By Lonnie Herman
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The San Francisco Giants had not visited Tropicana Field since 2004, and after their return Friday night, the Tampa Bay Rays wished they had stayed away longer.
The Giants exploded for three runs on five consecutive hits in the seventh inning and went on to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-1.
Until the seventh, Rays' starter Chris Archer had been rolling. He had allowed only two hits both off the bat of Giants first baseman Brandon Belt. One of those hits was Belt's 11th home run of the season that tied the game at 1-1 in the fifth inning.
But with two outs in the seventh, the wheels came off of Archer's pursuit of his fifth consecutive win.
Hunter Pence singled and then Belt collected his third hit of the night, a triple to score Pence. Brandon Crawford followed with his seventh home run of the season.
For Belt, who had sat out the last three games after getting just one hit in his last 19 at-bats, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs was a huge step forward.
"I loosened my grip on the bat and stood back in the batter's box a bit more," Belt said. "It probably helped that I had a little bit of a break."
But the improvement was no accident, according to Giants manager Bruce Bochy.
"He's been working on a few things and that's why we gave him three days off. I think it was good for him. He looked great."
The Rays scored first in the third when Ben Zobrist drove home Jose Lobaton. Lobaton had reached on a double and went to third on Ryan Robert's bunt single.
San Francisco starter Madison Bumgarner (11-6) pitched seven innings scattering three hits while striking out 11 to equal his season's high. Although he allowed only three walks, Bumgarner didn't think he had his best control.
"That's a good hitting team," Bumgarner said. "Anytime you're able to battle through when you don't necessarily have the command you're used to having, it's tougher battling the whole time you are out there."
Bumgarner might not have been totally pleased with his performance, but he did impress Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon.
"You've got to give him (Bumgarner) a lot of credit," Maddon said. "I've never really seen him in person and I was very impressed, for a young man with his pitching ability."
Maddon was less impressed with the effort of his club.
"We have not been very good with runners in scoring position," Maddon said. "We've had a bad trend of that lately."
Tampa Bay went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners.
Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez followed Bumgarner before Sergio Romo came on with one out in the ninth to collect his 26th save.
Archer (6-4) took the loss, his first in his last eight starts. The loss halted his consecutive win streak at four games.
"The balls were bouncing the right way in July," Archer said. "And tonight, a few balls didn't bounce the right way. So it's good to stay humble, to continue to work. It's all just a reminder."
The win was the third straight for the Giants while Tampa Bay, with their loss to Arizona on Wednesday, has now dropped consecutive games for the first time since June 26 and June 28.
NOTES: The Rays finished July at 21-5 (.808), their best month in club history and the third best July by any major league team since 1921. Only the 1941 Yankees (25-4,.862) and the 1945 Cubs (26-6,.813) had a better July than the Rays. ... The Rays and Giants are playing for only the third time and the first time since 2004. ... The Giants finished July with a record of 8-17 (.320), the third-lowest winning percentage in the majors. ... Pence started his 117-consecutive game, which is the longest streak in the National League. ... The first run by the Rays snapped Bumgarner's shutout streak at 16 1/3 innings. ... Belt's homer ended a streak of 18 scoreless innings for Archer.