Pitching propels Giants to rare unbeaten trip

Pitching propels Giants to rare unbeaten trip

SAN DIEGO -- The Giants deserved to savor the moment after their 3-1 victory Thursday night over the San Diego Padres. They also could celebrate the past.

Their eighth consecutive victory completed their 7-0, two-city trip, marking the first time since June 30-July 7, 1913, that a Giants ballclub went unbeaten on a journey of at least seven games. That was when teams traveled by train and playing out West meant visiting St. Louis.

"I'm a little surprised by that, to be honest, as long as this franchise has been in existence," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

In another bow to history, Jeff Samardzija came one inning away from recording the Giants' third consecutive complete game, a mini-feat they haven't accomplished since June 23-25, 1978. Vida Blue, Jim Barr and John "The Count" Montefusco did the honors back then in an era when complete games were far more commonplace than today.

Additionally, no Major League team had pitchers go the distance in all three games of a series since the Twins topped the Royals from July 5-7, 2004, with Brad Radke, Johan Santana and Kyle Lohse.

"I was trying to get back out there," said Samardzija (6-2), who threw 72 strikes in 105 pitches. "It's great to be in a situation to be able to fight for that. To even go for three in a row is absurd. I've never heard of that before."

Bochy explained that a confluence of factors prompted him to pull Samardzija. The right-hander was due to lead off the ninth inning, a situation that screamed for a pinch-hitter. The top of the Padres' order was slated to bat in their half of the ninth, and with closer Santiago Casilla having rested since Monday's scheduled off-day -- along with the other members of San Francisco's bullpen -- the time seemed right for a change.

Asked whether he tried hard to change Bochy's mind, Samardzija said, "Bruce is going into the Hall [of Fame]. So I didn't fight too hard."

Though Samardzija (6-2) didn't match the nine-inning efforts of Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto in the first two games of the series, he limited San Diego to three hits and its only run in eight innings. Samardzija's performance improved the starters' ERA on the trip to 1.33.

"It's a real competitive staff we have here, man," Samardzija said after the Giants secured their first three-game sweep at San Diego since March 31-April 2, 2003, at Qualcomm Stadium. "It's real fun to be in the middle of it, watching these guys work in front of me. You can't really let up when the guys in front of you are going seven, eight, nine innings. You have to show up every day and keep pace."

San Francisco (25-18) strengthened its grip on first place in the National League West, just in time to impress its distinguished weekend guests at AT&T Park. The Giants open a three-game series Friday against the formidable Chicago Cubs in what will be viewed as a potential postseason series preview.

"It's going to be a fun one," Giants second baseman Joe Panik, who had four hits Thursday, said with a wide smile.

Said Samardzija, "I know it's only the second month of the season, but I'm sure it'll be a pretty wild series and fans will enjoy it."

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