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Crawford homers, flashes leather in victory

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

CHICAGO -- Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford never has won a National League Player of the Month Award. That might change in about a week.

The Giants' 5-4 victory over the Cubs on Saturday night at Wrigley Field featured several contributors, but Crawford was the primary author.

View Full Game Coverage

CHICAGO -- Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford never has won a National League Player of the Month Award. That might change in about a week.

The Giants' 5-4 victory over the Cubs on Saturday night at Wrigley Field featured several contributors, but Crawford was the primary author.

View Full Game Coverage

Crawford's two-run homer in the fourth inning opened San Francisco's scoring and seemed to enliven the Giants, who had been limited to two hits in 3 1/3 innings by Cubs starter Jose Quintana.

On the night, Crawford improved his May batting average to .446 (37-for-83) with nine doubles, four homers and 20 RBIs. Once again, Crawford attributed his productivity to holding his hands higher as he awaits each pitch, which enables him to drive the ball in different directions with more authority. Saturday's homer, for instance, was an opposite-field clout to left.

"A month ago, I would have not have been able to hit that pitch that way," Crawford said. "I probably would have popped it up."

Crawford also assisted on four putouts, displaying the form that enabled him to win three NL Gold Glove Awards. His most masterly moment occurred in the fourth inning, when he snared Willson Contreras' grounder deep in the hole and unleashed a powerful throw to first. Contreras initially was ruled safe, but a replay review overturned the call. It proved important because Javier Baez went deep two batters later.

Video: SF@CHC: Crawford cuts down Contreras, call overturned

Crawford also started an inning-ending double play on Contreras' grounder up the middle in the eighth. Crawford's pickup looked relatively routine, but it was still challenging.

"I'm just trying to make plays," Crawford said.

His teammates know better.

"He does that at least once every game," starter Chris Stratton said. "He makes it look easy, and it's not easy at all."

Gorkys Hernandez and Brandon Belt also helped San Francisco collect its third win in its last 13 games at Wrigley Field and end its three-game skid overall.

Batting leadoff, Hernandez went 3-for-5 and scored twice. He and Andrew McCutchen doubled -- the latter hit snapped an 0-for-12 skid -- to fuel a two-run fifth inning that put the Giants ahead, 4-3. Then, Hernandez's deft bunt single christened the seventh inning and created the eventual stand-up run.

Video: SF@CHC: Cutch plates Hernandez with an RBI double

Belt stroked a fifth-inning RBI single and a seventh-inning sacrifice fly to hike his team-high RBI total to 31. He has driven in 13 of those runs while hitting .435 (20-for-46) in a 12-game stretch.

Video: SF@CHC: Hernandez scores on Belt's sacrifice fly

San Francisco's pitching collaboration guaranteed that this offense would suffice.

Stratton, who sported an 8.59 ERA in his previous five outings, picked up his team-leading sixth win while limiting the Cubs to three runs and four hits in five innings with six strikeouts.

Reyes Moronta, Sam Dyson, Tony Watson and Hunter Strickland, who converted his 10th save in 12 chances, combined to fend off the Cubs. It was only Strickland's third appearance in nine days, but fortunately for him and the Giants, he worked an inning on Friday to help knock the rust off.

Video: SD@CHC: Strickland earns 10th save of the season

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Stratton encountered trouble in the second inning when he loaded the bases with no outs on a pair of walks and a single. Stratton got Baez to hit a comebacker that he recovered for an out at home. Though Stratton would walk the next batter to score a run, Quintana grounded into an inning-ending double play to limit the damage.

Video: SF@CHC: Stratton fields comebacker, get out at home

"What was key was that he didn't let the game get away," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Video: SF@CHC: Stratton induces DP to strand bases loaded

SOUND SMART
Hernandez, who matched his career high with an eight-game hitting streak, has collected multiple knocks in three consecutive contests for the first time in his career. Saturday marked his 274th Major League game. During this eight-game stretch, he's batting .419 (13-for-31).

HE SAID IT
"That's why he's got those Gold Gloves. He's outstanding, fun to watch and so athletic. Defense wins games for you, too." -- Bochy, on Crawford

UP NEXT
The Giants have won six of Ty Blach's 11 starts this season and hope to keep that record above .500 when the lefty confronts the Cubs in Sunday's 5:08 p.m. PT series finale. Blach has not worked past the fifth inning in any of his previous three starts. Opponents have hit .377 off him during that span, accounting for his 7.11 ERA in those outings.

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.

San Francisco Giants, Brandon Crawford, Gorkys Hernandez, Chris Stratton