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05/17/08 3:04 AM ET

Giants come up empty vs. White Sox

Close loss continues frustration with runners in scoring position

SAN FRANCISCO -- Don't expect statistics to explain the Giants' current slump, with one notable exception.

The Giants, who seemed poised to climb to .500 two weeks ago, have lost nine of their last 12 games and three in a row, including Friday night's 2-0 decision against the Chicago White Sox.

The Giants have been outscored in that stretch by an average of only 1.2 runs per game, having dropped three one-run decisions and a pair by two runs. Only twice in this stretch have they lost by more than three runs.

San Francisco owns a 4.81 ERA in this 12-game span, up from 4.11 before the downturn started. Yet the Giants actually have hit better, batting .272 and scoring 4.1 runs per game. Before the malaise, the Giants were hitting .251 while averaging 3.3 runs.

Nevertheless, as right fielder Randy Winn said, "A loss is a loss. The fact that they're close, I guess it's a small consolation, but it's still a loss."

And the Giants have piled up losses mainly because they're struggling to hit with runners in scoring position.

The Giants went 0-for-12 in those situations against the White Sox and are 4-for-37 in their last three games. They entered Friday ranked 15th in the National League with a .233 average with runners in scoring position, a figure which fell to .225 after Gavin Floyd (4-2) and four relievers limited them to five hits.

"There's no question that we have to improve in that area," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

"At times we've been good and at times we've struggled," said Winn, who happens to be among the more productive Giants by hitting .286 with runners in scoring position. "As a team that's not really a power team, that's the thing you need to do to score runs."

Despite their meager hits total, the Giants generated scoring chances.

Fred Lewis reached third base with nobody out in the first inning by drawing a walk, stealing second base and racing to third when White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, the ex-Giant who was booed at every turn, committed a throwing error. But Floyd retired Omar Vizquel on a sharp groundout, coaxed a popup from Winn and struck out Bengie Molina looking.

In the second inning, the Giants had runners on the corners with one out before Jose Castillo grounded into a double play. San Francisco also left two runners on base in the third and fourth innings and wasted Winn's two-out double in the fifth inning.

San Francisco brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth once Ray Durham doubled with one out off White Sox closer Bobby Jenks, but that was just a tease. Jenks retired Eugenio Velez and Rich Aurilia on grounders to secure his ninth save.

"This game really came down to too many missed opportunities," Bochy said. "We did what we wanted to do and that was create the opportunities, but we just missed a timely hit, even a productive out. That was the difference in the game."

Another difference was 26-year-old rookie Alexei Ramirez, who's playing his first season of American organized baseball after spending seven seasons with Pinar del Rio in the Cuban League. Ramirez lined a two-run, seventh-inning homer off Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez (2-3) for the game's only runs.

Sanchez, who allowed only three hits in six innings, struck out the first two batters he faced in the seventh. Nick Swisher prolonged the inning with a broken-bat single. Up came Ramirez, batting .136 at the time. He pulled a 1-1 pitch into the left-field seats.

Sanchez noticed that Ramirez took a healthy swing earlier in the at-bat when he fouled off a fastball, so he threw a changeup.

"I thought he'd be sitting on the fastball," Sanchez said. He wanted to throw the changeup outside but missed his intended location.

"It was moving toward him and he got it," Sanchez said.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.