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Giants run, slug way to victory over Braves

Blanco notches three steals; Pence homers among four hits

SAN FRANCISCO -- Though Hunter Pence, Michael Morse and Brandon Crawford each homered Wednesday in the Giants' 10-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves, Gregor Blanco delivered the afternoon's truly powerful effort.

Blanco subdued the Braves with boldness, speed and persistence. He scored three runs and stole three bases, a combination rarely achieved by any Giant in the franchise's San Francisco history.

"He was our sparkplug," Crawford said.

Blanco's performance was as significant as it was singular. He played center field for a resting Angel Pagan, but his sixth start of the season was not just a substitution but also an audition. While Michael Morse replaces the injured Brandon Belt at first base, left field will remain open for Blanco and Tyler Colvin to share -- or claim. Colvin contributed a single and a double to San Francisco's 15-hit collection and is 4-for-9 since joining the Giants from Triple-A Fresno. This game gave Blanco an opportunity to remind the Giants of his value, and he seized it.

The Giants scored in six of eight innings while amassing a single-game season high for runs at home, a relentlessness that Madison Bumgarner appreciated.

"They didn't take an inning off. That's awesome to see," said Bumgarner (5-3), who won his third consecutive game despite yielding four runs and seven hits in five innings.

Blanco led the Giants by galvanizing them on three separate occasions.

After Atlanta jumped on Bumgarner for a pair of first-inning runs, Blanco christened the Giants' half of the inning by drawing a walk from Braves starter Julio Teheran (2-3) despite falling behind on the count 0-2. Blanco gave Pence somebody to drive in when he drove an impressive home run to right-center field, opposite-field territory seldom reached by a right-handed batter. Crawford's two-out bloop RBI single completed a three-run uprising.

One inning later, Blanco coaxed another walk. He stole second and third base, scoring on the latter theft when catcher Evan Gattis' throw flew into left field.

Blanco struck again in the fifth inning. He singled and stole second, putting him in position to score on Pence's third of four hits, a single to left-center.

Blanco matched a personal best and a San Francisco-era (since 1958) club record with his trio of steals, one short of Willie Mays' franchise record that the Hall of Fame center fielder reached twice when the team made New York its home.

Blanco also became the fourth Giant since the team moved West to amass as many as three runs and three steals in the same game. The last to do so was Darren Lewis on Sept. 16, 1991, against Atlanta. The others were Bobby Bonds (May 22, 1973, at Atlanta) and Kevin Mitchell (Sept. 8, 1987, at Houston).

A handy extra outfielder when the Giants won the World Series in 2012, Blanco began the game hitting .122 and had done little to accelerate San Francisco's ascent to the National League West lead.

"I was trying to be somebody else, a guy that maybe comes off the bench and hits a three-run homer. That's not me," he said. "I have to be the guy I was today."

Asked whether his lack of production frustrated him, Blanco replied, "Not really. I've kind of just been mad at myself a little bit."

Giants manager Bruce Bochy has continued to admire Blanco's attitude.

"Gregor gets it," Bochy said. "He's a good teammate and he knows that how you play dictates how much you play."

Blanco's wise enough to know that this game didn't guarantee him a regular role in left field. But he knows how to approach the rest of the season.

"I'm thinking if you get one at-bat, take it, and take the opportunity to [prove] yourself," he said.

The Giants seized their chance to play long ball, as the unusually high gametime temperature of 79 degrees encouraged hitters to become sluggers.

Besides Pence, Crawford came through with a two-run Splash Hit in the eighth to conclude the Giants' scoring. Two innings earlier, Morse hit his ninth homer to equal Belt's team-high total.

Crawford pointed out that consciously going for the distance under favorable slugging conditions can be foolish.

"You try not to get too big," he said.

But the Giants' binge of 15 victories in their last 20 games has left them looming large over most opponents, including the NL East-leading Braves. The Giants captured the three-game series, 2-1. Paired with a three-game sweep in Atlanta from May 2-4, San Francisco won both series against the Braves for the first time since 2008.

"They just kept coming," Braves third baseman Chris Johnson said. "It was one of those days where they just kept tacking on runs. They're a good team. I knew they were a good team before we played them at home."

Chris Haft is a reporter for Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat.
Read More: San Francisco Giants, Madison Bumgarner, Gregor Blanco, Brandon Crawford, Michael Morse, Hunter Pence