PHOENIX — There were three directions this weekend could have gone for the Giants.
They could have fallen alarmingly far back in the National League West. They could have floated in place. Or they could have made a statement.
With a 9-6 win on Sunday, the Giants certainly made a statement. They swept the first-place Diamondbacks behind two rookie pitchers and an offense that came alive in the finale, getting within 2 1/2 games of the lead in the National League West. The Los Angeles Dodgers, preseason favorites in the division, are also 2 1/2 back of the Diamondbacks as the teams get into the second half of the schedule.
"I said coming into this road trip it was an important road trip because you're playing the team in front of you," manager Bruce Bochy said. "It was important we played well. You don't want to create such an uphill climb. These guys came in and played good baseball. These guys knew they had to come in here and play well. It says a lot about this club that they can elevate their game when they need to."
The Giants have just 19 road wins, but they have shown a strange ability to show up against the better clubs. Their four road series victories have come against the Angels, Braves, Nationals and Diamondbacks. The latest one was the most complete of the year, and not just because it was a sweep. The Giants took the first two games behind rookie pitchers, Andrew Suarez and Dereck Rodriguez, but Derek Holland had an off day on Sunday. His command was lacking after a hot two-month stretch, but the lineup picked Holland up with 16 hits.
Brandon Belt had two hits and three walks. Nick Hundley reached base four times. Austin Slater did the same. Brandon Crawford drove in a huge insurance run. Even Hunter Pence got into the mix with a two-run pinch-hit double. The rest kept the line moving and did the little things.
It was a win with contributions from up and down the roster, and the biggest out might have come from a Giant who has barely seen the field in recent weeks. Cory Gearrin pitched just twice in the previous 17 games but Bochy called on him with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth. Gearrin got a roller toward first and Bochy feared it would sneak into the outfield like Pence's walk-off last Sunday. But Belt covered a ton of ground and made a deft off-balance flip back to Gearrin for the out at first.
"It was a jump-hook shot, and Cory was the wide receiver," Pence explained.
The Giants mostly cruised home from there. Mark Melancon ran into some trouble in the ninth, but Will Smith entered and retired the potential tying run with runners on the corners.
As he walked off the field, Bochy was left to take inventory. Pablo Sandoval was pulled early with an elbow contusion but an X-ray was negative and he should be back in a day or two. Gorkys Hernandez might need a day off after fouling a ball off his ankle, but Bochy doesn't think that one is serious, either. The bullpen might be in need of a boost after a couple games at Coors Field, but for now, the manager thinks the group will be alright.
It's a room that is gaining confidence -- "momentum," Pence said -- and now will try to avoid the sand traps that have popped up on every trip. On the last trip to Denver, the Giants looked just about done. Now they're a season-high five games above .500, and Bochy likes their chances at Coors Field after watching the lineup grind out at-bats on Sunday.
"You've got to slug it with the other club occasionally," he said. "They did that."