ST. LOUIS -- Though Buster Posey's productive return to the Giants' lineup was outstanding, it didn't stand out.
From the Giants' perspective, that was among the best aspects of their 8-0 victory Sunday over the St. Louis Cardinals. While Posey distinguished himself with his 3-for-5 performance, he had sufficient company on San Francisco's list of contributors.
Joaquin Arias, who filled in at first base after Michael Morse was scratched with a sore left foot, drove in three runs and rapped three singles after beginning the game in an 0-for-14 skid. Brandon Crawford collected a pair of RBIs, scored twice and played his usual solid defense.
And, of course, there was Tim Hudson, who delivered a typically solid effort. The right-hander blanked St. Louis on three hits -- one in each of the first three innings and none after the third, when he left the bases loaded. Hudson retired 13 of the last 14 Cardinals he faced after accidentally beaning Allen Craig in the third inning.
The Giants' surge to the Major Leagues' best record accelerated here at Busch Stadium as they captured three of the series' four games. The degree of San Francisco's dominance of the reigning National League champions seemed almost monotonous.
"They're playing as well as I've ever seen them play," Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter said of the Giants, who are on a 26-10 binge. "They're as hot as they could possibly be, I think, and everything's clicking for them. Guys are coming up off the bench and hitting and their [regulars] are hitting. That's a fun spot to be in. That's a fun thing to play for."
The Giants demonstrated a common trait of a thriving team by capitalizing on an opponent's mistake. Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong botched Gregor Blanco's potential double-play grounder with one out and a run having scored in the first inning. That freed the Giants to complete a four-run outburst as Crawford drove in a run with a fielder's-choice grounder and Arias sent home two -- equaling his 2014 RBI total entering Sunday -- by singling up the middle.
"We got a little lucky," Hudson said. "They helped us out defensively. We probably should have gotten only one run. It's nice to take advantage of a miscue."
The bulging early lead emboldened Hudson, who leads active pitchers with 211 victories.
"You don't have to pitch to corners so much," he said. The 38-year-old also survived the oppressive heat that reached 85 degrees at gametime.
"He probably was the most comfortable out there of anybody," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, referring to Hudson's southern roots.
Hudson felt sickened when his 1-1 fastball struck Craig's batting helmet, causing a resounding thud that could be heard from the ballpark's upper deck. Hudson ran toward home plate to check on Craig and offer reassurance. Craig remained in the game, substantially easing Hudson's concern.
"I wanted to reiterate to him that obviously there wasn't any intent," Hudson said. "... It was something that nobody ever wants to see. He got it real good. It scared the crap out of me. I was just trying to throw a fastball inside. I hadn't thrown a fastball in on him the whole day. I'm truly glad he's all right."
All was right with Posey, who missed the previous three games and two last week with lower back tightness. Posey, who began the game in a 3-for-34 tailspin, displayed the form that won him the 2012 NL batting title as he hit safely in each of his first three at-bats. A pain-free back made all the difference.
"I guess it's something you really don't think about a whole lot when you're playing," Posey said. "But it did feel like I had a better path to [the ball], for sure."
Said Bochy, "I think you saw a guy who was able to free up his swing and get through the ball." Bochy added that Posey's output was especially impressive given his recent absences from batting practice due to his discomfort.
Bochy said that Morse's injury wasn't serious, though the slugger probably will start Tuesday's series opener at Cincinnati in left field, where he'll be obliged to move less than at first base. Posey probably will play first base, Bochy said, with Hector Sanchez handling the catching.