PHOENIX (AP) — Halfway through the season, everybody seems surprised that the San Francisco Giants are out front in the high-powered NL West.
Everyone but the Giants themselves, anyway.
“Our players said in spring training their goal was to win the National League West,” manager Gabe Kapler said after the Giants beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 11-4 Friday night.
At the halfway point, the Giants are 51-30 and are not only leading the West over the favored Los Angeles Dodgers by a half-game, but they own the best record in baseball.
“There was a lot of conversation in spring training,” Kapler said. “Our players really do set the tone and we’re here to support their mission.
“Right now we’re halfway there. There’s a long way to go but we feel good about where we are and we have a chance to do it.”
Despite the Giants’ success, many still view the defending World Series champion Dodgers or the star-studded San Diego Padres as the teams to beat in the West. That doesn’t bother Kapler.
“I don’t get caught up in competing against a projection. We have teams trying to beat us every night. I think that’s really important to not get caught up in expectations,” he said.
The Giants snapped a four-game losing streak, their longest of the season, with three home runs, including Thairo Estrada’s grand slam in the ninth inning that capped the scoring in a back-and-forth game. San Francisco never trailed, but saw its lead cut on two occasions until Estrada connected.
“Estrada had great at-bats throughout,” Kapler said of the infielder, who was just promoted from Triple-A Sacramento.
Estrada went 3 for 5 and drove in five runs. Alex Dickerson and LaMonte Wade Jr. also homered for San Francisco.
Giants left-hander Alex Wood (7-3) struck out eight in five innings. He was charged with two runs and four hits.
“I just wanted to play stopper tonight,” Wood said. “I don’t know if you can call it stopper for five innings, but it was good enough tonight.”
Eduardo Escobar and Pavin Smith homered for last-place Arizona, which lost for the fifth time in six games. Zac Gallen (1-4) allowed three runs in two-plus innings before departing with right hamstring tightness.
San Francisco opened a 5-2 lead with two runs in the fifth. Wilmer Flores hit an RBI single, and Estrada doubled home Steven Duggar.
Wade hit a two-run shot against Brett De Geus in the eighth, making it 7-2. Wade’s seventh homer drove in Jaylin Davis, who reached on a pinch-hit double when his pop fly fell between three fielders in shallow right field.
The Diamondbacks got two back on solo drives by Escobar and Smith against Jimmie Sherfy in the eighth. It was the 18th homer and 500th career RBI for Escobar, who had two hits and scored twice.
The Diamondbacks, who beat the Giants on Thursday night in the series opener, still haven’t won consecutive games since May 10-11.
SECOND TIME AROUND
Opposing batters are hitting .145 against Wood in their first at-bat. But the second time through the order, opponents are hitting .300 against him.
In four starts since returning from a sprained elbow, Gallen is 0-3 with a 5.74 ERA. His last win was on April 25 in Atlanta, a one-hitter in a seven-inning doubleheader opener followed by Madison Bumgarner’s no-hit effort in the second game.
LHP Sammy Long (1-1, 4.95 ERA) starts for the Giants on Saturday night in Phoenix. The Diamondbacks will start RHP Jake Faria (0-0, 3.38).
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