Giants' second-half struggles continue
Rare homer by right-hander burns Lincecum
ATLANTA -- The Giants would be wise to serve as their own spin doctors.They can tell themselves that this isn't a slump they're enduring. It's an opportunity. It's an opportunity to demonstrate the resilience that buoyed them earlier in the season, when they overcame a six-game losing streak in April by winning six of their next seven games. Or when they brushed off a 1-8 stretch in May with a 15-6 surge. The Giants must stage another turnaround soon, because Wednesday's 4-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves left them no room for nonchalance. San Francisco has lost six of its last seven games, owns a 1-5 record on its three-city, 10-game trip and has slipped 1 1/2 games behind Colorado in the National League Wild Card standings. "We're getting tested," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Hopefully you only get stronger when you're tested. We've come out of this before." Obviously, the Giants' Wild Card deficit is easily surmountable. But for a team as offensively challenged as they are, any margin in the standings or on the scoreboard looks difficult to overcome. The six hits the Giants mustered in their third consecutive defeat is a deceiving total, since they collected just two -- both by Bengie Molina -- while Braves starter Jair Jurrjens (9-7) blanked them for seven innings. San Francisco's team batting average and run total since the All-Star break rest at .192 and 11, respectively. Just as ominously, the Giants haven't won in both of Tim Lincecum's second-half starts. Lincecum, the embodiment of orange-and-black hope, struck out nine Braves in five innings -- his shortest outing since his three-inning cameo on Opening Day -- but elevated a few too many pitches and allowed all of Atlanta's runs in the first three innings. From any perspective, this isn't the same Giants club that captivated the baseball world until recently. "We're not playing with the same intensity," said Molina, who always has his catcher's mitt on the team's pulse. "We're not playing the same baseball that we were. We all kind of worry, we all want to do too much out there and get back into the same shape we were in the first half." Lincecum wasn't as critical as Molina in characterizing the state of the team. But the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner did suggest the proper mindset for the Giants to maintain. "It doesn't matter what you've done. It's a matter of what you're doing right now," Lincecum said, repeating one of his basic philosophies. "We have to put what we did behind, whether it was good, bad or fair for us and just worry about now and what we do from here on out." The Giants scratched across runs in the final two innings and brought the potential tying run to the plate in both, giving Bochy reason for encouragement. "All you can do when you get in something like this is keep fighting, and they were fighting there at the end," he said. Yet Molina regarded the Giants' performance cynically. "We need to learn how to try to come back," he said, perhaps aware that the largest deficit they've erased in any victory is a mere two runs. Big rallies are often fueled by home runs, of course. So it's worth mentioning that the Giants have hit zero homers in their 213 second-half at-bats. The Braves don't have that problem. Leading 1-0, they essentially settled the outcome on Yunel Escobar's three-run homer in the third inning. It was the first three-run homer Lincecum had yielded this season and the first long ball of any sort that he has allowed to a right-handed batter this year. He also lost his first game to the Braves after winning his first five career starts against them. Lincecum (10-3) acknowledged his early inconsistency. "You could see I was fighting to find my rhythm and make quality pitches," he said. Molina credited the Braves for maintaining a shrewd approach against Lincecum. "They were very aggressive early in the count with him," Molina said. "They didn't let him get ahead."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.