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SF@SD: Cain strikes out nine over seven innings

SAN DIEGO -- This wasn't a classic. But it was rare.

On many days, the Giants' performance Thursday would have brought them a well-deserved defeat. Instead, they thrashed the San Diego Padres, 8-3, for their ninth victory in 11 games and their third consecutive series triumph.

Disrupting a stretch of improved defense, San Francisco committed a season-high four errors, including two during the third inning that made all three of San Diego's runs unearned. Yet the Giants prevailed while committing that many miscues for the first time since May 5, 2007.

As manager Bruce Bochy pointed out, "Defense ended up helping us, too." Third baseman Joaquin Arias, who committed one of the errors, made a pair of outstanding plays on ground balls, including Logan Forsythe's wickedly bouncing grounder to end the game. San Francisco also recorded two double plays, the most critical one coming off the bat of Cameron Maybin to end the sixth inning after San Diego loaded the bases with nobody out.

The Giants collected 10 or more hits in each game of the three-game series, a minor feat they hadn't accomplished since Sept. 11-14, 2008, against St. Louis. They equaled a single-game season high with three homers, as Buster Posey, Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco went deep. Ryan Theriot continued his torrid hitting, going 4-for-5 to lift his batting average to .432 (19-for-44) in his last 12 games. All this offense contributed to San Francisco's first victory by more than two runs since it routed Miami, 14-7, on May 24.

"It's nice to win a game by more than one run sometimes," Posey said, referring to the plethora of taut decisions the Giants endure.

San Francisco is 6-1 in June, having built that record against the Majors' only two teams with fewer than 20 victories: the Cubs and Padres. Cynics would say that the Giants are due for a reality check this weekend when they entertain the Rangers, their opponent in the 2010 World Series, who began Thursday with the American League's best record.

But most Major Leaguers would insist that cheap victories are a myth.

"To win six of seven, that's big," Bochy said. "I don't care who you're playing. It's not that easy."

"Any team can get hot at any time," right-hander Matt Cain said.

That's not so easy for opponents to accomplish when Cain pitches. He shrugged off the nightmarish third inning, which featured Theriot's poor throw home that allowed a run to score and Pagan's two-base error on Maybin's long fly ball, and maintained his typical durability. Cain (7-2) has worked at least six innings in all 12 of his starts this year, the longest such streak by a Giants pitcher to open the season since Atlee Hammaker went 21 games deep in 1983.

"I felt like I stayed in a rhythm and at times tried to slow the game down to where I didn't get out of whack," said Cain, who walked only one and struck out nine while lowering his ERA to 2.41.

More impressively, Cain limited Padres hitters to two hits in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position. For the season, opponents are hitting a National League-low .139 off him (11-for-79) in those situations. Cain executed his most daring escape when he threw a slider that induced Maybin's double-play grounder.

"We had the right guy out there," Bochy said. "Matt's unflappable."

Other Giants possess that quality to varying degrees, given the steadiness they've displayed. Pagan, for instance, is batting .390 (23-for-59) during a 15-game hitting streak. It's his third double-digit streak of the year, the most by a Giant since Randy Winn in 2007. His two-run homer in the seventh inning lengthened San Francisco's lead to 6-3.

Blanco, who entered the season with two Major League home runs in 253 at-bats, hit his second in as many days. The dynamic leadoff hitter also doubled and scored in the second inning and is batting .358 (19-for-53) in his last 13 games.

Blanco's homer prompted some kidding in the dugout from hitting coach Hensley Meulens.

"He said, 'I guess this ballpark's not big enough for you,' " said Blanco, who went 7-for-15 with two homers, two doubles and a triple while scoring six runs in the series.

Pitching for the first time since bruising his tibia last Friday, closer Santiago Casilla notched his 15th save. After Casilla defused a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the eighth, San Diego filled the bases against him again in the ninth inning before Arias robbed Forsythe.

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