CHICAGO Xavier Nady has been in the clubhouse for only two days, but that's long enough to form an opinion about his new Giants teammates, who along with Nady beat the Chicago Cubs 7-5 Sunday to complete a second straight 5-1 trip.
"It's a good group," Nady said. "I've been fortunate to be a part of some good teams, and this seems like an easy one to get along with. It's a very talented group."
Matt Cain, the talented right-hander who doubles as the team's longest-tenured member, feels the group is more than just "good." Cain is starting to sense something special.
"We're just trying to win, and it doesn't matter what happened the day before," Cain said. "You can get your butt kicked, and the guys feel like they won. We're all on the same page, and I think you have to have that."
Cain has felt this before. He compared this year's clubhouse to the one that won a World Series title in 2010, saying the Giants simply have fun. It's easy to have fun when you're winning, and these days, that's just about all the Giants do on the road.
Angel Pagan's ninth-inning single drove in the go-ahead run on a day when the Giants overcame a rough start by Cain.
The win was the 12th in the last 16 games for the Giants, who improved to 19-6 on the road in the second half. The road run is all the more impressive because of what happened right before the All-Star Game: The Giants went 1-5 in Washington and Pittsburgh, a stretch that within the clubhouse is considered the low point of the season.
"The way we ended the first half really bothered people," reliever Javier Lopez said. "We made a concerted effort to play the kind of baseball we know we can."
For the Giants, that means timely hits and strong pitching. The Giants rank last in the majors with 81 homers; no other team is even below 90. But they're eighth in on-base percentage (.324) and finally are taking advantage of all those opportunities.
The Giants were 6 for 10 with runners in scoring position Sunday and got big run-scoring hits from five players, including pinch hitter Brandon Belt, who cut the deficit to 5-4 with a sixth-inning triple and then scored the tying run on a wild pitch.
"Those are timely hits," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We kept the line moving there and got timely hits, and that's what it takes when you don't hit the long ball."
Cain ran into a player who does hit homers. He was sharp most of the day but left a fastball up to Alfonso Soriano in the fifth inning and paid for it. As the three-run homer sailed into the bleachers, Cain smacked the ground in frustration.
"I was trying to go away, and it was middle-middle, right at the belly," he said. "You turn around and hope the wind catches it, but it definitely did not."
Cain pitched five innings, tied for a season low, and gave up a season-high-tying five earned runs. But the lineup, as it has so often in the season's second half, came through late.
"There's just a feeling in the dugout that even if things aren't going right, you still feel like you're in the game," Cain said. "It feels like no matter what the score is, we'll keep trying to score. Even if we don't win, there's still a good vibe."
Lopez faced one batter and got a double-play grounder to clinch his second save of the trip. In four appearances on the trip, Lopez also earned two holds and induced three double plays, including two that ended games.
Sergio Romo and Lopez, who have largely split the closer role since the Giants went to a committee, have nine and six saves, respectively.
Note Bochy said he doesn't think Belt will need to play in a winter league, but the manager wants another corner infielder to get some extra work in.
Asked about third baseman Pablo Sandoval, Bochy said the Giants would like Sandoval to return to the program that helped him lose weight before the 2011 season.
"It's an ongoing issue, obviously, and something he's been battling," Bochy said.