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‘That’s Giants baseball’: After thriller, this ‘family’ is in a playoff race

Joe Panik had the go-ahead blow, the double to left in the eighth that put the Giants up by the final margin.

And he proceeded to mention Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Crawford and Kevin Pillar as the Giants just in that inning who allowed him the chance to play hero.

Such is life for the Giants, suddenly a winning ballclub (51-50) whose clubhouse has changed in personnel and vibe for the past six weeks.

A team that cratered at 12 games under .500 is two games back of a wild card, a 5-4, comeback victory over the NL Central-leading Cubs on Monday making Oracle Park feel, in nature if not degree, like 2014 again.

“When you’re playing for a playoff race, every night it matters. Every game matters,” Panik said after his 3-for-4 night, punctuated by his swat down the third-base line that drove in Austin Slater. “… We’re playing our best baseball right now. There’s something about this team, we’re a collective group. It’s not just about one guy doing it all. We’ve had some guys come in and do a heck of a job. But every night it’s somebody different. Yaz [Mike Yastrzemski] yesterday. Dick’s [Alex Dickerson’s] been swinging the bat great. Pablo. Everybody. One night it’s one guy, next night it’s another.

“That’s a playoff team over there, a playoff atmosphere. Like I said, that’s Giants baseball.”

For a few months of this season, Giants baseball was shuffling fliers in and out of their clubhouse, which had become a sort of revolving door that took players in, spit them out and kept churning. Over time, a few of the fliers stuck, a few rookies emerged, and a few of the established veterans reminded who they are.

Shaun Anderson was one of those rookies, a mid-May callup who, while not great Monday, kept the Giants in the game, allowing two home runs but three total runs in five innings.

“The vibe’s always different when you’re winning,” said the 24-year-old. “Seems like everyone’s got each other’s backs, everyone’s looking out for each other in the locker room and on the field. Feel like we’re all family right now, got each other’s backs, and it’s a great feeling.”

In a 49-word answer concerning how it feels to be on the Giants right now, Anderson used the word “fun” three times. An offense that had flatlined in the first half — and had struggled the past few games — took eight innings to come back to life Monday.

But it’s no longer a surprise when the team launches comebacks. Not to the fans, and not to the players.

“I’ll tell you what, that eighth inning though: That’s October baseball at AT&T Park when our fans get going,” Panik said after the Giants’ 16th win in 19 games.

He corrected himself a second later. He didn’t need to. It’s appropriate for a season many billed as a throwaway, but the Giants are believing is a throwback.

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