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Bonta Hill: San Francisco Giants have taken injuries in stride, are positioned well in NL West race

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San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto celebrates after inducing a double play against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium on April 22, 2018. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

‘Special’ isn’t necessarily the right word to describe the 2018 San Francisco Giants. Resilient? Sure. They’ve overcome injuries and managed to tread water until reinforcements arrived, and they’ve been impressive for a club that’s coming off of a 98-loss season.

Nobody is popping champagne or jumping for joy about being a .500 ballclub, but the fact that they’re even in the National League West race, after three of their five starting pitchers went down, plus their starting left fielder, and used 22 different pitchers, is an accomplishment in and of itself.

As the Giants embark on a 10-game road trip, with the first stop being in the nation’s capital to take on the Washington Nationals, they find themselves an even 31-31, 1.5 games back of the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks, and winners of six of their last seven.

“[Andrew McCutchen] said it perfectly the other day: ‘Just kind of tread water, keep our head above and just grind it out,’ and we’ve been doing that,” Hunter Strickland said. “Its loose in the clubhouse, everybody is confident, but there is still that little bit of edge because last year hit us in the mouth. We have something to prove because we know we’re better than that.”

In winning a pivotal series against those Diamondbacks on Wednesday afternoon, Alen Hanson’s two-run bomb to right field with two outs in the bottom of the ninth was one of the better moments of the season.

An inning later, Brandon Crawford — who’s playing out of his mind, batting .444 since the start of May — sent everybody home with a single to right.

Staying in the race and hovering around .500 while ace Madison Bumgarner missed the first 60 with a broken finger? Mission accomplished. Still, manager Bruce Bochy cautioned not to be so gung-ho over being .500.

From Bochy’s viewpoint, the Giants have a lot of work to do, but admitted it feels good to be where they are in the standings, despite all the injuries and a brief spell of futility that’s reminded some of us of 2017.

“With all the injuries, we could’ve let this get away from us, and some tough periods we’ve had during the season with those losing streaks,” Bochy said. “We have to play better on the road, and starting pitching has to improve. To be where we’re at right now, no we’re not happy or content, but with what we’ve had to go through, okay you take it.”

Bochy’s right: the Giants must improve on their 12-20 record on the road. They must get better starting pitching to help alleviate the usage of the bullpen that’s been money.

“We’ve got work to do, a lot of work to do,” Bochy added. “This is going to be a tough race. It’s a tight division right now. It’s going to be important that we continue to do things we’re doing right now.”

Johnny Cueto — 3-0 with a 0.84 ERA in five starts — is set to throw a bullpen in Washington, D.C., his first session since being sidelined in early May with a sprained elbow. Brandon Belt returns to the lineup in the next two weeks. The Giants are in a good spot considering how topsy-turvy the first two months of the season were.

“They’ve taken some severe stomach punches and nothing has slowed them down,” said longtime color commentator Mike Krukow. “What do we know after 60-61 games? They can hit and they’ve got a bullpen. This is going to be a crazy September, and hopefully, there is an October. But this team believes there will be. It’s just a nice quiet vibe in this clubhouse.”

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