he got the assignment.
"He'll get some starts," Bochy said of Hanson, "But he's a pretty nice weapon coming off the bench. You've seen what he's done. He's getting some huge hits for us. He's been a shot in the arm with what he's doing, and it doesn't get any better than that (one today)."
The arcade shot off Boxberger was Hanson's second career pinch-hit homer and the third of the season for the Giants. They have benefited from a deep bench all season long, and Hanson is the hottest of the group right now. He has a hit in each of his last four pinch-hit appearances: Single, two doubles and the homer. He poked a two-run double down the line Monday night to help the Giants win that one.
"You've got a switch-hitter who is good from both sides," Bochy said. "He's got easy pop."
Bochy went on to call Hanson "dangerous" and "exciting." Crawford noted that his athleticism stood out in spring training. That makes the 25-year-old perfectly suited for a super-utility role.
Hanson has mostly played second base at the big league level but he also has 228 innings of outfield experience. The Giants will ask him to back up short and third for now.
And on days when there's no open spot, they'll hope for a contribution off the bench like the one Hanson gave Wednesday.
"That's a great win for us," Bochy said. "That could be our best win of the year."