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SF@SD: Sandoval consults his bat, hits two homers

SAN DIEGO -- Forget for a moment about the National League West race, which the Giants apparently haven't.

Though the Giants didn't improve their short-term prospects of catching first-place Arizona in the division race, their future beyond this season looked brighter after Monday's 7-2 triumph over the San Diego Padres.

Pablo Sandoval and Madison Bumgarner, whom the Giants are counting on to help them remain contenders for the next several years, delivered overpowering efforts. Sandoval, 25, belted two home runs at PETCO Park, which typically stifles the long ball. Bumgarner, 22, struck out a career-high 13 in an 8 1/3-inning performance while again defying the skeptics who wait for him to sag under the burden of too many innings.

This was an encouraging day for the Giants, though they remained seven games behind Arizona in the division standings with 21 games remaining. The ease with which they handled last-place San Diego suggested that losing two of three to the D-backs over the weekend neither crushed their spirit nor drained their intensity.

Manager Bruce Bochy said that before the team boarded its charter flight here following Sunday's 4-1 loss to Arizona, he and general manager Brian Sabean urged players to maintain the diligence that made them World Series champions last year. Bochy explained that the rubber game against the D-backs was "one of those losses you can let get to you too much."

Bochy added, "It's very important to us that we keep going hard. It's the right thing to do. It's an obligation and a responsibility and we're not going to tolerate anything else."

Cody Ross, whose 3-for-4 afternoon included a two-run, eighth-inning double, cited the 2007 Phillies, who trailed the New York Mets by seven games with 17 to play and won the NL East.

"I think there are too many guys in here who are professionals," Ross said. "Even if they're thinking [about giving up], the last thing they're going to do is start talking about it. We have a month left, basically. We have guys in here playing for a job next year, if it's not for trying to make it to the playoffs. Hopefully we can catch fire and make it interesting down the stretch. We're definitely not counting ourselves out, that's for sure."

If nothing else, the Giants will learn upon whom they can rely.

"This is when you find out about players," Bochy said. "If there's any time to come out with the fighting spirit, it's now."

So it was fitting that Sandoval, who probably would play tripleheaders if he could, and Bumgarner, who shares the competitiveness of his fellow North Carolinian, Hall of Famer and Giants legend Gaylord Perry, restored San Francisco's equilibrium.

Sandoval went deep in the first and fourth innings off Padres right-hander Tim Stauffer (8-12) to record his third career two-homer game and his first since June 27, 2009, at Milwaukee.

Sandoval, who has hit a team-high 18 homers, remained bent on finishing strongly, despite -- or because of -- missing 40 games earlier in the year with a broken right hamate bone.

"When you know you can do things, you don't get frustrated," said Sandoval, who also scored a personal season-high three runs.

Sandoval had three more plate appearances after his second homer. He flied out to medium-deep left field in the fifth inning, drew an intentional walk in the eighth inning and struck out swinging in the ninth. Though Sandoval appeared to be swinging for the fences in his final at-bat against Padres reliever Ernesto Frieri, he insisted that he wasn't dwelling on notching a third homer.

"It's too much," Sandoval said.

Bumgarner (10-12) was too much for the Padres, whom he silenced after they scored in the first inning on Jason Bartlett's one-out double and Jesus Guzman's RBI single. After the latter hit, San Diego went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position against Bumgarner, who retired 17 of 19 batters from the final out of the third inning until Nick Hundley homered with one out in the ninth. Bumgarner, who struck out 11 Cubs last Wednesday, became the first Giant since Tim Lincecum (April 28 and May 4, 2010) to record double-digit strikeout totals in back-to-back starts.

"He had a good slider that got underneath [the hands] of our right-handers," Padres manager Bud Black said. "And he located his fastball away. He kept the ball down and we had to go down and get them. The slider was as good as I've seen from him."

Bumgarner's late-season surge -- he's 4-2 with a 2.28 ERA in his last seven starts -- has erased concern over his stamina. Conventional wisdom dictated that the 214 1/3 innings the left-hander logged last year, from Triple-A to the World Series, was an overly ambitious increase from the 141 1/3 he accumulated in 2009. Surely, many concluded, Bumgarner would tire at best or injure himself at worst.

Bumgarner admitted that he felt some trepidation over his durability.

"I can't tell you I wasn't worried about it," he said. But sustaining his between-starts workout routine has helped him remain whole.

"He's country strong," Bochy said. "He really hasn't ever shown signs of fatigue."

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