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SF@HOU: Pence collects two hits, drives in a pair

HOUSTON -- As the Giants' victory total mounted with Thursday's 8-4 triumph over the Houston Astros, the temptation to compare this year's team with the 2010 world champions became more irresistible.

Despite being the Giants' best all-around hitter in 2010, Aubrey Huff didn't favor the past.

"I think our offense is actually better than it was in 2010," the sidelined first baseman said. "In 2010, we'd get some bloops and a blast. This offense is a little bit more balanced."

That notion was reinforced as the Giants (74-57) completed a three-game sweep, climbed a season-high 17 games over .500 and manufactured their biggest comeback of the season. Mashing 15 hits, they overcame Houston's 4-0 lead through three innings, eclipsing the pair of three-run deficits they erased earlier this year.

Every San Francisco starter but one hit safely.

"I think everybody's clicking at the right time," said first baseman Brandon Belt, who included a ninth-inning RBI double among his career-high-equaling four hits. "The big thing is to finish strong now and see where that leads us."

It's currently leading the Giants to the postseason, as their National League West lead grew to 4 1/2 games over the second-place Dodgers.

Joaquin Arias replaced the only Giant in the lineup who didn't get a hit, Brandon Crawford, and walloped an eighth-inning homer. That lengthened Arias' hitting streak to eight games and hiked his August average to .429 (24-for-56). The right-handed-hitting Arias and the left-handed-batting Crawford have platooned at shortstop, meaning that the latter receives most of the playing time. But manager Bruce Bochy hinted that he might start Arias in left field, which has been a mostly unproductive position for San Francisco since Melky Cabrera's suspension.

"We're going to talk about it on the plane," Bochy said before the Giants left for Chicago.

Three-run uprisings in the fifth and seventh innings boosted the Giants and hastened Houston's fifth consecutive loss.

With Gregor Blanco on first and one out in the fifth inning, pitcher Ryan Vogelsong furthered the Giants' rally by faking a bunt, pulling back his bat and singling past shortstop Tyler Greene.

"I thought his hit was a turning point," Bochy said.

"Give him credit, he executed," Greene said. "With Blanco on first, you know that's a guy that can run and maybe try to take a bag right there, and he was able to pull it back and put it in a spot that's open."

The next three batters drove in runs: Angel Pagan doubled, Marco Scutaro grounded an infield single and Pablo Sandoval smashed a sacrifice fly.

Scutaro's two-out double prolonged the seventh, which continued with Sandoval's RBI single to right field that barely eluded Houston second baseman Jose Altuve. After an intentional walk to Buster Posey, Astros reliever Fernando Rodriguez threw a pair of wild pitches to set up Hunter Pence's two-run, broken-bat single.

Vogelsong (12-7) complemented the balanced offense by regrouping. He allowed runs in each of the first three innings but retired 10 of the last 13 hitters he faced, notching six of his seven strikeouts in the process.

The right-hander sounded as if he willed himself to recover from his shaky start.

"I was just kind of off early with everything -- mechanically, tempo, everything was just kind of out of whack," said Vogelsong, who surrendered four runs and seven hits in six innings. "There wasn't one thing I changed to get going. It just kind of fell into place. ... Especially when we had that [first] three-run inning, I knew I had to find a way to keep putting zeros up. It really came down to throwing it over the plate and seeing what happened."

Having won 10 of their last 13 games, the Giants could allow themselves some goofiness. That came in the form of Scutaro's mismatched wardrobe. He went to the clubhouse to change his perspiration-soaked top, but donned the alternate Sunday road jersey with the "SF" logo on the left side instead of the regular road garb with "SAN FRANCISCO" across the chest.

Scutaro quickly realized his mistake -- his correct spare jersey was already packed -- but with Vogelsong preparing to pitch the fourth inning, he had to take the field.

"It was good. It was the rally jersey," Scutaro said. "See what happened after that?"

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