The Giants strolled into PNC Park on Monday afternoon as the National League's hottest team. They left Pittsburgh's North Shore on Thursday afternoon with a 5-3 win over the Pirates, a four-game series victory and a trail of smoke still flowing behind them.
San Francisco rolled past Pittsburgh for its 11th win in 12 games. The Giants are a season-high 20 games over .500, six games ahead of the second-place Dodgers. They've won 30 of their past 39 games, the best record in baseball since May 11.
"I'm proud of these guys, with what we've gone through and how we've kept our focus," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, referring to frontline performers such as Hunter Pence, Matt Cain and Matt Duffy going on the disabled list. "These guys have done such a great job. But we have so much baseball left."
San Francisco has gotten help from all over the lineup and pitching staff, with this four-game series serving as a fine example. Madison Bumgarner lost the opener, but various contributors stepped up over the past three games. On Thursday it was outfielder Mac Williamson, recalled Tuesday to fill in for injured third baseman Duffy.
"Right now, we're getting contributions from [players] one through 25," second baseman Joe Panik said.
Batting third, Williamson went 3-for-4 with a home run. Panik put the Giants ahead with a three-run triple in the third inning, and Williamson immediately padded their lead with an RBI single. Williamson went deep off Pirates lefty Jonathon Niese in the sixth, his second homer and the 18th allowed by Niese this season.
"That was just bad pitch execution. I had no business throwing the ball in there," Niese said. "It was just kind of a brain fart there. I just made a mistake. But for the most part, getting more consistent."
The Pirates continued to move in the opposite direction as the Giants, losing their 13th game in 15 tries. They've dropped 20 of 26 since moving to a season-high nine games over .500 on May 27.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Big Mac: Williamson has been with the Giants for four separate stints already this year. He looked like he was launching a bid to stick around longer this time, lashing a career-high three hits. He has shuttled regularly between Triple-A Sacramento and San Francisco as the position player the Giants turn to when a regular is sidelined.
"It's frustrating at times, just because you're going back and forth trying to settle in," he said. "But I'm thankful for their belief in me. It would have been easy for them after my first two times up here, and even after the last time, really, to give the opportunity to somebody else."
From the top: The Pirates' first three hitters created three early runs. Josh Harrisonreached on a grounder, went to third base on an errant pickoff throw and scored on Gregory Polanco's sacrifice fly in the first inning. In the third, John Jaso singled, Harrison tripled and Polanco lofted another sacrifice fly to right field. Then the Pirates went cold, at one point sending 15 straight men to the plate without anyone getting on base.
"Any time you're presented with an opportunity, you want to take advantage of it," Harrison said. "Anytime you can be at third base with less than two outs, it puts pressure on that pitcher. Polanco was able to come up and get a sac fly."
All he does is win: Giants starter Albert Suarez wasn't overly impressive, but there's no denying that he did his job -- which has been the case almost every time he starts. Suarez kept his poise after his first-inning throwing error accounted for an unearned run and after squandering most of a 4-1 lead in the third inning. Bottom line, he's 3-1.
As Suarez related, he told himself after the third inning, "'You have to start getting aggressive.'" For him, that meant pitching to contact. The right-hander's self-help program worked as he retired six of the seven batters he faced in the fourth and fifth innings. By trying to pitch to contact, he actually fooled more hitters, chalking up three of his six strikeouts in this span.
QUOTABLE "We didn't get any runs. … We weren't able to get the barrel on the ball and find outfield grass and get hits. That's what we weren't able to do." -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, on his team's at-bats against the Giants' bullpen
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Over the past two days, the Giants' bullpen tossed 10 scoreless innings and struck out 13.
The Pirates are now 5-26 this season when scoring fewer than four runs.
WHAT'S NEXT Giants: With Friday's AT&T Park series opener against Philadelphia at 7:15 p.m. PT, withJake Peavy set to pitch, San Francisco begins a seven-game stretch within the confines of the Bay Area. The Giants will play two-game, home-and-home series against top Interleague rival Oakland after the Phillies series is complete.
Pirates: Right-hander Jameson Taillon will make his fourth Major League start at 7:05 p.m. ET Friday at PNC Park against the Dodgers. Taillon gave up four runs in four innings and lost to the Cubs on Sunday night at Wrigley Field. His second start was dominant: two hits over eight scoreless innings at Citi Field on June 14, his first career win.