The contrast between the Tigers and Giants was stark. While Detroit's hitters ultimately roused themselves, the Giants resumed their offensive struggles. After mustering one run and five hits in seven innings off 43-year-old Detroit left-hander Kenny Rogers (5-4), they loaded the bases with nobody out in the ninth inning off Tigers closer Todd Jones yet couldn't score.
The breakdown is ugly for the Giants. They not only have lost six of their last eight games, but they've also scored three runs or less in five of their last seven -- including one run or fewer on four occasions. So the Giants could only watch with envy as the Tigers pulled away and ruined Sanchez's admirable effort.
The Giants' effort began unraveling with Raburn's home run, which christened the eighth inning and broke a 1-1 tie. Batting for Rogers, the .219-hitting Raburn mashed Sanchez's 1-0 fastball into the left-field stands, the ball landing just a few rows below the concourse topping the pavilion. Sanchez then walked Edgar Renteria and allowed Placido Polanco's single, leaving runners at the corners and ending his evening.
"I just missed my spots," said Sanchez, noting that his pitch to Raburn was supposed to be outside but instead caught far too much of home plate.
Reliever Billy Sadler got exactly what he needed: a comebacker from Carlos Guillen. But Sadler never looked toward third base to freeze Renteria. Instead, he threw to shortstop Emmanuel Burriss to try to start a double play but recorded only a forceout at second base. Seizing upon Sadler's lack of attention, Renteria hesitated briefly before speeding home.
This lapse in fundamentals would have been galling under any circumstance, since pitchers practice such plays repeatedly in Spring Training. Sadler's goof was even more glaring, since manager Bruce Bochy had just finished reviewing the situation with him and the infielders.
"He had a mental drift," said Bochy, who was shown on television discussing the matter with Sadler after the inning.
"Plain and simple, I just totally messed up," Sadler said.
One inning later, Thames found territory that few men other than Barry Bonds have reached. He drilled right-hander Vinnie Chulk's full-count pitch off the roof of the concession stand beyond the center-field barrier. The ball caromed upward and off the batter's eye for dramatic effect. Thames thus became the first Tiger to homer in five consecutive games since Willie Horton in 1969. Each of his last eight hits has been a home run. Meanwhile, Chulk has yielded a bullpen-high six home runs in 30 innings.
Bochy clearly didn't approve of Chulk's pitch location. Asked how one might pitch to Thames, who homered twice Monday off Tim Lincecum, Bochy responded, "I know one way not to pitch him, and that's down the middle."
The long balls enhanced the entertainment. After the Tigers scored their pair of runs in the eighth, witnesses were treated to the sight of plate umpire Paul Nauert signaling "out" and second-base umpire Brian O'Nora calling "safe" after center fielder Aaron Rowand threw to first base to try to double off Magglio Ordonez. Ultimately, Ordonez was ruled safe, but the issue became moot when catcher Bengie Molina threw out Ordonez on a stolen-base attempt.
Molina also emerged from a 1-for-19 skid by singling twice and driving in San Francisco's lone run with a sixth-inning sacrifice fly, which actually was a sinking line drive to left field that Thames caught backhanded in the webbing of his glove at his shoetops.
Although his four-game winning streak ended, Sanchez (6-4) provided further encouragement for the Giants with his performance, which featured eight strikeouts. The left-hander received scattered applause when Curtis Granderson singled cleanly to left field leading off the sixth inning to shatter his no-hitter.
Granderson came around to score, prompting the Giants' downfall -- though nobody knew it yet.