Resurgent Pence tallies 5 RBIs to lead Giants

Resurgent Pence tallies 5 RBIs to lead Giants

PITTSBURGH -- The Giants finalized their latest transaction Friday night. They reacquired right fielder Hunter Pence for the remainder of the season.

Pence never left, of course. But his indifferent hitting and shocking defensive misplays earlier in the season prompted observers to wonder whether Pence's skills had slipped to the point that he was no longer an all-around dynamo.

Pence's three hits and season-high five RBIs in the Giants' series-opening 13-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates reinforced the notion that his ability to contribute to a winning effort may have been dormant but never vanished.

"Baseball goes in swings where you're hot and cold," Pence said. "You're not as bad as you are when you do your worst and you're not as good as you are when you do your best. You just keep competing, keep working to feel good and have good at-bats."

Also, Pence is healthy. He missed 20 games after straining his left hamstring in mid-May but recently has shown no ill effects from that injury.

"I'm always healthy," Pence said. "Until I'm on the DL."

Pence's evening began with a first-inning strikeout. It quickly improved with a third-inning RBI single. He added a two-run single in the fourth, which happened to conclude a streak of five consecutive two-out hits the Giants collected off Pirates ace Gerrit Cole.

Pence's two-run single

"It's definitely rare when that happens," Pence said. "Sometimes you get in a rhythm where balls are finding holes and you're not hitting them at them."

Pirates reliever Jhan Marinez hit Pence with the bases loaded to generate one of five Giants runs in the sixth. Pence singled up the middle in the seventh to score Ryder Jones and complete his five-RBI binge, two short of the career high he established on Sept. 14, 2013, against the Dodgers.

Statistics trace the route of Pence's improvement. He hit .266 in April and .190 in May before recording a .310 batting average in June. He was batting .228 on June 10. He went 3-for-5 the next day, starting a surge in which he has hit .369 (24-for-65) to lift his average to .269.

Pence, who refrains from public self-analysis of his performance, delivered a typical explanation.

"The balls have just found holes," he said.

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