Giants avoid infamy but not sweep

Giants avoid infamy but not sweep

SAN FRANCISCO -- Maybe Mat Latos is among the next wave of National League pitching stars. Perhaps, right now, the San Diego Padres are extremely lucky and the Giants are exceedingly unlucky.

The Giants can't do much about any of that. But they can try to fix their offense, whether the hitters refresh their hitting approach or manager Bruce Bochy changes personnel. Because very little worked for the Giants in this series, which ended with San Diego's 1-0 victory Thursday that concluded a three-game sweep.

Making his 17th career start, Latos (3-3) looked like a potential ace while allowing just one hit, Eli Whiteside's sixth-inning infield single, in pitching his first career complete game. Latos also drove in the game's lone run. Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez (2-3) sparkled for eight innings, yet lost his second game in a row to the Padres. He has allowed a grand total of two runs and four hits in 15 innings in those defeats.

San Francisco's brain trust refused to accept being outclassed. Shortly after the Giants fell to 0-6 this year against first-place San Diego, which leads them by 3 1/2 games in the NL West, manager Bruce Bochy huddled in his office with general manager Brian Sabean and hitting coach Hensley Meulens to consider ways of reviving the offense, which scored four runs in this series and has amassed eight all season against San Diego.

They had a lot of brainstorming ahead. Trades typically aren't engineered at this early juncture of the season. Sabean recently told the San Jose Mercury News that Buster Posey, who entered Thursday hitting .355, isn't ready to catch on the Major League level. Besides, the positions Posey plays, catcher and first base, are occupied respectively by Bengie Molina and Aubrey Huff, two of the few Giants who have hit consistently.

Still, something's bound to change by Friday, when the Giants open a three-game weekend series against the Houston Astros -- even if it's just the hitters' attitudes.

"We've got some guys who are cold right now," said Bochy, whose team has dropped five of its last six games. "They're not comfortable at the plate. It's obvious as you watch. ... We're a better-hitting club than this. We're in a bad rut right now. We have to get these guys relaxed. We're trying to do too much. I thought a few times we were overswinging."

A team might begin overthinking after losing to a opponent 10 times in 13 games, as the Giants have done against the Padres since last July.

"It seems like they've got our number," said Huff, who in the next breath downplayed San Diego's dominance.

"We've got a lot more games with them [12], but it's too early to be looking at playoff implications," Huff said. "We have a long way to go."

With just a few shreds of good fortune, the Giants would have been discussing another resurgent victory. Huff hit two smashes that first baseman Adrian Gonzalez adroitly plucked, Juan Uribe and Aaron Rowand hit promising-looking drives that died in center fielder Scott Hairston's glove and Matt Downs opened the ninth inning with a line drive that looked like a double up the left-field line -- until third baseman Chase Headley reached up and snared it.

"It felt like their guys were in the right position every single time," Huff said. "It was like they knew it was coming. You have to credit their scouts, I guess, or somebody."

Said Bochy, "The ball occasionally has to bounce your way in this game. ... We can use a break in this rut we're in."

Had the Giants been completely luckless, they might have endured a no-hit defeat. Whiteside's leadoff smash struck the heel of Latos' glove and caromed toward third base. Whiteside barely beat Headley's throw.

"Just see it and hit it," Whiteside said, describing his strategy at the plate. "[Latos] showed early in the game that he was going to come out and throw strikes."

Downs hit a grounder to shortstop but reached second base as Whiteside, who was forced out at second, made a hard slide that forced Lance Zawadzki's overthrow for an error. Latos escaped as Sanchez lined out and Rowand flied out.

Sanchez faltered only in the fifth, victimized by the very bottom of San Diego's order with two outs and nobody on base. Zawadzki, in his 10th Major League at-bat, prolonged the inning by doubling to right-center field. Latos poked his bat at a fastball and singled home Zawadzki.

"When you're going good like they are right now, things like that happen," Bochy said.

Or they happen like this: The Padres scout who drafted and signed Latos was none other than Joe Bochy, Bruce Bochy's brother.

"No way," Huff said upon hearing this piece of trivia. "Baseball's so weird, isn't it?"

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