ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Hensley Meulens became the Giants’ hitting coach a year ago, facing a daunting question: How to turn around a sluggish offense?
What a job his hitters have done so far in the World Series.
The Giants scored 20 runs in two games at home against the Texas Rangers to take a 2-0 lead, with the Series shifting to Texas for Game 3 on Saturday.
And this is supposed to be a team all about pitching.
“Crazy, right? Anything can happen, especially in the postseason,” San Francisco second baseman Freddy Sanchez said. “Hopefully we can keep it going.”
This is gratifying to say the least for Meulens, the guy nicknamed “Bam Bam” during his day for his mighty swing. He jumped right into the job when hired by San Francisco last year, immediately booking trips to Venezuela and Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, then back to Arizona and the Bay Area, to meet and begin working with his new hitters. He quickly gained the respect of his players, who were impressed by Meulens’ 12-hour work days and never-ending enthusiasm and energy to make them better. Not to mention the fact he speaks five languages.
“I took this job Nov. 2 and I went running and I haven’t taken a day off since,” Meulens said after the Giants’ 9-0 victory Thursday night.
The Giants produced a seven-run eighth inning Thursday after getting a six-run fifth the previous night. San Francisco scored six runs or more in an inning just five times during the regular season.
It also marked the first time the Giants scored nine or more runs in consecutive games since a three-game series against Cincinnati on Aug. 23-25.
“It’s been nice to have the outburst we did, but we know who we are, and we’re a team that has to do little things to score runs,” manager Bruce Bochy said Friday before his team’s workout.
Was it surprising to see the production after the Giants were outscored 20-19 by the Phillies in six games of the NL championship series?
“No, it’s not. At some point we had to do it,” Meulens said with a chuckle. “We’re a veteran team. They have a younger team out there.”
The Giants were able to capitalize on mistakes by Rangers ace Cliff Lee – handing him his first career postseason defeat with an 11-7 win in Game 1 on Wednesday – and then C.J. Wilson. Colby Lewis will try to hold the Giants in check in Game 3.
“We have a clubhouse and bunch of guys that want this really badly,” Meulens said. “That’s what they’ve shown these two games – the desire, the heart and the spirit to just bring this thing to this city that has waited for so long.”
Meulens was hired to replace Carney Lansford after the Giants finished 88-74 last season, four games behind wild-card winner Colorado – and with 16 more victories than in 2008. But the team had the second-fewest home runs (122) in the majors and drew the fewest walks (392) in ’09. They were 13th in the National League in runs.
So, he had plenty of work to do. That makes the World Series so gratifying.
“The hard work is paying off,” Meulens said.
Bochy has noticed Meulens’ influence on the players for months now.
“Bam Bam has done a great job. He’s got a great way about him, keeping their confidence and staying behind them, along with having them prepared,” Bochy said. “He gets there early and always has a game plan for them, has meetings with them. I’m sure he was enjoying us scoring some runs because we’re not a team that puts a lot of runs on the board.”
The 43-year-old Meulens spent parts of seven seasons in the big leagues as an infielder and outfielder for the Yankees, Montreal and Arizona, retiring after the 1998 season. He’s a career .220 hitter with 15 home runs and 53 RBIs.
He was the Triple-A hitting instructor for the Indianapolis Indians in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization from 2005-08.
When he was about 15, Meulens was on a softball team with older players and decided to hit left-handed because “I didn’t want to mess up my right-handed swing,” he said. He was a natural from the left side and everybody said he was as strong as cartoon character “Bam Bam” of the Flintstones.
Meulens has had no problems communicating with his players. He speaks Papamiento, the language of his native island country of Curacao in the Caribbean, Dutch, English, Spanish and Japanese.
Now, Meulens is enjoying every moment of his players’ remarkable run.
“It’s all a tribute to the guys in the clubhouse, man,” Meulens said. “They’ve scored just enough runs all year. It’s nice to see them break loose like this on the biggest stage in the world.”
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