MIAMI -- Nothing comes easily for this group, and so it was that on the night they reclaimed the best record in the National League, the Giants also sent a key hitter for a concussion test.

First baseman Brandon Belt was hit by a stray throw during batting practice and was pulled early in a 5-3 win Saturday over the Miami Marlins because he had headaches and was feeling nauseous. Belt's injury cast a cloud over a night that was otherwise fully positive for the Giants, who have sole possession of first in the National League West for the first time since July 2.

For a second straight night, the Giants strung rallies together, played clean defense and got a sharp performance from their starter. They have outscored the Marlins 14-4 in two games, making up two games on the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have lost twice in St. Louis. The Giants have won seven of their past 11 games after dropping 18 of their previous 23.

"I think we just all understood that the last six weeks wasn't the team we think we are," said right-hander Tim Hudson, who pitched into the eighth. "We're playing better, we're having better at-bats. Guys are hitting the ball and having quality at-bats even when they're getting out. That's what it takes to win ballgames."


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The first quality at-bat Saturday came from Belt, but it would be his only plate appearance. He drove in Pablo Sandoval with a second-inning double and scored on a wild pitch and throwing error but was pulled before the bottom of the third. Manager Bruce Bochy said there was a mistake made during a drill in batting practice, and two infielders threw balls to Belt at the same time.

"He didn't see one," Bochy said. "It hit him square in the face."

Belt was taken to the clubhouse but came back out to take his batting practice swings. When he felt dizziness early in the game, he was pulled and sent for a concussion test. The Giants didn't have the result as they left the clubhouse, but Belt was said to still be dealing with a headache.

Major League Baseball created a seven-day concussion list in 2011 to give clubs more flexibility in situations such as this. Belt has been back just two weeks after missing 50 games with a broken left thumb.

Even though Belt has slumped a bit, his presence lengthened the lineup, bringing back memories of April and May when the Giants seemingly had a different lead contributor every night. Saturday's star was a familiar one; Sandoval had three hits, raising his average to .280 for the first time this season. Sandoval shrugged off any talk of a surge, saying he's just happy the team is winning. The team is happy he's hitting.

"It's very tough, very challenging (when he's on). He's a great bad-ball hitter," Hudson said. "You make a pitch that you feel was good coming out of your hand, and he'll hit line drives. When he's going good, he can carry you."

Sandoval and the Giants got a little help from the Marlins, who also lost a player in the early innings. All-Star right-hander Henderson Alvarez was hit by a Joe Panik screamer in the third inning and exited with a shin contusion. His replacement, hard-throwing right-hander Sam Dyson, created quite the mess.

With the Giants up 2-1, Sandoval hit a leadoff single in the fourth and moved up a base when Tyler Colvin was hit by a pitch. After getting a second out, the Marlins intentionally walked slumping center fielder Gregor Blanco, choosing to face Hudson and his .056 average. Dyson walked Hudson on five pitches.

"I probably wasn't going to take the bat off my shoulder," Hudson said. "I'm glad he walked me."

Hunter Pence followed with a strong at-bat, fouling off a series of upper 90s fastballs before lining one into right to give the Giants a 5-1 lead. That was more than enough for Hudson, who needed just 81 pitches to get one out into the eighth on a night when he gave up back-to-back singles in the first in front of N.L. home run leader Giancarlo Stanton. Hudson got Stanton to hit into a double play.

"Obviously that's not the way you want to start the game," Hudson said. "That double play was heaven-sent, for sure."

Hudson got two more in the next two innings and then cruised. He gave up just one run, lowering his staff-best ERA to 2.78.

The Marlins inched closer in the ninth, with Stanton hitting a monstrous homer for the second straight night. His solo shot Friday got the Marlins back within eight; after his solo homer Saturday off Sergio Romo, the Giants still led by three.

"He's such a good hitter," Bochy said. "He's going to do some damage. You're hoping to limit it."

Thanks to the early fireworks, the Giants were able to do just that.

For more on the Giants, see Alex Pavlovic's Giants Extra blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/Giants. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/AlexPavlovic.

SUNDAY'S GAME
Giants (Tim Lincecum 9-5)
at Miami (Brad Hand 0-2),
10:10 a.m. CSNBA