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Quiet bats drop Giants out of first place

Quiet bats drop Giants out of first place

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CHICAGO -- Even the Giants admit that they can't hit.

That's an exaggeration. But after the Giants slipped from first place in the National League West with Wednesday night's 2-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs, a couple of them acknowledged the club's shortcomings at the plate.

The defeat left the Giants a half-game behind San Diego in the division standings. They also trail Wild Card leader Atlanta by a half-game.

The Giants' hitting, or lack of it, is threatening to derail their bid for a postseason berth. The Giants have allowed fewer than three runs in 16 consecutive games, matching the record for the live-ball era (since 1920) shared by the 1972 Cleveland Indians and 1981 Oakland A's.

But the Giants have scored one run or fewer in four of their last five games, absorbed shutout defeats in four of their last 10 contests and mustered two or fewer runs in nine of their last 13 outings. San Francisco's 12-7 record in September is remarkable, given its .215 team batting average this month.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy hinted that his lineup for Thursday's series finale could feature some significant alterations. But players stated that their mental approach is what needs to change most.

First baseman Aubrey Huff emphasized patience, which the Giants did not display against Chicago starter Randy Wells.

"This guy tonight, he pitched well, [but] if you get behind 0-1, he doesn't have a 97-mph fastball to get it by you," Huff said. "You have to be comfortable to go 0-1 and get something going, work a walk. Right now it seems like we're all trying to do it ourselves."

Huff elaborated on the need to work deeper counts against opposing pitchers.

"It can't be one or two guys," said Huff, who hopes to play Thursday despite fouling a ball off his right calf. "It has to be everybody."

Indeed, Wells (8-13) needed only 91 pitches to last 7 2/3 innings.

"We're just not putting together smart at-bats," Huff said. "With us, it seems like if we score early we got it. We relax and score some runs. It seems like the farther along we get with no runs, the fourth or fifth [inning], you feel like everybody's tensing up, trying to hit a home run. It doesn't work that way. We have to have smarter at-bats, work counts."

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval pled guilty to this charge.

"I tried to drive in a runner from scoring position three times in one AB," said Sandoval, who's in a 3-for-27 rut and was lifted for pinch-hitter Mike Fontenot in the eighth inning. Sandoval followed Jose Guillen's second-inning leadoff double by grounding out to shortstop, which did not advance the runner.

San Francisco mustered six hits off Wells, whose credentials included an 0-5 mark with a 5.80 ERA in his previous six starts at Wrigley Field.

None of that mattered against the Giants, who moved five runners into scoring position against Wells.

"He pitched really well on a night when every hitter, every situation, every baserunner was going to matter," Cubs manager Mike Quade said.

The Giants' luck left something to be desired. Huff lined out into a double play to end the sixth inning. One inning later, Guillen hit a smash that shortstop Starlin Castro couldn't hold, yet he still recovered the ball in time to start another double play.

San Francisco launched its final bid with two outs in the eighth, when pinch-hitter Travis Ishikawa walked and held at third on Cody Ross' double. In came Cubs closer Carlos Marmol, who fanned Freddy Sanchez.

Jonathan Sanchez (11-9) allowed both of Chicago's runs during his 5 2/3-inning stint. Kosuke Fukudome's third-inning leadoff homer was a mild surprise, since Sanchez had limited left-handed batters to a .159 average and three home runs in 126 at-bats.

"I wanted him to put the ball in play," Sanchez said of the 3-1 fastball that Fukudome hammered. "I wanted to throw the ball [outside] and it stayed in the middle."

The Cubs added an unearned run in the fifth inning. Koyie Hill doubled and advanced toward third base on a wild pitch, which trickled behind catcher Buster Posey. Posey fired a wide throw that struck Hill as he slid into the bag feet-first. The ball caromed toward the third-base dugout, enabling Hill to score.

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

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