SAN DIEGO -- Major League Baseball didn't do the Giants any favors with the schedule, giving them 20 games in 20 days in the middle of the summer.
The off day at the end of that stretch was always going to be welcome, and the timing ultimately ended up being perfect. A day after losing slugger Melky Cabrera to a suspension, the Giants got a breather.
They came back Friday night refreshed and refocused, and after beating the San Diego Padres 10-1, the Giants were back in first place in the National League West.
"It definitely felt good, and it was definitely a day off that was needed," Matt Cain said. "We came back today right back on pace."
On the road, that pace has been prolific. The Giants have won 10 of their last 14 road games and have done so in impressive fashion, outscoring their opponents 103-45. The lineup that leads the National League in road scoring put up eight runs in the third inning alone, backing up Wednesday's proclamations that the Giants would keep hitting without Cabrera, their All-Star No. 3 hitter.
"This is big," shortstop Brandon Crawford said. "We knew that we had guys in here that will step it up."
It was a long list of contributors Friday. The Giants hit for the cycle in their first 10 at-bats while taking a 2-0 lead, and they were just getting started. Seven consecutive hitters safely reached base in the third inning, five of them on base hits. Crawford extended his hitting streak to a career-high
"They kept it moving very well," manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's important that you're resilient in this game, and I thought it was important that we came out tonight and played well. The fellas did that."
The offensive outburst came on a night when Cain retired the first 10 Padres before plunking Logan Forsythe in the fourth. He still had a no-hitter going with one out in the fifth, but Yonder Alonso drove a double to right. The shutout was soon lost, as well, on a single from Everth Cabrera that scored Alonso. Coming off two consecutive rough outings on the road, Cain worked efficiently through eight innings, giving up just the one run on four hits. He struck out six without issuing a walk.
"He's tough when he's on," Bochy said, "and he was on tonight."
Blanco started in left field Friday night and reached base three times. Blanco isn't expected to put up the gaudy numbers Cabrera did, but he's hopeful he can find the form that made him an everyday starter for much of the first half.
"I just need to get back to what I was doing," Blanco said. "I need to be aggressive and trust myself. This is a time that the team needs me, and I'm really excited about it. I wanted an opportunity like this again."
That's not to say that Blanco is happy that his second chance at an everyday role came when Cabrera, a close friend, was suspended for violating baseball's drug policy. In a clubhouse full of mixed emotions, Blanco stood firmly behind Cabrera, saying he hoped to have him back if the Giants make the playoffs.
"To end it like this is sad, but we have to pull it off for him," Blanco said. "This is a team, and he's going to be good for us if he comes back. That (suspension) was a big surprise, but I said to myself, 'Do this for Melky, because he deserves it.' Now it's my time to prove myself and prove to him that we're going to (keep winning)."
Blanco said he reached out to Cabrera after the suspension was handed down but has not heard back. "I think he's still a little embarrassed," he said. "But it'll be fine."
Bochy had no hesitation putting Blanco in the seventh spot in the order, saying he was pleased with the way Blanco swung the bat Wednesday, when he was inserted into the starting lineup an hour before the game.
Blanco snapped a streak of 21 hitless at-bats with a sixth-inning single and finished with two hits Wednesday. Still, Blanco is hitting just .119 over his last 21 games.
"He looked like he was pressing," Bochy said. "He wouldn't let his swing do the work."
Blanco was primarily a leadoff hitter during his first stint as a regular this season, but Bochy didn't want to remove hot-hitting Pagan from that role.
"We want him to be himself," Bochy said of Blanco. "We want him to do what he can to get on base."
Blanco, a left-handed hitter, has fared better against lefties this season, but Bochy said he still might give right-handed-hitting outfielder Justin Christian a few starts. The Giants face four left-handed pitchers in their last five games on this trip.
"He's up here to help out," Bochy said of Christian, who was activated Friday. "He'll see some time."
Within the organization, Mota's suspension is viewed differently from Cabrera's. Whereas Cabrera admitted to using a banned substance, Mota said he took his daughter's cough medicine, and Major League Baseball is said to have corroborated the story.
Mota didn't pitch well in two rookie level appearances in Scottsdale, giving up seven runs in 22/3 innings.
Giants (Barry Zito 9-8) at San Diego (Eric Stults 3-2), 5:35 p.m. CSNBA
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