07/19/08 2:33 AM ET
Giants offense quiet against Brewers
Bats get only four hits off Sabathia in difficult loss
By David Biderman / MLB.com
The Giants had myriad problems in their opening game of the second half of the season -- some were fluky, some weren't, but they all contributed to San Francisco's 9-1 loss to the Brewers and their ace, CC Sabathia.
In fact, Milwaukee's newest hurler played the biggest role in the Giants' defeat. Sabathia (3-0), though, will be discussed later with all the detail befitting any 290-pounder (listed weight) with the stuff he has.
On this night, the Giants' difficulties were borne of more than just the opposing pitcher. Debatable umpire calls, a tight strike zone and a clubhouse-encompassing flu nipped every San Francisco opportunity in the bud.
The first bad-luck omen?
A few hours before game time, bench coach Ron Wotus had to post a second lineup in the clubhouse. Rich Aurilia and Ray Durham, two of the Giants' sturdiest veterans, were scratched because of flu-like symptoms. Aaron Rowand, Brian Wilson, Tim Lincecum, Omar Vizquel and Alex Hinshaw were among the many players feeling under the weather.
Wotus wound up doing a lot more work later on when he took over for manager Bruce Bochy. The skipper was ejected by home plate umpire Jim Wolf in the fifth inning after arguing a call for the second time -- his fourth ejection this year. Ryan Braun slid under third baseman Jose Castillo's glove and was ruled safe, and Bochy didn't agree.
In line with the theme of the night, it actually appeared that call was correct. In the third inning, though, Bochy disputed a call that led to the Brewers' first run -- a play at first base that television replays showed Wolf judged incorrectly.
After Sabathia hammered a pitch to center field for a double, Rickie Weeks smacked a grounder to John Bowker, who fumbled the ball before tossing it to pitcher Matt Cain (5-8) at first base. Weeks was ruled safe, and on the next play, J.J. Hardy grounded out to score Sabathia.
"That's just kind of the way it goes," said Cain, refusing to blame the umpires for the defeat.
Of course, when Bochy left the dugout for the second time, it appeared he was trying to boost the team's morale more than change Wolf's mind. The Giants have lost six of their past seven games and their last four consecutive to Milwaukee. They are 17-29 in San Francisco, the worst home record in the Majors.
At 40-56, San Francisco matched its season high for games under .500 (16) and remained seven games out of first in the National League West. They Giants are now tied for fourth in the division with the Rockies.
A day after Bochy said he wanted his club to focus more on defensive fundamentals, the Giants made two errors, including Ivan Ochoa's careless drop of a line drive in the ninth that led to three unearned Brewers runs.
It didn't help that Sabathia, born in nearby Vallejo, lived up to his very large reputation. Fred Lewis hit a ground-ball single to start the game, but Ochoa subsequently hit into a double play. Sabathia proceeded to retire the next 16 batters through the start of the seventh inning.
"When you are going against a guy like Sabathia, you are not in a position to give up any runs," Bochy said. "You are in for a battle and you do not want to give up any cheap runs."
Sabathia's line: 10 strikeouts, four hits, no walks and just three fly balls allowed in his second consecutive complete game -- his sixth double-digit strikeout effort of the season.
"Nasty" was how Cain described it.
From Bochy: "They say great pitching will shut down hitting, and it does."
Rowand went into a little more detail.
"He's got four good pitches, [he] mixes them up good. You're not gonna get a whole lot to hit. ... When you do get something to hit, you better not miss it."
Rowand did get something in the eighth inning and he golfed it out of the park for his ninth homer, the Giants' lone run of the night. The home run was the club's first since July 6.
There were no attempts to blame the loss on the team-wide flu, but Bochy did mention it'll be good "to get this crud over with and get back to full strength."
Feeling ill since the start of the All-Star break, Rowand acknowledged after the game that he's still not 100 percent. But, "being sick isn't an excuse for not going out there and playing your game," he said.
Following his best outing of the season -- seven shutout innings against the Cubs on July 11 -- Cain was merely solid against the Brewers. He lasted six innings and allowed three earned runs, but he walked as many (five) as he struck out.
The biggest Brewers blow came in the seventh when, in a 3-0 game, Jack Taschner entered in relief and gave up Prince Fielder's three-run homer. One of the runners that scored, Hardy, reached on a double against Cain.
"Towards the end, I left a couple pitches up," Cain said. "Sometimes, that happens. These guys are going to definitely take advantage of it. A couple of those guys are swinging good right now, so that's going to happen."
David Biderman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.