video thumbnail

SF@ARI: Panda pounds a towering two-run home run

PHOENIX -- Two games into the 2012 season, the Giants have established new patterns. Most are unwelcome.

These Giants can hit a little bit, which is a nice change. But they haven't received their typically stifling starting pitching. Moreover, they still can't beat the Arizona Diamondbacks, a shortcoming that persisted with a second straight 5-4 defeat Saturday at Chase Field.

The D-backs lengthened their twin winning streaks against San Francisco to six at home and seven overall. Even at this early juncture, the Giants would prefer to halt this trend. No good can come from allowing the defending National League West champions to believe that they can beat you routinely.

"It's coincidence, that's all it is, I think. We've been able to play good baseball lately," D-backs center fielder Chris Young said of his team's domination of the Giants. However, Young added, "I'm sure deep inside with the majority of us, for some reason you create a little more fire under you when you play teams in your division. I think there's a nice little fire under us when we play the Giants."

The Giants maintained this kind of attitude as recently as last year. They knew that if they generated barely adequate offense, they'd win, as reflected by their 55-9 record when scoring four runs or more.

But the Giants' four-run totals in the first two games here have done nothing for them, because starters Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner have combined to allow nine runs in 9 1/3 innings. Each allowed two home runs -- an unusual circumstance, given the Major League-low 96 homers San Francisco yielded last year. Saturday, Aaron Hill, who hit eight home runs in 571 plate appearances last year, homered in each of the first two innings off Bumgarner to help Arizona assume a 4-0 edge.

Of course, panicking would be ridiculous at this juncture for the Giants.

"Our guys have track records and we know how good they are," catcher Buster Posey said.

The Giants had better hope that Matt Cain, their starter in Sunday's series finale, will display the excellence that earned him a nine-figure contract extension. They haven't lurched to an 0-3 start since 1984, a truly dreadful season in which they finished last in the West with a 66-96 record, 26 games behind the division-winning Padres.

Bruce Bochy, the backup catcher on that Padres squad who now manages the Giants, sounded intent on finding a winning lineup to avoid a series sweep.

"We'll tweak it a little bit," he said. "I need to get a couple of guys out there and get them three or four at-bats."

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval isn't going anywhere. His two-run, fourth-inning homer halved Arizona's lead. Melky Cabrera (.333, 3-for-9) will be somewhere in the outfield. And though shortstop Brandon Crawford is 0-for-8, he swung the bat crisply Saturday and maintained his invaluable defensive wizardry.

Center fielder Angel Pagan (.111, 1-for-9) might be a candidate for a break. But expect catcher Buster Posey (.250, 2-for-8) to play his third game in a row, despite going 0-for-4 Saturday.

"I wasn't extremely happy about my at-bats today, but you have to keep grinding it out," Posey said. "I think I probably went out of the [strike] zone a few times today."

One Giant who's likely to find his way into the lineup is Brett Pill, whose two-run, pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning trimmed San Francisco's deficit to one run.

But rarely do the Giants succeed at outslugging the opposition. They need to pitch effectively. Bumgarner, who entered the game with a 3-0 record and a 2.41 ERA in six career appearances against Arizona, fell short of this standard. The left-hander admitted that he elevated fastballs to Hill, who drilled both into the left-field seats.

Bumgarner's struggles recalled last season, when he lost his first six decisions. But he insisted that the past was indeed the past.

"I feel way ahead of where I was last year at this time," he said. "So I don't think it's going to continue."

Bumgarner's Arizona counterpart, Daniel Hudson, improved to 5-2 lifetime against the Giants while allowing all of their runs and only five hits in 6 2/3 innings.

"We didn't create a lot of opportunities," Bochy said. Comments