SAN FRANCISCO - Bruce Bochy kept a stoic expression through much of the season-opening slide, but he couldn't hide his emotions in the fourth inning Monday. As the Giants took advantage of a bungled rundown and scored two runs, Bochy turned his face toward the outfield. He smiled and chuckled briefly before slipping back into character.
Bochy enjoyed Monday night, and so did his players. They're finally headed in the right direction, and there was no "it's the Reds" caveat this time. The red-hot Dodgers came into town and on the first night the Giants pitched well, hit well, defended as they always do, and took advantage of mistakes.
"When you're having some success that certainly helps your personality," Bochy said. "We're not getting giddy out there. We dug ourselves a hole (but) every day you've got to come out with your best game. You've got to believe the worm is going to turn and it has, but we've got our hands full the next couple of days."
The Giants will face Rich Hill on Tuesday and Clayton Kershaw on Wednesday. If they needed a reminder of how difficult it will be to keep this charge going, they got it in the ninth inning of an 8-4 win. The bullpen took a seven-run lead into the inning but Bochy had to turn to his closer, Derek Law, as the third pitcher of the frame. Steven Okert was warming up, too.
Law shut it down, however. This was the rare night when the Giants had done so much right that a late stumble couldn't derail them. Most of the damage was done in the fourth, when the lineup opened with four straight hits and scored four runs. That gave Matt Cain a 5-1 lead, and he went deep with it.
Cain threw 112 pitches, his most since 2014. He has allowed one run in 12 1/3 innings against the Dodgers this season. In mid-May, he's 3-1 with a 4.04 ERA. Talk about the worm turning.
"He's in such great control out there with his delivery," Bochy said. "He's not putting a lot of effort in and he's showing great command. His stamina is back, the stuff is there, and he just made some great pitches all night."
As Bochy walked out to the mound to take the ball in the seventh, the infielders rushed to the mound. There was a bit more urgency than normal, with five players eager to show their appreciation for the longest-tenured Giant. Cain walked off to a standing ovation.
"It feels good, it definitely feels good," he said. "It's been a long road but it's something we've been grinding at. We've had to find that confidence again and keep going out there and repeating the delivery."
Cain caught a couple of breaks on double-play balls early, but the Giants certainly weren't apologizing. They scored their first run on a bloop single by Denard Span. "I think that was our first two-out bloop of the year," Brandon Crawford said. The luck continued in the fourth on Eduardo Nuñez's broken-bat infield single that scored two. Asked to explain the play, Crawford smiled.
"No, I don't think I can," he said.
He went on to say Phil Nevin had thought the second baseman had stopped the ball, and that would have given Crawford room to get home from second. Crawford assumed the ball had gotten into center field. When he looked up, shortstop Corey Seager had thrown it in to pitcher Brandon McCarthy. Crawford froze between third and home. Nuñez was caught up between first and second. McCarthy for some reason spun toward second and Crawford scored easily. Nuñez was safe, too.
"Yeah, you know, we've gotten so many of those this year," Crawford joked. "That's something that just happened. I don't think I've seen that before."
After six weeks of not forcing the issue and also not getting any help, the Giants will take it. They found ways to score in more conventional ways, too. Crawford's RBI double was smoked. Mac Williamson had two hits and an RBI in his return, earning an addition of "Return of the Mack" to the post game victory soundtrack. Buster Posey hit his fifth homer in seven games.
The third Posey blast came Wednesday in New York, the day Cain points to as the start of all this. He noted that Christian Arroyo's bases-clearing double that night brought joy back to the dugout. Crawford thought the 17-inning game on Friday turned the tide.
It's a discussion without a sure answer, but that doesn't matter. Any discussion about wins is one the Giants will happily have at this point.