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How Giants' relentless lineup got team back to .500 mark

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You can describe this resurgent Giants team with traditional stats or advanced ones, but sometimes it can be hard to quantify exactly why a team is playing so well. Sometimes it's just a vibe, and Kevin Gausman captured it perfectly after a 4-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night.

"It just seems like every night there's a couple of guys who have really good quality at-bats in big situations. It just seems like every night it's somebody different coming up in a big situation," Gausman said. "When you don't have to rely on your top four hitters to win the game every night I think it makes it really hard on the opposing team. The guys have done such a good job of battling through at-bats and making the pitcher kind of have to make a mistake eventually."

That, in a nutshell, is your 2020 Giants offense. 

More than anything, this is a team that just wears down opposing pitchers, even some of the best in the game. Zac Gallen has been as good as anyone in the National League, and he faced the minimum through five innings Monday as hitters on both sides had issues with the shadows at Oracle Park. But the Giants broke through in the sixth, scoring four runs to become the first team in Gallen's 24 big league starts to get more than three runs off him.

It was one of the grindiest, grittiest innings of the year, and it started at the bottom of the lineup ... 

 

--- Pablo Sandoval, the leadoff hitter in that frame, worked the count to 3-2 and took a low 96 mph fastball to start the inning with a walk. Giants leadoff hitters this year have a .389 on-base percentage, the second-best mark in the big leagues. Gallen threw a couple of changeups after getting ahead, and Sandoval spit on both of them. The 2-2 pitch was a particularly good take, as that changeup looked like a strike until the last few feet. 

"Candidly we haven't seen as much discipline as we'd like to have seen with Pablo, but tonight's walk was huge for us," manager Gabe Kapler said. 

--- Joey Bart has very quietly gotten his average up to .269. The No. 8 hitter got a 1-1 cutter right over the heart of the plate and smacked it into left-center for a single. 

--- Mauricio Dubon mostly played against lefties early on, and there were stretches where he hardly played at all. But Dubon's numbers have come around, largely because he has done a much better job of controlling the strike zone. Dubon's walk to load the bases might have been the most important plate appearance of the game.

Gallen got ahead 0-2 and then threw a cutter down and away to try and get Dubon to chase. He checked his swing. Gallen then threw a knuckle curve that bounced away from his catcher and allowed both Giants to advance, and then another cutter down and away that never looked like a strike. On 3-2, Gallen once again tried for a cutter down and away, and it was another easy take. Dubon worked his way back from 0-2 to load the bases. 

Dubon said he went into "battle" mode.

"It was look for something close to the zone. He gets a lot of chases down in the zone and down and away, so for me it was just trying to battle, trying to make something happen," Dubon said. 

--- Mike Yastrzemski entered the game with an absurd .950 OPS and 17 RBI in two-strike counts, so he had Gallen right where he wanted him when the count got to 3-2. Yastrzemski got an elevated changeup and yanked it into right field to tie the game.

--- Darin Ruf wasn't even supposed to be in the game, but Alex Dickerson fouled a ball off his foot (X-rays were negative but he has a knee contusion) and Ruf had to come in mid-at-bat, striking out. With his first real look at Gallen, Ruf didn't wait around. He got an elevated cutter and smoked it right back up the middle to drive in a pair. 

"With the way the two previous at-bats went with Dubi and Yaz and him throwing a lot of pitches, I was just trying to be aggressive right out of the gate there," Ruf said. 

--- Gallen faced one more batter and got ahead of Donovan Solano 0-2, but a curveball got too much of the plate and Solano whacked it into left to load the bases. When Junior Guerra came in and immediately walked Brandon Belt, the Giants became the first team to ever put four on the Diamondbacks ace.

 
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It was downhill from there, and when Sam Coonrod closed it out in the ninth the Giants were back to .500 for the first time since August 2. Not long ago, they were 8-16, stinging from a blown save against the Angels. Now, the Giants are firmly at the front of the pack for a Wild Card spot. 

"It's gratifying. It certainly speaks to the fight that this club has," Kapler said. "We can go back a couple of weeks and find some pretty heartbreaking losses. These guys are resilient. They bounce back from those losses, they bounce back from in-game deficits. I think the character of this team is continuing to shine through."