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SF@ATL: Giants fall on walk-off hit in 11th inning

ATLANTA -- To categorize the Giants' 2-1, 11-inning loss Tuesday to the Atlanta Braves as another example of superlative pitching being undermined by lame hitting would be missing the point.

San Francisco's 13th defeat in 18 games was anything but shameful. Corny as it might sound, more fitting descriptions for their performance include determined, stubborn or proud -- right up until the moment that Martin Prado's two-out single off Javier Lopez in the 11th delivered Brooks Conrad with the winning run.

Injuries left the Giants woefully undermanned. Second baseman Jeff Keppinger (right wrist) and outfielders Aaron Rowand (left side) and Nate Schierholtz (right foot) were either unable to perform or severely limited, leaving Mark DeRosa and Eli Whiteside as San Francisco's only able-bodied reserves. And of course, San Francisco lacked right fielder Carlos Beltran, its most dangerous hitter, who finally went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hand. No wonder the Giants mustered five hits.

The bullpen was essentially one pitcher short, since Dan Runzler, summoned from Triple-A Fresno to replace sidelined right-hander Sergio Romo, threw 96 pitches in a starting role Sunday and was available only in an emergency.

Then starter Jonathan Sanchez sprained his left ankle while attempting to field a third-inning bunt, forcing what remained of the bullpen to work overtime.

"We got blindsided a little bit today," manager Bruce Bochy said.

And still the Giants sustained an effort befitting the reigning World Series champions.

The Giants fell 3 1/2 games behind first-place Arizona in the National League West standings, their largest deficit since they were four games back on May 5. But San Francisco, which is 0-5 against Atlanta this year, has no intention of quitting.

"We're resilient. Everybody in here believes in one another," said Cody Ross, whose seventh-inning leadoff homer tied the game at 1 and ended Atlanta right-hander Randall Delgado's no-hit bid. "We're going to continue backing each other up and pulling for each other. That's the only way we're going to get through this."

Standing near the same dressing stall where he predicted last Aug. 8 that the Giants would sweep then-division-leading San Diego the following weekend and surge to the NL West title, Sanchez sounded equally confident, if less brash.

"We'll get there," said Sanchez, whose status for his next start is questionable at best. "We have a month left. We just have to [stay] close to Arizona."

Ross emphasized that the current wave of injuries, which doesn't include the misfortune that sidelined catcher Buster Posey and second baseman Freddy Sanchez for the season, does not excuse sagging effort.

"You can't sulk," Ross said. "You have to do your job and pick [injured teammates] up. We're going through a little tough patch with the injury bug right now. But nobody's going to feel sorry for us. We have to step up and start playing better."

The Giants performed about as well as possible to prevent the Braves from winning earlier than they did.

Aubrey Huff, starting his second game of the season in left field, made a running catch at the warning track of Prado's one-out, ninth-inning drive that appeared destined to score Michael Bourn from first base with the winning run.

With Braves on the corners and one out in the 10th, Alex Gonzalez smacked a grounder up the middle, but shortstop Orlando Cabrera grabbed it and started an inning-ending double play.

"They fought hard, man," Bochy said of his players. "They were into it and they were trying to do all they can. ... You saw some great stuff out there."

Lopez, who escaped the 10th-inning jam, encountered trouble in the 11th when Conrad, whose three fielding errors helped the Giants win Game 3 of last October's NL Division Series, sliced a one-out, ground-rule double into the right-field corner. Bourn's groundout advanced Conrad to third base, setting up Prado's concluding hit through the infield's right side.

Conrad brushed aside any talk of irony or atonement. Rather, he dwelled on praising the fallen opponent.

"It's not really going back to last season or anything, I don't think," Conrad said. "It's a completely new season and they've still got a great team. Obviously they're a little banged up, injury-wise. But that's a testament to them, because they're still a great ballclub, and you have to give everything you've got everyday to beat a team like the Giants."

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