SAN FRANCISCO -- Let's just say the Giants are thankful.
They are hanging on to a one-game lead over the Dodgers in the National League West as they prepare to open a three-game weekend series against the Orioles, who are a game back of the Blue Jays in the American League East and are sitting atop the AL Wild Card standings. And it hasn't been easy for San Francisco.
"This time of year and we're still in first? Geez, you'd take that," manager Bruce Bochy told the media during a road-trip-ending visit to Miami this week.
It hasn't been easy for a team that had a 6 1/2-game edge on the Dodgers at the All-Star break, saw itself slip into a tie for the division lead on Tuesday -- the first time since May 15 that San Francisco hadn't been in sole possession of first place.
But the Giants are in first place, and they just finished up a four-week stretch that has been one of the most challenging they have faced in some time.
Since the All-Star break:
• Thursday was the Giants' first day off at home. They have had two others, but they were spent on the East Coast, when, after a coast-to-coast flight from San Diego to Boston, they were able to kick back on July 18, and three days later had a scheduled break in New York.
• They've played 17 of their past 24 games on the road in a stretch that saw them fly 12,832 miles, making four cross-country journeys -- from San Diego to Boston; New York to San Francisco; San Francisco to Philadelphia; and then, on Wednesday evening, from Miami to San Francisco.
• The Giants have struggled on the field, going an MLB-worst 8-16 during that stretch with an offense that has ranked near the bottom of the big leagues with 3.4 runs per game.
• They are 0-5 in games started by ace Madison Bumgarner, who allowed one run each in two of his past three starts and suffered the loss in both of them. Those struggles have allowed the second-place Dodgers to knock 5 1/2 games off the Giants' lead.
Oh, and Bochy missed Monday's 8-7, 14-inning victory. Bochy, who last February had two stents inserted to treat a pair of 90 percent blockages in the blood vessels around his heart, spent that night in a Miami hospital because of an irregular heartbeat.
Bochy, however, seemed more concerned about the struggles of the team than his own situation.
"They wanted to adjust some meds, and with that, they wanted to hold me overnight for observation," Bochy said upon his return to the dugout on Tuesday. "It's not uncommon. Some people have it. You just have to be aware."
There is a definite awareness of the struggles San Francisco has faced, which is what provided a glimpse of hope when the club left Miami having taken two out of three for its first series wins since the All-Star break -- in no small part because of Brandon Crawford.
Not only did Crawford deliver the home run in a 1-0 victory on Wednesday afternoon, but in Monday's 8-7, 14-inning victory, Crawford tied a Major League record with seven hits, including a game-tying single in the eighth and the game-winning single in the 15th.
And now the Giants get to not only play 28 of their final 48 games at AT&T Park, but the only time they even travel past the Rocky Mountains is a Sept. 1-4 visit to Wrigley Field for four games against the Cubs.
Before that, however, San Francisco will play 15 of its next 18 games at AT&T Park, with the only exception being a three-game visit to Dodger Stadium on Aug. 23-25.
"We don't make excuses around here, but hopefully a more normal schedule will get us in sync," said Bochy.
One guy who has done his job is right-hander Matt Cain, who will start the series opener against the Orioles. With only one win in his first 12 starts -- the Giants lost eight of those games -- he has won each of his past three, including working five shutout innings in each of his past two in back-to-back starts against the Nationals.
The rest of the rotation has gone a combined 1-10 since the All-Star break, and Jeff Samardzija claimed the lone victory with 5 2/3 innings of work in the 1-0 victory Wednesday. And it's not like they have been wasting a lot of offense. San Francisco has scored two runs or fewer in 10 of its 18 losses since the break.
"Everybody in there knows where we're at, what's at stake and what needs to be done," said Bochy. "We've talked. They just got to get their job done."
It sounds so simple. For the past four weeks, however, it has been so difficult for the Giants.