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Team effort has Giants rolling

Williamson, Suarez among players to step up as San Francisco wins 11 of past 12
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

PITTSBURGH -- To verify the Giants' excellence, which continued with Thursday's 5-3 victory over the Pirates, consult a list. Any list.

One such list is the lineup, which seemed suited more for Sacramento's Raley Field than Pittsburgh's PNC Park. Giants manager Bruce Bochy concluded the team's two-city, seven-game trip by starting five players who began the season at the franchise's Triple-A affiliate. One of them, right-hander Albert Suarez, earned the win; another, right fielder Mac Williamson, amassed a career-high three hits, including an impressive sixth-inning homer and a third-inning RBI single.

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PITTSBURGH -- To verify the Giants' excellence, which continued with Thursday's 5-3 victory over the Pirates, consult a list. Any list.

One such list is the lineup, which seemed suited more for Sacramento's Raley Field than Pittsburgh's PNC Park. Giants manager Bruce Bochy concluded the team's two-city, seven-game trip by starting five players who began the season at the franchise's Triple-A affiliate. One of them, right-hander Albert Suarez, earned the win; another, right fielder Mac Williamson, amassed a career-high three hits, including an impressive sixth-inning homer and a third-inning RBI single.

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Video: SF@PIT: Williamson drives in Panik on an RBI single

The National League standings comprise another list. This one revealed that the Giants have matched the 47-victory total of the Cubs, widely considered the league's elite ballclub.

The Giants have needed every bit of their success to maintain their lead in the West over the Dodgers, who have kept pace with them. Stop right there, Bochy insisted. Checking the standings, he said, is "the last thing I do in June."

Nevertheless, it says something about the Giants' quality that their 47-27 record matches the team's third-best mark since the franchise moved west in 1958. The '93 club was 50-24 on its way to a 103-59 finish, and the '71 squad, which featured Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry playing together for their final season, was 48-26.

"I think everyone here in this clubhouse knows that we have a lot of talent," second baseman Joe Panik said after the Giants sealed their 6-1 record on this trip and their 11th victory in 12 games. "Right now, we're playing up to our standards."

Video: SF@PIT: Panik connects on a bases-clearing triple

That's defined by superlative efforts such as Panik's. Thursday, he delivered a bases-clearing triple that fueled San Francisco's four-run third inning. That complemented Panik's go-ahead RBIs that he produced in the sixth inning or later in three preceding games on the trip.

"When you get only one hit in a game, you have to make it count," he said.

Collaborative performances also sustained the Giants, most notably Tuesday's 15-run, 22-hit outburst in Pittsburgh and the 10 scoreless innings piled up by the bullpen in this series' final two games.

Skeptics may observe that the Giants are feasting on a succession of losing clubs. They won't face a winning team until they visit Boston on July 19-20. Still, they're dominating their underlings exactly as they should, having built a 32-14 mark against them.

That easily could have been 31-15. After the Giants' big third, Pittsburgh scored twice in its half of the inning and nearly knocked out Suarez.

"The momentum kind of shifted back to them," Panik said. But the Giants regained their equilibrium, as Suarez and the bullpen limited the Pirates to two hits in the final six innings.

Video: SF@PIT: Suarez fans Niese to strike out the side

Suarez, who'll make at least one more start while Matt Cain continues to heal his strained right hamstring, gained command of his offspeed pitches.

"He looked pretty determined to get through that fifth," Bochy said.

Williamson, whose right-handed bat potentially provides balance to a lineup heavy on left-handed hitters, put the Giants further at ease with his titanic homer to left-center field leading off the sixth inning. In his fourth stint of the season with the Giants, Williamson also could benefit from moments such as this. Simply being installed into the third spot in the batting order buoyed his spirits.

"I appreciate them continuing to believe in me," Williamson said. "That was pretty special, hitting between Buster [Posey] and Panik. I think that speaks to the confidence they have in me."

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