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SAN FRANCISCO -- After waiting 74 games, Giants fans were ready for their team's first home game of the season against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers. The "Beat L.A." chants rang out at AT&T Park almost nonstop Monday night.
But the Giants didn't just fall short of beating Los Angeles. To a considerable extent, they beat themselves as the Dodgers captured a 4-2 decision on Casey Blake's tiebreaking two-run homer in the eighth inning.
San Francisco continued its season-long pattern of wasting promising offense by hitting -- or flailing -- into five double plays. The Giants grounded into three, hiking their National League-high total to 81, and struck out into another.
"That's what's hurting us now," manager Bruce Bochy said after the Giants' fifth loss in six games. "We're having a tough time keeping the line moving. When you're not scoring a lot of runs, those hurt, because they stop the rallies. They hurt us tonight. No getting around it."
The most stunning and, for the Giants, sickening double play of all occurred in the seventh inning with the score tied, 2-2. They put runners on the corners with nobody out as Pat Burrell and Pablo Sandoval singled. Sandoval looked particularly impressive as he triumphed in his 12-pitch confrontation against reliever Jeff Weaver.
Within moments, Sandoval negated that good deed. Edgar Renteria hit a fly ball to right field that was too shallow to score pinch-runner Aaron Rowand from third base. Rowand took a few intense but perfunctory strides home before retreating to third. But Sandoval, believing that Rowand was heading for the plate, dashed toward second base and was doubled off easily. That essentially ended the rally.
Seeing Sandoval run into an extra out dismayed his teammates. Renteria clamped his hands onto his batting helmet and stared in disbelief. Aubrey Huff, watching from the dugout, slapped his forehead and turned away.
Bochy shielded Sandoval from blame, however.
"He was doing all he can to help the team win," Bochy said. He thought [Rowand] was going home so he was going to second. He was being aggressive there. That's going to happen with a young player. But you can't fault him for his thinking. They executed, [made a] perfect throw [and] cutoff and they got him."
Sandoval remained accountable. "I made a mistake," he said. "It's part of the game. You learn. ... I have to read that play. You have to be prepared for that situation before every pitch."
Then came the Dodgers' eighth. After Manny Ramirez completed a 3-for-3 performance with a one-out single off Santiago Casilla (1-2), Ronnie Belliard smacked a grounder up the middle. Casilla slipped as he fielded the ball and threw from his knees to second base, forcing out Ramirez -- a slick play. But Belliard beat Renteria's relay to first base, which made a huge difference as Blake clobbered Casilla's 3-2 fastball into the left-field seats.
Bochy believed that Casilla might have been able to start a double play had he not lost his footing.
"He doesn't realize it, but if he doesn't touch the ball, it's probably a double play, too," Bochy added. "We had it covered, but you don't have the time to have that awareness. He just went down and it came back to haunt us, not getting a double play when he slipped."
Los Angeles leapfrogged the Giants, who remained 4 1/2 games behind National League West-leading San Diego, to occupy second place in the division.
One redeeming factor for the Giants was Barry Zito's performance, which ended the club's streak of five games without a quality start. Zito surrendered two runs and six hits in six innings, though the Dodgers forced him to throw 113 pitches.
"They fouled off a ton of pitches," Zito said. "That makes it tough on a pitcher when you're throwing 'out' pitches and they're spoiling them. It runs the pitch count up."
Other numbers were more relevant, though. The Giants fell to 1-3 against the Dodgers and 8-15 against NL West foes. The latter figure pales alongside Los Angeles' 19-5 mark against its division brethren.
"We've been playing well in our division and I think we're familiar with the opponents," Blake said. Referring to the conclusion of Interleague Play, Blake added, "Maybe we're a little more comfortable now that we got back in the National League, and especially in our division."