SAN FRANCISCO — A couple of times over the past week, Bruce Bochy has referred to the three days the Giants spent in Cincinnati as “embarrassing.” Players don’t often want to admit they were shamed on the field, but the Giants did concede Sunday that a rematch at AT&T Park meant just a bit more than it normally would.
“After a while of playing like we did you start to take stuff personally,” first baseman Brandon Belt said. “We knew we were a better team than that, and with some of our guys back in the lineup, everyone is feeling more confident.”
It showed on both sides, as the Giants took three of four from the Reds after getting Denard Span back atop the lineup and Brandon Crawford at shortstop. The three-game winning streak, modest as it is, is the first of the season.
Jeff Samardzija, who clinched the third win, called the day at the yard “fun” and “one of those days you can enjoy.” It’s likely nobody got a thrill more than Bochy, who joked earlier in the week that his team was messing with him by always threatening to give the lead back even on nights when the Giants won. This one was a laugher, with the Giants scoring seven in the first two innings and rolling to an 8-3 win.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had a cushion like that,” Bochy said. “It’s nice to get an early lead and add on. The first couple of innings, it was good to see us put up some crooked numbers there.
“You look at what happened in Cincinnati — we got pummeled pretty good to the point where it was embarrassing. They came here and won the first game, and that’s four in a row, so to bounce back and win three in a row and to play the way we did and execute, it’s a good bounce back.”
The Giants believe this is somewhat sustainable, and they point to two players as their main pieces of evidence. Crawford was his usual self at short, teaming with Joe Panik to gobble up just about anything hit to second, short, shallow left, shallow right, behind the mound, and even down the third base line. Crawford added a two-run double Sunday, a sign that his swing is coming back after a DL stint.
Span’s swing came back on the first night. He had four hits Thursday and seven in the series, raising his average 68 points. He scored four runs, including two on Sunday. Span flew to Arizona when the Giants headed to Cincinnati, taking extra batting practice and even taking swings off rehabbing right-hander Albert Suarez.
“It wasn’t like I was in Cancun or Cabo, but all things happen for a reason,” he said of being well-rested. “It sucks being on the DL but I made sure my legs were fresh. I wanted to stay ready so that when I did come off the DL, it wouldn’t take me long to get into the swing of things.”
Span’s big return has Bochy ready to settle things down in the lineup. The Giants will be without Hunter Pence (hamstring) for at least a few days, but Bochy said he’ll have a regular group out there. Span and Panik are his guys atop the lineup, Belt looks comfortable back in the three-spot (he homered for the third time in the series), Posey is hitting cleanup again, and Crawford is back in the No. 5 spot.
“I like the way it’s set up,” Bochy said.
The players do, too.
“Getting everyone to where they’re set in a certain spot in the lineup helps, instead of constant mixing and matching,” Belt said. “We have our guys back and it lengthens the lineup.”
The starting pitchers took advantage against the Reds, showing their own length while combining for 29 innings. Samardzija went 6 1/3, picking up his first win of the season. He is not one who worries about statistics, but changing the tune of the record next to his name was a nice addition to his Sunday.
Samardzija now will sit back and hope his fellow starters can keep it going in a huge series against the Dodgers. Matt Cain, Ty Blach and Johnny Cueto will take the ball, and the Giants are eager to get another crack at a team they’ve played well. This time, they’re pretty close to full strength, too.
"You get back your leadoff hitter and bring back a middle-of-the-order hitter," Panik said. "Hopefully now we can kind of start rolling with it."