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SF@CHC: Sandoval belts a go-ahead blast in the 13th

CHICAGO -- The archives might not record it as such, but the Giants had a no-hitter pitched against them Thursday afternoon. It simply was obscured by a few other events.

Still, any club that can't muster a hit through nine innings typically should lose. So maybe the Giants deserved their fate: an excruciating 5-2 defeat, which they absorbed when pinch-hitter Geovany Soto's three-run homer culminated the Chicago Cubs' four-run rally in the 13th inning.

The Giants had edged ahead, 2-1, in the top of the 13th on Pablo Sandoval's home run off John Grabow. Until then, Cubs relievers retired 31 batters without a single Giant collecting a hit. San Francisco's futility, interrupted by four walks, spanned nine complete innings -- the fourth through the 12th.

"We have to make more adjustments at home plate. We're making a lot of mistakes," Sandoval said. "We're working hard every day, but it's not easy. We have to find the rhythm."

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last team held hitless for nine consecutive innings in a game that wasn't a complete no-hitter was San Diego, which was stymied from the 10th through 18th innings on June 7, 2009, in a 9-6 loss to Arizona.

Yet if any team has proven that it can win games it shouldn't, it's the Giants, who own a 46-36 record despite outscoring opponents by one solitary run, 287-286.

In fact, they almost won this one. Three times.

"It's incredible how close that game was to being over," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

The Giants led, 1-0, in the ninth inning when Aramis Ramirez, whose pinch-hit RBI single decided Wednesday's game in the ninth inning, delivered a one-out homer off Giants closer Brian Wilson. That was the first round-tripper allowed this season by Wilson, who has blown only three save opportunities in 27 tries.

"Unfortunately, you can't pick when you want to give up runs," Wilson said.

San Francisco then loaded the bases with one out in the 12th on a trio of walks when Grabow (1-0) retired pinch-hitter Aubrey Huff on a popup and Aaron Rowand on a fly to right field.

The Giants went ahead one inning later on Sandoval's two-out homer, his first since April 19 -- 10 days before he fractured the hamate bone in his right hand, which sidelined him for 40 days.

Ramon Ramirez (2-1) appeared destined to protect the lead as he secured two quick outs and forged ahead of Jeff Baker, 0-2. Then Baker doubled solidly to left-center field.

Up came Darwin Barney, who also fell behind on the count 0-2. Barney nearly fanned on the next pitch, but was deemed by first-base umpire Brian Runge to have checked his swing.

"From my vantage point, I thought he went [through]," Giants catcher Chris Stewart said.

Barney slapped the next pitch into left field for a single, scoring Baker with the tying run. Barney advanced to second base on Cody Ross' high throw home, prompting the Giants to walk Starlin Castro intentionally to set up a potential double play or forceout at any base except home. That all became moot when Soto, batting for Grabow, slammed a 3-2 slider into the left-field seats.

"I was looking fastball," Soto said. "He never threw one. At 3-2, I just tried to see the ball."

That's something the Giants didn't do very well. Though Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano left the game three batters into the second inning with lower back soreness, San Francisco totaled five hits and had only three in 12 innings against the Cubs' unremarkable relievers, who ranked ninth in the National League with a 3.72 ERA entering the game.

"I don't really remember anyone being overpowering or confusing," Giants second baseman Emmanuel Burriss said. "They were just getting outs."

Center fielder Andres Torres, who has one hit in his last 22 at-bats, flatly admitted that he's not seeing the ball well.

"You can't hit what you cannot see, you know? I need to find a way to slow everything down," said Torres, who went 0-for-6 with four strikeouts in this game. Bochy indicated that he again might bench the switch-hitting leadoff man, who enjoyed a one-game renaissance against Cleveland last Friday after a two-day break.

"I'm not getting my job done. No excuses," Torres said. "I have to find a way to relax and calm down."

The Cubs' late-inning feats obscured another solid outing by Matt Cain, who blanked Chicago for seven innings on four hits while becoming the fifth San Francisco-era pitcher to record 1,000 career strikeouts. Cain lengthened his streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 15 and finished June with a 4-0 record and a 1.65 ERA. Squandering Cain's excellence deepened the Giants' frustration, though they finished 17-11 in June.

"You try your best to put it behind you," Burriss said. "Hopefully you can actually do it."

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