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Velez helps Giants cut Wild Card deficit

Giants cut into NL Wild Card deficit

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LOS ANGELES -- With 15 games left in the regular season, the Giants may have found a semblance of an everyday lineup.

It's not a true set lineup, because manager Bruce Bochy is likely to use it only against right-handed starters. But it passed a significant test Friday night by generating sufficient offense -- a frequent challenge for the Giants on the road -- in an 8-4 triumph over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

San Francisco's fourth win in five games enlivened its pursuit of a postseason berth, because it trimmed Colorado's lead in the National League Wild Card standings to 2 1/2 games. The Rockies lost at Arizona, 7-5. Preceded by Wednesday's oh-so-close 4-3 loss to Colorado, the Giants embraced this victory more enthusiastically than most.

"No one likes to give in," left-hander Jeremy Affeldt said. "We have a situation where some people start counting people out. Every time it seems like we get back in it, we fall back away and we get back in it. When you're this close in the pennant race, whichever team gets hot wins it."

The Giants got hot at the plate, amassing 15 hits. Eugenio Velez collected three hits, lacking only a triple for the cycle, drove in a pair of runs and scored twice. Nice production for a guy who was 2-for-26 against the Dodgers in his previous 11 games against them. Pablo Sandoval hit his first home run since Aug. 29, a three-run drive in the third inning that broke a 1-1 tie. Fred Lewis contributed an RBI double in a two-run sixth inning that snapped a 4-4 deadlock and Aaron Rowand homered in the eighth to pad the Giants' lead -- always a good idea when Manny Ramirez, who drove in three runs, is on the other side.

The Giants' hunger for offense tends to grow particularly keen on the road, where they were hitting .247 and averaging 3.6 runs per game entering Friday. By contrast, San Francisco's batting .267 at AT&T Park while scoring nearly 4.5 runs a game.

So, in the opener of a six-game trip that will go a long way toward determining the Giants' postseason fate, they had to be encouraged to receive offense from the likes of Sandoval (.287 road batting average, .357 home), Travis Ishikawa (.156 road, .356 home) and Juan Uribe (.235 road, .352 home). Ishikawa rapped two hits and Uribe stroked two singles, including an eighth-inning hit that drove in San Francisco's final run.

With the exception of Bengie Molina, who needs occasional rest from catching duties, this could be the starting eight the Giants rely on down the stretch. "We'll run with this for a while," Bochy said.

Yet one of the Giants' biggest hits came from the bench. Ishikawa's one-out double off Ramon Troncoso (4-4) enlivened San Francisco's half of the sixth. Rowand struck out before Lewis, batting for Bob Howry, prolonged the inning with his opposite-field drive to left that carried over Ramirez's head. Velez delivered Lewis with another double, rocketing a 1-1 pitch off the left-field wall.

"I thought he had a chance at it," Lewis said of Ramirez. "I have to take him out to dinner, I guess. I'm just thankful he didn't catch it."

That wasn't the Giants' only close call. Unable to sustain his recent success on the road, where he posted a 2-1 record and a 1.16 ERA in his previous five starts, starter Jonathan Sanchez yielded all of Los Angeles' runs in 4 1/3 innings. But six relievers provided ample assistance by blanking the Dodgers on three hits the rest of the way.

Each reliever distinguished himself to some extent.

Howry (2-6) closed out the fifth after Rafael Furcal's homer off Sanchez tied the score. Brandon Medders struck out Ramirez, who had gone 2-for-2, to open the sixth. Rookie left-hander Dan Runzler retired James Loney, the potential tying run, to end the sixth. Sergio Romo struck out three consecutive batters, including Ramirez on three pitches.

Affeldt stranded two inherited runners in the eighth, ending the inning by slipping a 3-2 curveball past Jim Thome for a called third strike. Affeldt described his strategy against Thome, who has 564 career homers and represented the possible tying run, by saying, "Don't hit his barrel." Pitching in a non-save situation, Brian Wilson worked a perfect ninth to seal San Francisco's 80th victory.

The Dodgers constantly were one hit away from re-establishing control. But, as Bochy said, "That's what a bullpen does for you."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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