Matt Herges tags out Mark Kotsay for the second out of the ninth inning. (George Nikitin/AP)
SAN FRANCISCO -- It was a team-wide feeling -- extreme disappointment.
Maybe Sunday's 6-2 loss to the Oakland A's at SBC Park will eventually be a mere fly speck on an entree, a forgettable blip on the season's radar screen, but the Giants were sick about it.
They felt especially bad for starter Dustin Hermanson, who pitched his finest game of the year -- seven innings, a career-high 11 strikeouts and only one unearned run -- and saw not only a 2-1 lead evaporate but watched a painful four-run outburst in the ninth by Oakland put the contest out of reach.
Not that Hermanson would blame the Giants bullpen for blowing the game. The relievers did that themselves.
"It's pathetic that I can't make a pitch to get out of that inning," said closer Matt Herges, who tried to stem the hemorrhaging in the ninth but would give up the A's final four runs (one earned) on four hits.
"Taking nothing away from them, they're a great hitting team, but it's pretty bad when you can't make a pitch. Disgusting. I can't explain it. That's brutal. It can't happen. I'm mad I couldn't make a dadgum pitch to get out of that inning."
It was 2-2 to start the crucial frame, but pinch-batter Eric Karros banged a double, then with two out, Mark McLemore's RBI single proved the game-winner. After a bobble on a popup by Ray Durham ... the floodgates opened.
Matt Herges / P
Weight: 200 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R
Herges felt worse for Hermanson than himself.
"I've blown at least one, maybe two, for him," said Herges. "He's pitched some great games and showed a lot of heart today. His last two starts against these guys have been outstanding and I'm thrilled to death for him, but you do feel horrible, especially after the starter works his butt off. He deserved to win."
The 31-year-old Hermanson, strangely enough, was buoyed by his performance. This has long been his dream to be a full-time starter, and after bullpen detours over eight Major League seasons, he has officially arrived as a Giants rotation regular.
Over his last 10 starts, Hermanson is 2-0 with a 3.70 ERA, and San Francisco is 7-3 over that stretch. The right-hander has also entered his final inning of work in line to win six of 10 contests.
He remains 3-2 overall.
"I'm happy that I'm gaining confidence by staying in the game," said Hermanson. "Felipe [manager Alou] is allowing me to stay in longer and I'm sure with every opportunity that he gives me and I can prove I can stay in there, he'll keep doing it.
"This is the first time in two years I've been able to get 13, 14 starts and now I feel my arm strength is good," said Hermanson. "It takes awhile to do that and now I feel that strength is back where it belongs."
Dustin Hermanson / P
Weight: 200 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Hermanson said he realizes he has been in situations with a chance to win -- he's had nine no-decisions on the year -- but is not about to berate the bullpen.
"This one is tough because we have a loss -- if we had won the game I wouldn't have cared which pitcher won. It's just extra tough when you come out and then it's a loss."
The veteran showed his mettle -- and balletic skill -- in the seventh when with two runners on, Hermanson struck out McLemore for the final out then pirouetted on the mound with joy.
"I was just happy Felipe allowed me to stay in and get out of my own jam," he said. "I don't want to have a reliever come in with the bases loaded. I'm sure everybody didn't want to see those runs in the ninth. [The relievers are] doing everything they possibly can -- they might even be trying harder for me because what has happened this year.
"I know they're doing everything they possibly can to get out of that inning."
The eighth inning was fateful as well.
With the Giants leading, 2-1, the A's tied it off reliever Felix Rodriguez, who issued a single to Jermaine Dye and saw him score on Damian Miller's sinking two-bag liner that a sprinting Michael Tucker just missed in right-center.
How Bonds was pitched Giants vs. Athletics, July 3
Hit into play:
2 (flyout, single)
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski noted that Oakland starter Rich Harden -- six innings, two runs -- and reliever Justin Duchscherer (4-1) performed well.
"Give Harden credit. He pitched great and so did Duscherer," he said. "It's a shame for Dustin but give the A's credit. They battled the whole game and their hitters did well off Fifi [Rodriguez] and Herges. They just beat us."
Two errors by Durham -- an infield bobble in the sixth and the dropped popup in the ninth -- accounted for four unearned runs.
Deivi Cruz doubled twice, driving in Tucker for the Giants' first run in the third inning off Harden, while Marquis Grissom's sacrifice fly sent Durham home with the second run in the sixth.
Also starring for the Giants was first baseman J.T. Snow, who made two good defensive plays and singled in the sixth inning to move Durham into scoring position.
After the game, the Giants optioned left-hander Noah Lowry to Triple-A Fresno and announced they will recall right-handed reliever David Aardsma from the minor league club Sunday.
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.