MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Magic? Giants keep making wins appear

It's an even-numbered year, and you know what that means

Magic? Giants keep making wins appear

If this kind of thing was happening to a team other than the San Francisco Giants, we'd say it was magical. Actually, we'd say this is what a team does in a championship year. Things just fall a certain way.

When teams are in the middle of a 13-1 run like the one the Giants are on, players and managers have trouble explaining how or why. They just know to ride the wave as long as it lasts. They also know that these stretches build confidence and resilience for the tough times.

All that would be true if it was some other team. Because it's San Francisco, it's different. This is what the Giants do. This is who they are. They are smart and resourceful, and they figure things out.

So even though Wednesday afternoon's 4-3, 10-inning victory over the Padres at AT&T Park was, well, different, the song remained the same. When the contest was on the line, the Giants won it.

At 30-19, the Giants have the National League's second-best record and have constructed a five-game lead over the Dodgers in the NL West. San Francisco is 18-6 in May, the best record in the Majors. This was its fifth walk-off victory of the season.

If the Giants are not the best team in the Majors -- and they may be -- they're once more in the conversation, and that's where they feel comfortable. After an offseason focused on upgrading the rotation, it's pitching that's leading the way. San Francisco's starters are 9-1 with a 1.56 ERA in the 14 games, and team research shows this is the best stretch of starting pitching since Juan Marichal anchored the staff in 1964.

Two starters, Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto, arrived via free agency. Another, Matt Cain, got healthy. Madison Bumgarner, well, he didn't change much.

This is how Giants baseball executives Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans drew it up. They knew they had a core of players -- Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, etc. -- who've set a gold standard for winning.

They believed that getting Cueto, Samardzija and Cain performing at a high level might deliver a fourth postseason appearance in seven years. And the past three times the Giants have gotten in -- all in even-numbered years -- they've won the World Series.

"We definitely feed off each other," Samardzija said. "To watch these guys pitch is great. It fuels you to go do your part."

Only Jake Peavy had struggled in recent weeks. He had a 9.58 ERA in his past five starts and hadn't gotten out of the second inning last weekend against the Cubs. That's the only game San Francisco had lost in the past two weeks.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy remained in Peavy's corner, saying he hadn't pitched as poorly as the numbers indicated and that he'd struggled a few other times in his career and come out of it.

Peavy did just that on Wednesday, allowing San Diego one run in 6 2/3 innings and turning a 2-1 lead over to the bullpen.

Peavy's strong outing

"It's fun talking after a win," Peavy said. "I haven't done that for a while. It was a great day. We showed some resilience giving up the lead and fighting back to win."

San Francisco let that 2-1 lead slip away, but it won the game in the bottom of the 10th when Brandon Crawford singled in the winning run. The Giants are 9-0 against the Padres this season.

"They fought back," Bochy said. "A lot of good things happened."

With Posey and Denard Span out of the starting lineup and Pence nursing a sore hamstring, Bochy used a makeshift outfield lineup of Kelby Tomlinson, Gregor Blanco and Jarrett Parker. It was just Tomlinson's second game in the outfield.

Last weekend when reporters asked him the last time he'd played the outfield, Tomlinson said, "Middle school?"

All Tomlinson did was get two hits, drive in a run and make a string of nice defensive plays, including throwing out Yangervis Solarte at the plate in the first inning.

"I think Kelby played his rear end off for a guy who hasn't been out there," Peavy said.

In the sixth inning, Bochy called for No. 3 hitter Matt Duffy to lay down a suicide squeeze to get a run home from third. After fouling the bunt off, Duffy promptly singled to right to score the run. When you're hot, you're hot.

Giants first baseman Brandon Belt limped off with a sprained ankle in the eighth inning Wednesday, adding to an already lengthy injury list as the club begins a three-city, 10-game trip to Denver, Atlanta and St. Louis on Friday in the Mile High City.

But the Giants are playing like a team that can overcome almost anything. Lately, they have.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.