SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants' offense still seems lacking, but it's producing just enough runs to generate success.
On most nights during the past week or so, their pitching has looked familiar. That is, it looks worthy of a contender.
For one of the few times this season, the Giants are surging instead of staggering. Their 3-1 victory Wednesday over the reigning World Series champion Cubs sealed a 5-3 homestand, only their second one this year that produced an above-.500 record.
And by winning two of three games from Arizona and Chicago, the Giants captured back-to-back home series for the first time since May 11-17, when they victimized the Reds and Dodgers.
Nobody's foolish enough to declare that the Giants have solved their problems and can move onward and upward. But they have improved.
Powerless through much of the season, the Giants have homered in each of their last five games and in 10 of their previous 13. Many of these homers have contributed to victories, such as Hunter Pence's opposite-field drive to right in Wednesday's eighth inning that made the Giants' 2-1 edge a little less slender.
The Giants batted a pedestrian .255 (67-for-263) during this homestand. But they performed significantly better with runners in scoring position, hitting .313 (20-for-64) in those situations.
Jarrett Parker, who has reclaimed the left-field spot that was his on Opening Day, contributed the go-ahead single in Wednesday's seventh inning, which complemented the walk-off hit he stroked on Sunday.
"His confidence is where it needs to be," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
The same goes for Pablo Sandoval, the once and perhaps future third baseman. The Kung Fu Panda has accumulated relatively few at-bats since rejoining the Giants last Saturday, but he's making the most of them, as his .333 (4-for-12) average demonstrates. And Sandoval's fifth-inning stop of Benjamin Zobrist's grounder on Wednesday indicated that maybe, just maybe, he can again be the multidimensional performer that he was at his best during his 2008-14 Giants tenure.
"He's playing well, isn't he?" Bochy said. "He looks close to being the Pablo we knew earlier. I think he's brought some energy to the clubhouse and the dugout. He hasn't changed a bit."
Said Sandoval, "I feel good. Especially when you're winning games."
The Giants' pitching has been largely responsible for that, as has been the case with the Giants traditionally. Madison Bumgarner, who earned Wednesday's decision, appears to have recovered completely from his April 20 dirt-bike accident that sidelined him until mid-July. He owns a 1.38 ERA in his last four starts.
Sam Dyson has filled in admirably for injured closer Mark Melancon, converting eight of nine save opportunities. The bullpen has an 0.79 ERA in the last nine games.
At the very least, the Giants are no longer drowning in despair.
Checking the Giants' archives to determine how their current record compares with their worst at the same stage of the season became an almost daily ritual this season. That exercise in loathing is no longer necessary -- that is, until the next prolonged losing streak.
Employing mathematics to project whether the Giants were on pace to lose 100 games for the second time in franchise history is another habit worth trying to quit. In case you're wondering, they'll finish 64-98 at their current overall rate.
But at their recent rate, they'll avoid 100 losses easily.