SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants had a lot to celebrate on Wednesday. They could revel in Nick Hundley's big day at the plate and Will Smith's official comeback from Tommy John elbow surgery. But the team's collective achievements were just as impressive as the individual ones, if not more.
The Giants' 9-4 victory over the Padres ended a challenging yet ultimately satisfying 31-game season-opening stretch that included 23 games against National League West opponents. San Francisco emerged with a 16-15 record, despite losing various key performers for all or part of the season's opening month. This suggested that manager Bruce Bochy's ballclub can reasonably entertain thoughts of greater achievements in the weeks and months ahead.
Hundley did the most on Wednesday to put the Giants above .500 through this juncture, going 4-for-5 with three RBIs and four runs scored. Hundley lacked only a triple to hit for the cycle.
Among the relievers to back starter Derek Holland, who gained his first National League victory, was Smith. The left-hander missed the 2017 season after undergoing surgery last March 30, but he was rewarded for his patience and diligence as walked the first batter he faced, then retired the next three in order in the seventh inning. Smith struck out two and smacked his glove on his right thigh in sheer satisfaction as he left the mound.
"That was like a pat on the back for myself," Smith said.
Meanwhile, save some praise for the Giants. Dismissed by experts in the preseason, they have won four consecutive series for the first time since they captured five straight from June 10-26, 2016. They've done this and crept above .500 despite the frequent or complete absences of Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Hunter Pence.
The Giants needed a respectable start to vanquish the lingering demons of last year's 64-98 finish.
"I thought this month, this stretch, was really vital for us to play good ball," Bochy said. "We could have gotten buried. It could have easily gotten away from us. But we played with a lot of heart."
The Giants remain offensively challenged. They're batting .217 with runners in scoring position. But they have proven that they at least have the wherewithal to sustain a respective offense. Wednesday provided an example of that.
"I'm seeing what we think we can be -- keeping the line moving, guys having some good at-bats," Bochy said. "We're going to have to put more runs on the board."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
The audience at AT&T Park seemed to know what was happening when Smith entered. The applause he drew sounded a little louder and lasted a little longer than usual. Smith made his first meaningful appearance since Oct. 11, 2016 -- or, if you prefer, Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the Cubs. Smith underwent Tommy John elbow surgery last March 30, but it was well worth the wait for him.
"Just to be out there was pretty awesome," Smith said.
The Giants are 13-3 when they score first. That's an .813 winning percentage. Last year, they finished 42-38 (.525) in such instances. The improvement reflects an upgrade in two facets of play. First, though they struggle to score runs at times, the Giants have reclaimed the potential for expanding a lead after they establish one. Last year's team was too stagnant to pull away under most circumstances. And often, if they did build a lead, they couldn't hold it. This year's bullpen is decidedly more stingy.
Following Thursday's scheduled off-day, the Giants will begin a three-city, 10-game trip with a Friday night series opener at Atlanta set for 4:35 p.m. PT. Chris Stratton, coming off his worst big league start (six runs in 1 1/3 innings against the Dodgers last Saturday), will oppose Atlanta's Mike Foltynewicz.