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SF@SD: Hudson is strong over seven, allows two earned

SAN DIEGO -- If statistics could measure helplessness, the Giants would lead the Major Leagues in that category.

For most of the past week, their offensive efforts have been sincere yet futile. In Saturday night's 3-1 loss to the San Diego Padres, the Giants' attempts to hit made manager Bruce Bochy wince.

"We didn't get any good swings," Bochy said. "That's what disappointed me."

The Giants lengthened their losing streak to three, having scored exactly one run per game in that span while batting .158 (15-for-95). Not since Sept. 7-10, 2011 have they scored just once in three consecutive games. Unable to sustain offense, they haven't driven in a single baserunner in the last two games, instead relying on home runs by Brandon Belt (Friday) and Michael Morse (Saturday) to score.

Saturday, the Giants didn't struggle with runners in scoring position, mainly because they didn't move anybody as far as second base. It didn't matter that they faced Eric Stults, who began the game with a lifetime 5.21 ERA against San Francisco.

Stults preyed upon the Giants' anxiety as he worked six innings and yielded three hits, including Morse's fifth-inning homer. "They are very aggressive," Stults said. "I kept the first pitches down and got some early strike ones. They were swinging at a lot of my first pitches."

Just a week ago, these same Giants were building two-out rallies and thriving with runners in scoring position. Bochy believes that his club still possesses that potential and has merely misplaced it temporarily, like a set of car keys.

"They'll come out of it," Bochy said. "They're too talented. But you're going to go through these little funks."

Morse maintained faith in himself and his teammates.

"The only way to get hits is to swing the bat," he said. "One coach told me a long time ago, 'You're going to get a hit.' You're not going to go the whole season without getting a hit. I don't think we're pressing. I don't think we're trying to do anything out of the ordinary. I just think we've hit a little rough spot. This team is too good to be stuck like this for much longer. I have a feeling that a lot of guys are about to get hot. We're going to have to turn it up."

Theorizing that his earnest players could be leaving their best swings in the batting cage, Bochy intends to cancel batting practice and limit, if not prohibit, individual extra hitting before Sunday's series finale. "They may be swinging too much," Bochy said. "We're not getting the bat out right now."

Morse understood Bochy's philosophy. "We're all competitive," Morse said. "When we're not swinging well, we overswing in the cages, take too many hacks and tire ourselves out. I know where he's coming from."

That said, Morse added, "He's going to have to lock that [indoor batting cage] up."

Bochy also announced that third baseman Pablo Sandoval, whose batting average dwindled to .171 after an 0-for-3 evening, will not be in Sunday's lineup. Bochy dropped Sandoval from third to fifth spot in Saturday's batting order, hoping that would relax the 2012 World Series Most Valuable Player. Sandoval was so relaxed in his final at-bat that he struck out against reliever Nick Vincent after being ahead on the count 3-0.

"He needs a mental break," Bochy said. "Tonight I thought he was pressing, more than any other game."

The Giants appeared destined to participate in their ninth consecutive one-run decision, but pinch-hitter Chris Denorfia's nifty squeeze bunt drove in an eighth-inning run for San Diego.

San Francisco's offensive futility spoiled another solid outing by Tim Hudson, who surrendered two runs and eight hits in seven innings. Hudson extended his season-opening streak of innings without a walk to 30, eclipsing a franchise record established by Hooks Wiltse in 1913.

"Obviously, it's pretty cool," said Hudson, who also joined Grover Cleveland Alexander (six games, 1923) and Tiny Bonham (four games, 1944) as the only starting pitchers in the last 101 years to start a season with four games of pitching at least seven innings without issuing a walk.

Hudson added, "It's not going to last, I can tell you that."

The Giants hope that this remark also applies to their colossal batting slump.

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