Like old times: The former Giants return in sweep of Dodgers 

click to enlarge The Giants' Justin Maxwell, right, and Angel Pagan, left, celebrate as Sergio Romo watches following Maxwell's walk-off hit against the Dodgers on Thursday. - MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ/AP
  • Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
  • The Giants' Justin Maxwell, right, and Angel Pagan, left, celebrate as Sergio Romo watches following Maxwell's walk-off hit against the Dodgers on Thursday.

It's safe for Giants Nation to come down from the bridges and tall buildings now.

Well, for a few hours, anyway.

It takes more than one series for a team to turn the corner, but at least the Giants can see the corner now. That couldn't be said about them at the start of the week.

That's what a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers can do for a team.

Justin Maxwell put the final touch on the sweep at AT&T Park on Thursday when he singled home Angel Pagan with one out in the 10th inning for a 3-2 victory. And make no mistake about it — the series was bigger than most in the first month of the season.

"I think so," Giants manager Bruce Bochy agreed. "If you looked at the homestand, our record and really our play. ... We just weren't playing the type of ball we're capable of playing. This was a big test for us, and they rose to the occasion."

If not for Dodgers second baseman Howie Kendrick, who speared his line drive with the bases loaded in the eight inning, Maxwell probably would have won it earlier.

One inning later, Brandon Crawford hit an RBI triple to the score with no outs. He was stranded there.

Does that sound like the old Giants or what?

"It just shows the fight that this team has, the determination," Maxwell said. "Nobody gave up. Everybody kept a positive mindset."

As an added bonus, Ryan Vogelsong pitched six solid innings to take some of the load off a rotation that had been plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness in the early season.

"We've got some new guys here, but one thing hasn't changed — this team is pretty resilient," Vogelsong said.

Yet Vogelsong and his veteran teammates know consistency is what wins in a marathon season. Now they will head to the road for three games against the born-again Colorado Rockies and three more against the Dodgers, still the West Division leaders.

"It's always a big series when we play [the Dodgers]," Vogelsong said. "We don't like to lose to them, and they don't like to lose to us. The homestand didn't start the way we wanted it to, so it was pretty important for us to finish it strong going into a tough road trip."

Better yet, a centerpiece of the offense may be soon on the way.

Hunter Pence (fractured forearm) made substantial progress in recent days and could return to the lineup next week. He will accompany the team on the road trip.

"He's been swinging the bat a little bit off a tee," Bochy reported. "He's making progress and it's starting to come now as far as his improvement. So that's a good sign when a guy starts swinging the bat after a hand or a wrist injury. He'll continue to do this then ramp it up each day."

The news wasn't nearly as positive as it concerned Matt Cain and Jake Peavy, who have combined to make only two starts in the first month of the season.

Cain continues to rehabilitate a strained flexor tendon and has yet to throw again. Peavy reported some improvement in his troublesome back, but there was no timetable for his return.

"He's doing better," said Bochy, who touched base with Peavy before the game. "He's doing all he can to get ready. He's hungry to get back."

Until the real Giants team makes an appearance — if and when that happens — the margin for error will paper-thin as usual.

As Bochy doesn't have to be reminded, it's imperative that his team find ways to win close games, a trademark in its championship years.

"We're going to have to grind," Bochy said. "We're going to have to scratch and claw. That's who we are right now."

If these really are the same old Giants, that won't be such a bad thing at all.

pladewski@sfexaminer.com

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