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Bumgarner fans 11 Cubs over eight-plus innings

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants' fortunes have ascended so much that they're able to survive such near-disasters as Friday night's 4-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

Madison Bumgarner took a six-hit shutout into the ninth inning before he yielded a pair of singles and departed. Then closer Santiago Casilla not only allowed Alfonso Soriano's three-run homer, but also injured his right knee, apparently while fielding Darwin Barney's infield hit that left runners on the corners with one out. Javier Lopez relieved Casilla and recorded the final two outs to preserve San Francisco's edge.

The Giants are 13-7 in their last 20 games. They've averaged 4.7 runs during that stretch, compared to 3.6 in their first 32 games. The 3-4-5 spots in the batting order have been solidified by Melky Cabrera, who sustained his May heroics with two hits, including an RBI triple; Buster Posey, who added two RBIs to his team-high 29; and Angel Pagan, who established a franchise record by hitting safely in his 25th consecutive home game.

Leadoff batter Gregor Blanco has complemented that trio nicely. Every so often, somebody like Ryan Theriot, who went 3-for-3 on Friday, supplements the offense. Logic dictates that when third baseman Pablo Sandoval returns from his fractured left wrist, the Giants should be even more productive.

Since last Sunday, San Francisco has trimmed Los Angeles' National League West lead from 7 1/2 games to four. Though manager Bruce Bochy insisted that it's too early to scrutinize the standings, the Giants have positioned themselves to enjoy a rousing summer.

"It's a good vibe in the clubhouse and the dugout," Posey said.

"It feels like a family atmosphere in here," Bumgarner added. "It's nice."

Injuries frequently threaten to derail the Giants, which is why they'll anxiously await an update on Casilla's condition. San Francisco has weathered Brian Wilson's season-ending elbow injury by receiving 14 saves in 16 opportunities from Casilla. Being forced to search for a third closer might prove too taxing. "He thinks he's OK," said Bumgarner, who spoke briefly with Casilla after the win. Posey said that Casilla wanted to remain in the game, which struck another encouraging note.

For most of the evening, a closer didn't appear necessary for the Giants. Bumgarner stranded runners on the corners in the first inning while striking out the side, jump-starting him to a season-high 11 K's. This was the first game of Bumgarner's career in which he reached double-digit strikeouts without walking a hitter. He threw first-pitch strikes to 23 of the 30 batters he faced and thoroughly impressed the Cubs.

"When a guy gets that many first-pitch strikes and he's got that hard of a cutter and slider, he's going to be able to make his pitches and strike out guys like he did," manager Dale Sveum said.

"He was very tough," Soriano said. "I can say that because it was tough to time him and tough to see the ball."

Bumgarner struck out at least one Cub in every complete inning he pitched except the seventh. "If you get a guy with two strikes, you're obviously going to try a couple of pitches and see if he'll bite," he said.

Though Bumgarner's removal appeared necessary after Starlin Castro and Joe Mather connected solidly on their hits that opened the ninth, the left-hander had no desire to retreat to the dugout.

"I never want to. I keep an eye on [Bochy] over there to see if he's staying in or not," Bumgarner said. "Everybody on our team would stay out there and throw 200 pitches if he let us."

Bumgarner, who improved to 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA in six career starts against the Cubs, hurled just 102 pitches. But Bochy made the sensible move.

"They had some good right-handed hitters coming up," Bochy said. "[Bumgarner] did his job. His pitch count was pretty good, but he was going to have to work hard to get out of that and I wanted to cover him a little bit. And we have a closer doing a great job for us."

The conclusion didn't unfold the way Bochy envisioned. Yet, the Giants still won. Momentum often works that way.

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