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07/31/08 2:19 AM ET

Giants muffled in loss to Dodgers

San Francisco musters just five hits in suffering shutout

LOS ANGELES -- Wait until August.

The Giants have fallen far short of manager Bruce Bochy's goal of steady improvement, at least in the past couple of pay periods. They finished July with an 8-16 record, their worst for any month this season. San Francisco closed this month's chapter in especially dispiriting fashion Wednesday by losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-0.

The outcome reflected the Giants' recent struggles. Jonathan Sanchez concluded a July in which he went 0-3 with an 8.57 ERA in five starts. The Giants have endured back-to-back shutout defeats for the second time this month, coupled with whitewashes at New York on July 8-9. They extended their season-high homerless streak to eight games and have hit .224 in their last 29 games while falling a season-high 19 games below .500.

"We're getting shut down too frequently," Bochy said, stating the obvious after Los Angeles right-hander Chad Billingsley pitched a five-hitter for his first career shutout.

Left fielder Dave Roberts said he and his teammates haven't shut down emotionally, although nobody has been caught yelling, screaming or bashing equipment in the dugout.

"This dynamic is not like that as far as personalities with this offense," Roberts said. "With other teams I've been on, you've had guys do that. But that doesn't mean guys aren't frustrated. I think guys go about it a different way."

The Giants' style, particularly with so many younger players on their roster, is to practice harder before each game -- hence the frequent sessions of extra batting and infield practice -- in an effort to jell.

"That's what we're going to still strive for," Bochy said. "That's the only thing you can do. Keep working."

The diligence extends to general manager Brian Sabean, who's weighing possible transactions before the Trade Deadline strikes Thursday, a scheduled off-day for the Giants. Speculation increased that San Francisco is considering trading catcher Bengie Molina to Florida for first baseman Mike Jacobs, although the Marlins reportedly could be more preoccupied with a three-way deal involving Boston and Pittsburgh that would bring them Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez.

Asked if all members of the 25-man roster would make the trip to San Diego for the Giants' next series, Bochy responded affirmatively.

One Giant with much to ponder during the short bus ride was Sanchez (8-7), who didn't last more than 5 1/3 innings in any of his July starts. He worked just four innings against the Dodgers, who scored a run in the first inning and three more in the third.

Sanchez continued to insist that he's not fatigued, although his 123 innings are 2 2/3 short of his professional career high.

"I didn't have it today, but I'm not tired," he said.

Bochy was more concerned with Sanchez's poor control. Of the four Dodgers Sanchez walked, three of them scored.

"The walks killed him today," Bochy said.

That pattern began in the first inning when Matt Kemp walked on a 3-2 pitch, stole second base and came home on Russell Martin's single.

Sanchez again encountered trouble after walking Kemp and Casey Blake with one out in the third. Martin hit another run-scoring single, Jeff Kent lashed an RBI double and James Loney added a sacrifice fly.

Rookie relievers Osiris Matos, Geno Espineli and Sergio Romo gave the Giants a chance to rebound by blanking the Dodgers for four innings. But Billingsley had established his dominance by then. He retired the first 12 hitters he faced and didn't allow a Giant to reach second base for the first eight innings.

Jose Castillo nearly ended the shutout by doubling off the top of the right-center-field wall with two outs in the ninth. Randy Winn followed with a single to left field. But instead of fueling a last-ditch rally, that only set up the Giants' final indignity as Andre Ethier threw out Castillo at home plate for the final out.

Bochy defended third-base coach Tim Flannery, who waved Castillo home.

"We all know that's not the way you want it to end," Bochy said. But, he added, "it looked like a real easy score, and it was a perfect throw."

Yet Flannery spared nothing in his self-criticism, since the Giants needed baserunners at that juncture more than a run.

"Tonight, after 14 years, I became a fan instead of a third-base coach," he said. "It's just flat-out stupid."

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