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Giants can't close out Padres

Giants can't close out Padres

SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Padres' succession of victories over the Giants this season has been overwhelming -- 10 in 13 games overall and six in a row, including Friday night's 5-4 decision on Khalil Greene's 10th-inning home run off Dan Giese.

Overwhelming, maybe, but not numbing.

The Giants aren't numb to the Padres' five last-at-bat decisions over them. In the carefree pregame hours, manager Bruce Bochy discussed freeing himself from his ties to the Padres, whom he had managed the previous 12 seasons.

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"Sure, we're disappointed that we haven't won more, but I'm enjoying where I am. ... I've moved on," Bochy said.

Asked after the game if San Diego's domination of the Giants gnawed at him, Bochy admitted that it had.

"We've lost some tough games against them -- close ones, ones we've let get away. It is aggravating," he said. "Late in the game, we've made a mistake here or there that's killed us."

This time, the Giants' bullpen faltered as it tried to protect a 4-2 lead. Brad Hennessey, whose grasp on the closer's job weakened as he blew three of his previous five save opportunities, might have pitched himself out of the ninth-inning role by yielding Scott Hairston's leadoff homer and walking Josh Bard, which led to the tying run on Geoff Blum's two-out double off Steve Kline.

Earlier, the Giants had committed enough good deeds to buoy them into 2008. Barry Zito pitched six effective innings, backed by strong defense from third baseman Rich Aurilia and center fielder Randy Winn. Batting for Zito, rookie Eugenio Velez displayed his vaunted speed by stroking a two-out triple in the seventh inning and scoring on Chris Young's wild pitch to break a 2-2 tie. Ryan Klesko's RBI single provided a ninth-inning run off Heath Bell, who had gone nine games without allowing a run.

Before the relievers capsized, they cruised, as Tyler Walker remained unscored upon in nine games and Brian Wilson trimmed his ERA to 1.04 in 18 appearances. Even after San Diego pulled even, Rajai Davis, inserted one inning earlier as a defensive replacement, neatly caught Mike Cameron's towering drive a step in front of the center-field fence with Blum on second and two outs.

That preserved the 4-4 tie and the Giants' hopes, until Greene yanked Giese's first pitch into the left-field seats with one out in the 10th.

"We've seen enough walk-off homers and tough losses," Bochy growled.

He might have seen enough setbacks generated by Hennessey. Bochy said earlier this week that Hennessey would receive a "break" from the closer's role. That break could turn into a demotion, given Hennessey's fluctuating fortunes and Walker's and Wilson's rising ones.

"We'll talk about it tomorrow," said Bochy, who already has spoken of a competition for the closer's role among Hennessey, Wilson and Walker.

Hennessey, who's 19-for-24 in converting save opportunities, acknowledged that a change could be imminent.

"It's not like it's the first time it's been talked about," he said. "It's not what I'm thinking about when I'm out there, that's for sure. But I realize the situation and the things that they probably want to do in the future. Whatever happens, happens."

Hennessey's problems began after he jumped ahead of Hairston in the count, 0-2. Then Hairston worked the count to 3-2 before bashing his fifth homer in 32 at-bats this year off the Giants, against whom he's batting .375 (12-for-32). Then the walk to Bard, who was replaced by pinch-runner Brady Clark, "compounded the situation," in Bochy's words.

"The stuff's there," Hennessey said. "It's just not there as consistently as it needs to be." Asked if the long season had drained him, he replied, "I don't know. I feel bettter physically than when I did when I was getting all those saves in a row."

With five games remaining against San Diego, the Giants can't afford to dwell on the season series thus far. Otherwise, Zito said, the 10-3 disparity could grow.

"I guess if you look at it from a whole, it'll look like that," Zito said, referring to the Padres' dominance. "But it's a lot of isolated incidents. We can't get into any kind of mind-set where we feel like they have our number or we feel like they have some kind of edge on us. Because every moment's a new moment and every game's a new game -- and an opportunity to win."

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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