Gregor Blanco and Joaquin Arias are linked together in a number of ways.
Both were non-roster invitees who made the Giants out of Spring Training in 2012. They made memorable defensive plays during Matt Cain's perfect game –- a legendary diving grab in deep right center for Blanco and the final putout of the game for Arias. About five months later, they earned World Series rings.
Both reserves were also hitting .148 on May 20 of this season. As the Giants soared to the top of the National League, Blanco and Arias looked lost at the plate and barely saw the field.
Things have changed a bit over the last couple of weeks.
As Tyler Colvin's bat cooled, Blanco has become one of the hottest hitters on the team with a .458 average (11-for-24) over the last eight games. That includes Sunday's 8-0 win over the Cardinals, when Blanco went 2-for-4 and hit a triple that scored Pablo Sandoval from first.
Yet it was an even unlikelier hero who had three hits in the series clincher, including a two-out, two-run single to break the game open in the first. Arias -- the guy who was pressed into action when Michael Morse was a late scratch -– certainly made the most of his first start since May 14.
"Morse has to come out, Arias goes in there and has a big day for us. These guys are all coming through when you need them, and that's what it takes," Bruce Bochy told reporters.
Morse's foot injury doesn't sound serious. Bochy said he'll probably play left field against the Reds on Tuesday, with Buster Posey playing first place and Hector Sanchez catching Tim Lincecum.
Bochy didn't mention who'd play second base, but don't be surprised if Arias starts spending more time there. Brandon Hicks has seen almost full-time duty at second thanks to eight home runs, but he's in the midst of a 1-for-22 slump.
"He stays ready. He's got a lot of poise," Bochy said of Arias.
"And he's been having his struggles. I think that's fair to say. He really needed a game like this. He needed the at-bats. Giving him one at-bat here or there, it's hard to get your timing that way. He came through in that first inning."
Despite holding baseball's best record, the Giants are dealing with a plethora of injuries and playing with a short bench due to a 13-man pitching staff. Without key contributions from reserves like Blanco, Arias and Sanchez, the Giants wouldn't have been able to come into muggy St. Louis and win three of four.
"That's why we've had success," Bochy said. "We've gotten contributions from everybody. We've been banged up, we've had guys go down. Somebody has picked it up somewhere."
The Giants are on a 105-win pace and lead the NL West by over a half dozen games, and not surprisingly they're enjoying the ride. The team's mood is elevated even further when everyone feels like they have a stake in the team's success.
It also helps when they get a day off after 13 straight days of baseball. Mike Krukow asked Blanco after the game if the team was ready for a break.
"Yeah, so ready," Blanco said. "Happy flight, for sure."
It wouldn't be all that surprising if Blanco and Arias sat near each other on the plane trip to Cincinnati, reminiscing on their shared journey and looking forward to more playing time in the near future.