PHOENIX -- The Giants aren't likely to get more hitting contributions from reliever Santiago Casilla, as they did in Friday night's 6-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
As the season winds down, however, the Giants do need a boost from Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence, the men hitting directly in front of and behind MVP candidate Buster Posey. In that respect, Friday was a very positive night.
Pence came into the game with a .224 average as a Giant but reached base three times at Chase Field and hit a grand slam in the third inning that put the Giants up 5-0. Sandoval, who sat out Wednesday's game because of a recent slump, had three hits and made a run-saving play at third base.
"I feel like it's a good rhythm and balance right now," Pence said of the lineup. "Top to bottom we put up good at-bats. Every game it just feels like we're going to put something together."
The night's big rally helped make a winner of Matt Cain, who drew a walk to open the long third inning. Cain raced home and slid in just ahead of the throw home when Posey hit a bases-loaded grounder to third. Pence followed with his third career grand slam and first since 2008.
In his first 41 games since being traded to the Giants, Pence has just 37 hits but 34 RBIs.
"I need to get more hits, is what that tells me," he said.
Sandoval hadn't been getting many hits of late but got a mental breather Wednesday, ahead of the Giants' day off. He said he came to the park Friday refreshed and ready to contribute in the heart of the lineup.
"I came here like a new guy," he said. "You're going to have tough moments in your career and have slumps and make errors. You have to keep your head up and keep fighting."
Manager Bruce Bochy, the one who asked Sandoval to take a day off, was happy to see the lineup continue to coalesce on a night when Cain had to work hard early.
"Pablo is critical to our lineup," he said. "And with Pence, those guys are in the heart of your order. You need them to be swinging the bat well, and they came through for us tonight."
Cain had walked three batters in a game just four times this season, but he walked three in the first inning in addition to giving up a hit. But Posey erased a runner on the basepaths, and Cain managed to escape the inning unscathed despite throwing 34 pitches.
"I just didn't put away some guys," Cain said. "Maybe I got a little too fine with some pitches."
Cain battled through the next four innings but was pulled after hitting a batter and giving up a single to open the sixth. The Diamondbacks scored a run and loaded the bases with no outs, but Sandoval came up with a diving catch on a sharp liner to get the first out.
"That was a game-saving play," Bochy said. "If that ball gets down the line, it's a different ballgame."
Jeremy Affeldt got a grounder back to the mound for the second out, then struck out Aaron Hill as Arizona the bases loaded for the second time in the first six innings.
The Giants loaded the bases in the eighth, and Bochy shockingly elected to let Casilla hit. The right-hander sent the dugout into hysterics with his first career hit, a liner through the right side.
"I just tried to go the other way ... like Posey," Casilla said. "I was seeing the ball (well) tonight."
Casilla couldn't remember the last time he got a hit at any level. For some of his teammates, it was just another example of a team that's hitting on all cylinders.
"I did not think that was going to happen," Pence said, shaking his head. "It was pretty amazing to see."
"Normally when I hear that, I like to give the player another day or two," Bochy said. "He's so close -- you don't want a setback."
Nady hasn't played since Sept. 5 but did agility work before Friday's game and took batting practice, as he has done throughout the trip.
Because the season ticket base is up to about 30,000 and Major League Baseball reserves an allotment, the Giants expect to have 7,000 to 8,000 single-game tickets available if they host National League Division Series games. That number will dwindle significantly should they make a repeat run to the NLCS and World Series.
Giants (Barry Zito 11-8) at Arizona (Wade Miley 15-9), 5:10 p.m. CSNBA
N.L. WEST race
W L Pct. GB
Giants 82 62 .569 --
Dodgers 75 70 .517 7