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What we learned as Giants blank Dodgers in series finale

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Brandon Crawford running

SAN FRANCISCO -- For four months, the Giants have tried to focus only on the task ahead of them each day. They avoid the big picture, and Thursday was the perfect day to be insulated. 

As rumors about Max Scherzer and Danny Duffy and NL West rivals dominated social media, the Giants went out and took care of business with one of their cleanest wins of the season. Their 5-0 victory was their fifth in seven games against the Dodgers over the last 11 days and pushed them back to three games up in the NL West. 

The Giants scored a couple of early runs on a Brandon Crawford double and added on with RBI hits from Wilmer Flores and Austin Slater. That was all that was needed for Johnny Cueto, who got in a rhythm early and seemed to feed off the big crowd at Oracle Park. 

Cueto took a shutout into the sixth with a low pitch count, but a misplay from Donovan Solano put him in a jam and Cueto ended up loading the bases ahead of Cody Bellinger. Gabe Kapler came out and called for Jarlin Garcia, who entered the day with a 1.48 ERA since coming off the IL in early May. He kept that run going, striking out Bellinger on three pitches and dancing off the mound. Bellinger dropped to 2-for-39 against the Giants this season. 

The Giants added a fifth run when LaMonte Wade Jr. lined a double to left off Victor Gonzalez. It was the first career hit off a lefty for Wade, who had been 0-for-31. It was that type of day for the Giants, who went into the trade deadline with a 64-38 record, Here are three more things to know ...

 

Making A Statement

Cueto had somehow missed the Dodgers in four previous series this season, but he certainly looked like the best version of himself with one of his toughest tests of the year. Cueto went 5 2/3 innings and struck out five, allowing just four hits. He might have had his best fastball of the year, averaging nearly 93 mph and reaching 95.6 on an early pitch to Cody Bellinger.

Cueto would have gone deeper, but Solano booted a double play ball in the sixth and Cueto gave way to Garcia after a long battle with Justin Turner. Still, this was about as encouraging an outing as the Giants could have hoped for as they search for pitching depth. They could certainly throw this version of Cueto out there every five days down the stretch.

Welcome Back, Craw

Crawford was visibly bummed to be missing at least six Dodgers games when he was put on the IL with an oblique strain last Monday in Los Angeles, but he made it back for the final one of this stretch and immediately made his presence felt.

Crawford came up with the bases loaded and two outs in the first inning and got a standing ovation as Dodgers pitching coach Mark Prior went out to chat with David Price. Crawford then bounced a double down the third base line, bringing the first two runs home. The double was the 250th of his career, one more than Will Clark. Crawford is now 13th in franchise history and is neck-and-neck with Brandon Belt (251), who starts a rehab assignment Thursday night. Both Brandons have a shot to catch Jo-Jo Moore (258) and get into the Giants' top 10. 

Run Ruf, Run

Darin Ruf was in the lineup to mash a lefty, but when the Dodgers brought in right-hander Phil Bickford in the fifth inning Ruf greeted him with a liner to Triples Alley. He cruised into third standing up, picking up his first triple since Oct. 1, 2012, and just the second of his career. 

This has quietly been a remarkably strong season for Ruf, who turned 35 on Wednesday. He has a .928 OPS and is slugging .538 while seeing more pitches per plate appearance than anyone on the team, and Gabe Kapler has started to use Ruf against right-handed pitchers more often. That probably won't last, though, with Belt on the way back.

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