Giants dealt blow by NL West leaders
First-place Dodgers take second straight at AT&T Park
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants are right back where they began the season, which isn't a welcome development in their case.In their first 2009 encounter with the Los Angeles Dodgers -- the third series of the year -- the Giants lost three consecutive games at Chavez Ravine by a combined score of 23-7. Since then, of course, the Giants have mostly distinguished themselves. But all their good deeds seemed difficult to remember Saturday, as Los Angeles pasted San Francisco for the second night in a row, 9-1. So far in this series, the Dodgers have outscored the Giants, 19-4, while outhitting them 23-9. San Francisco trails first-place Los Angeles by 8 1/2 games in the National League West, the largest deficit since a nine-game gap on July 27. Before the game, the Giants proceeded as if they had plenty left to accomplish. Randy Johnson spoke optimistically about returning to the mound and finishing the season as a reliever. Tim Lincecum, the embodiment of hope since he joined the Giants, threw off a bullpen mound and might start on Monday against the Colorado Rockies. Those are the same Rockies who lead the NL Wild Card standings, 5 1/2 games ahead of the Giants and Florida Marlins. So the Giants indeed have something to play for with 20 games left on their schedule. But their performances against the Dodgers suggest that they're figuratively, if not literally, done for the year. Predictably, the Giants continued to speak bravely about their postseason bid. "We still have a chance," manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's time to regroup, punch back, whatever it takes to get back on track. ... They've been fighting all year, and they'll continue to fight." First baseman Pablo Sandoval said that he and other Giants have sought advice from catcher Bengie Molina and shortstop Edgar Renteria, veterans with World Series experience. Sandoval indicated that refusing to give up has been the theme of the chats.
"We're still close to Colorado," said Sandoval, whose .322 batting average is at its lowest since July 23 (.321).The Giants might have created some magical moments had they played competently. Unlike Friday's audience, which was relatively subdued from the outset, the pro-Giants patrons in the paid crowd of 41,710 came ready to celebrate the Giants. They broke into several "Beat L.A." chants in the early innings, even when the Giants trailed, 5-1, and yelled wildly when San Francisco scored its lone run -- on Los Angeles pitcher Vicente Padilla's throwing error, without benefit of a hit. But Giants fans not only silenced themselves as Los Angeles' lead grew, they also departed almost en masse, to the extent that the majority of fans remaining in the stands at the end of the game were clad in Dodger blue. "We're excited to be out there," said left-hander Jonathan Sanchez (6-12), who yielded five runs in 4 1/3 innings. "But nothing's working right now." That's right, nothing. Home-field advantage? Forget it. The Giants have matched a season high by losing four games in a row on this homestand. They've also dropped five out of six overall. Luck? No way. As part of their Fiesta Gigantes promotion for fans, the Giants donned their "Gigantes" jerseys. They were 7-1 when wearing that garb, including 7-0 at home. Now, make that 7-2 and 7-1. Proper execution? Forget it. Giants pitchers issued five leadoff walks. Four of those runners scored. With the score tied at 1 through three innings, Los Angeles pulled away by scoring in each of the next four. Russell Martin's three-run homer, a drive inside the left-field foul pole on Sanchez's 3-1 pitch, broke the deadlock in the fourth. By the time it was over, the Giants had dropped their second consecutive game by a margin of five or more runs for only the third time this season. This hadn't happened since July 20-21 at Atlanta, where San Francisco lost, 11-3 and 8-1. "Sure, I'm surprised," Bochy said when asked if he considered the lopsided scores unexpected. "We've been playing good ball, staying in games, and we let these two get out of hand. I can't remember when we had back-to-back games like that."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.