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Panik homers as Giants down Cubs

CHICAGO — Joe Panik felt a little better the past couple days in St. Louis. He felt a lot better after his performance Monday night.

Panik hit his first career leadoff homer and doubled twice, leading the San Francisco Giants to a 6-4 victory against the Chicago Cubs.

Brandon Belt also connected and Ty Blach (2-2) pitched into the eighth inning in the first meeting between the teams since San Francisco was eliminated by Chicago in the NL Division Series last year. Panik, Belt and Justin Ruggiano each had two RBIs as the streaking Giants won for the eighth time in 10 games.

"Our guys did a nice job swinging the bat," manager Bruce Bochy said.

Panik hit just .172 (10 for 58) in his previous 14 games. But he said he had some constructive conversations with hitting coach Hensley Meulens and assistant hitting coach Steve Decker during the previous series against the Cardinals that helped him find his stroke at the plate.

"Just little things. It's nothing major," Panik said. "Just going back to staying on the ball, really. Just using the whole field."

Ruggiano's leadoff drive in the eighth made it 6-0 and gave San Francisco 18 straight solo homers, just three away from matching its major league record of 21 from 2011.

The Cubs responded with four in the bottom half on two-run homers by Javier Baez and Ben Zobrist. But the rally stalled from there.

With one out and runners on first and second, Hunter Strickland got Willson Contreras to bounce into an inning-ending double play. Mark Melancon then worked the ninth for his ninth save in 11 chances.

Baez finished with three hits for Chicago, which was coming off a 13-6 victory against Milwaukee on Sunday. He singled with two out in the ninth before rookie Ian Happ struck out swinging to end the game.

"I have nothing to complain about," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I shall sleep well. That's the game we're looking for right there."

John Lackey (4-4) pitched five shaky innings in his first loss in a month, allowing five runs and seven hits. The right-hander was 3-0 with a 3.86 ERA over his previous four starts.

"Honestly, I threw the ball better tonight than the last three," he said. "I felt like I executed quite a few pitches, but they got a few more balls up than we did."

San Francisco's Joe Panik, right, scores in front of Chicago catcher Willson Contreras on a single by Brandon Belt in the third inning. [CHARLES REX ARBOGAST/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]