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Kuip's keys for Giants staying atop NL West in second half

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Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow always strike a cheery and optimistic tone in the broadcast booth, something that has been a lot easier this season when the two have been together. After a few down years, the Giants are back in contention, entering the All-Star break with a two-game lead in the NL West and baseball's best record. They got off to a good start and never let their foot off the gas in the first half, turning into the league's biggest surprise. 

Really, the only thing that has stopped the Giants' momentum this year has been the schedule. They took four days off for the All-Star break and will try to keep the positive vibes going this weekend in St. Louis. On Thursday's Giants Talk podcast, Kuiper outlined some ways they can do that. 

First and foremost, Kuiper said, the Giants need to stay healthy and get healthy. They hit the break with several key players -- including Buster Posey, Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt -- on the IL, and one of the more serious injuries stands out to Kuiper. 

"How fast can Longoria come back, because as far as I'm concerned, when you put his name in the lineup it just lengthened the whole lineup out," he said. "I know he's still a little ways away, but I want to get him back fast."

Longoria had a .892 OPS and nine homers before a collision with Brandon Crawford halted his season June 5. He has been on the IL ever since with a sprained shoulder, although he is making progress. During the last homestand, Longoria started to increase his baseball activity. 

 

The Giants hope to get Posey back this Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals and Belt and Tommy La Stella are hopefully not far behind.

Whether or not they get healthy, Kuiper is confident in the roster the Giants have, and his second key for the second half is simply going with more of the same. 

"Just keep doing what you're doing," he said. "Play the way that you've been playing the first half. Grind out at-bats, get as many pitches out of the starters as you can, buy into Gabe's philosophy on platooning, on pinch-hitting, on (the) line changes that we saw work in the first half." 

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All of those traits have had the Giants in first place for nearly 70 days this season. They're ahead of two preseason favorites, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, and those matchups are really one of the few places where the Giants haven't been dominant. They're 8-10 against the other two contenders in the NL West, and Kuiper would like to see the Giants play well within the division. That will be particularly crucial right after the break, with the Giants facing the Dodgers seven times in the next two weeks.

"Just play those teams like your hair is on fire," Kuiper said. "They've done that and they need to continue to do that."

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