San Francisco came down to San Diego with a chance to join the N.L. West division lead. Instead, they struggled to beat a team they enjoyed dominating back at AT&T Park a week ago. The Giants were swept in San Diego and fell to 13-12 on the season.
Friday's game saw Tim Lincecum struck out a season-high nine Padre batters and went seven strong innings. Unfortunately, he became another Giants starter to allow a hit by opposing pitcher Andrew Cashner, and it ended up costing him. Staked to a 1-0 lead, Lincecum gave up RBI hits to Carlos Quentin and Yonder Alonso with two outs in the third inning.
Had Lincecum retired Cashner in the third inning, neither Quentin nor Alonso would have batted. The old baseball adage "anyone with a bat in their hands is dangerous" never proved truer.
Angel Pagan and Pablo Sandoval made a few spectacular defensive plays in the field, but the offense was the focus as they stranded six runners on base in a low scoring affair. San Diego's pitching was lights out Friday. Multiple Giants rolled over on ground balls and failed to work deep counts, resulting in a tidy two hour and 19 minute ballgame. Led by starter Cashner, the Padres retired 19 consecutive batters before Buster Posey singled in the ninth.
The Giants jumped out to a 5-0 lead Saturday, highlighted by Brandon Crawford's three run homer off Eric Stults. Staked with a sizeable lead, Zito fell apart in the fourth inning. Andres Torres continued his recent bad run in the field by whiffing on a line drive hit right at him by Carlos Quentin. That would have been the first out in the inning, but instead helped open the door for a six run Padre fourth.
The most incredible thing about Zito's outing was his stat line for the game. He allowed six runs, but only one earned run. That was based on the official scorer's judgment four of the runs scored were with two outs and Torres' error would have been the third out to end the inning.
Hunter Pence's triple recaptured the lead for the Giants in the fifth, but San Diego came back and tied it with a Kyle Blanks single in the seventh. From there it became a battle of the bullpens until Marco Scutaro let a Nick Hundley ground ball go under his glove which allowed Yonder Alonso to score the winning run.
Despite the loss, Jean Machi turned some heads. Machi worked three scoreless innings and gave the offense a chance to take the lead. Machi's hard fastball and split finger fastball were working well and a number of Padres' batters swings looked plain silly.
Things continued downward for the Giants Sunday with Ryan Vogelsong failing to be the stopper. Vogelsong gave up three home runs to put the Giants in a 5-1 hole after four innings. Despite 10 hits, with six of them off Padres starter Jason Marquis, San Francisco could not get the big hit leaving nine men on base.
The Giants mounted a rally in the eighth inning with Buster Posey's two run homer. Andres Torres was robbed of a potential RBI hit by the newest Giant killer in a Padre uniform Chris Denorfia. Denorfia should remind fans of Steve Finley when he was a San Diego Padre hurting the Giants in a variety of ways in the 1990s.
Next up is a three-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Giants enter Arizona with a few glaring downward trends. They have had to play from behind too often this season, which is too much to ask of any offense on a consistent basis. Aside from Lincecum, Zito and Vogelsong did not go deep in their starts, thereby putting a lot of demand on the bullpen. Bruce Bochy had to use six relievers Saturday and two more on Sunday.
Marco Scutaro had a forgettable series. He made a costly error Saturday and is back down to a .215 batting average as the second place hitter. If Scutaro continues to scuffle, Bochy should think about putting Nick Noonan in a few more games or moving Crawford up in the order.
With one month into the season, Ryan Vogelsong's issues are starting to become worrisome. He made numerous location mistakes up in the zone and doesn't look like the same guy from the past two seasons. Instead of joining Colorado for the division lead this weekend, the Giants find themselves looking up at Arizona and Colorado amidst a five game losing streak.
Arizona wrapped up a four game series at home hosting Colorado and took three of four games to sit at 15-10, tied for the division lead. The Diamondbacks got solid pitching from Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley, and Patrick Corbin. San Francisco will see Ian Kennedy again to start the three-game set, but they will skip Miley and Corbin. They will face all right handed starters, including former Oakland A's hurlers Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy.
Cahill's home ERA (2.74) is over a run lower than on the road (3.86). In seven career starts, Cahill owns a 4-2 record with a 2.76 ERA against the Giants. Brandon McCarthy may still be recovering physically and mentally from a line drive to his head suffered against the Los Angeles Angels last season. McCarthy's ERA jumped to 7.48, as he was knocked around by the Rockies on Friday for six earned runs. Coming over to the American League, McCarthy may be adjusting to the National League too. He has yet to face the Giants in his career.
Matt Cain goes Monday to begin the series, followed by Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum. Cain was jumped on early by Arizona last Tuesday, but was still able to go six innings. Madison Bumgarner, who has been the best Giants starter by far, will try to duplicate what he did to Arizona through seven innings last Wednesday. In 21 starts versus the Diamondbacks, Lincecum is 7-8 with a 3.44 ERA.
Through 25 games, San Francisco is hitting a respectable .279 with runners in scoring position, while Arizona is near the bottom at .225. Arizona has the sixth lowest team ERA in the majors at 3.37, while the Giants are 13th with at 3.64. The Diamondbacks outnumber the Giants in total home runs 24-15, so hopefully Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, and Hunter Pence can get a bit of power surge in a hitter friendly park.
The Giants weren't able to come back against the San Diego bullpen, but they did do it three times to the Diamondbacks pen last week. While they have that feather in their cap, the Giants are winless in their last five. After this series at Chase Field, the schedule does not get any easier. They will play the Dodgers, Phillies, and Braves. The good news is it will be a 10-game homestand. Right now, the focus lies in Arizona and ending a losing streak to end the first month of the season.
Matthew Lottice, KNBR