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Healthy San Francisco Giants Making Moves in NL West

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 04: Alen Hanson #19 and Joe Panik #12 of the San Francisco Giants celebrate after they scored on a hit by Buster Posey #28 of the San Francisco Giants in the fourth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at AT&T Park on June 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 04: Alen Hanson #19 and Joe Panik #12 of the San Francisco Giants celebrate after they scored on a hit by Buster Posey #28 of the San Francisco Giants in the fourth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at AT&T Park on June 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The San Francisco Giants opened a series against the first place Diamondbacks on Monday night, looking to extend their win streak to five games. A seven-run fourth inning and a deep bullpen made that happen.

The San Francisco Giants came into their matchup against the D-Backs riding a four-game win streak and just two and a half games out of first place. After missing the opportunity to take the division from the Rockies last week, the Giants have been granted a second chance to do damage in the standings with a series victory here.

Since the return of Joe Panik on Friday night, the Giants have played excellent baseball. They gave up just one run to the Phillies in three games, and haven’t shown signs of slowing up.

While starting pitching had been the highlight over the course of the weekend, Monday it was the offense that stole the show. Despite a slow start at the plate, the Giants still managed to score 10 runs, blowing the Diamondbacks out of the water.

Seven of those 10 runs came in the fourth inning, which started out with back-to-back home runs from Andrew McCutchen and Brandon Crawford, instantly erasing the 2-0 lead the D-Backs had earned in the top of the frame.

From there, they didn’t stop. A single and a couple of walks loaded the bases for Alen Hanson, who smacked a two-run double down the third base line to keep the line moving.

Hanson has so far proven to be a valuable offseason signing for the Giants. He filled big shoes at second base when Panik first hit the DL, before Hanson too was sidelined due to injury. Now with Panik healthy, Hanson has taken up Kelby Tomlinson‘s utility role. His pinch-hit appearance in Monday’s game reminded Giants that Panik hasn’t been the only one missed in the lineup.

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Buster Posey matched Hanson with a two-run double of his own a couple of batters later, capping off the scoring for the explosive inning.

With all the talk about Joey Bart, the Giants’ second overall draft pick from earlier in the day, it was nice to be reminded of the star catcher the Giants already have.

Other players to note were Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence — Sandoval, filling in at first base for the now appendix-less Brandon Belt — went three-for-four with a home run in the fifth and two runs scored. Pence had a couple good at-bats in his first start back from his extended rehab assignment in Sacramento, which most likely instilled some much-needed confidence into the struggling veteran.

The bullpen was another strong point worth mentioning, with five strong innings tossed and impressive outings from Reyes Moronta, Pierce Johnson, and Ty Blach. Considering all the extra work the relief arms had in the month of May, seeing strong outings like this one puts smiles on fans’ faces everywhere.

Madison Bumgarner makes his first start of the year on Tuesday night in the next game of this series. He joins a team that is just a game and a half out of first place.

At the start of the season, when the Giants were facing two Bumgarner-less months, all anyone could ask for was for the team to tread water and keep their record as close to .500 as possible. They’ve done exactly that, and proven they have the talent to be even better.

Now it’s time to take the division by storm.

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