SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants fans received good news upon entering AT&T Park on Sunday afternoon: Pitchers Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson, possibly the team's most charismatic members, were named to the National League All-Star team.
A nice silver lining for a club that hasn't seen .500 since May.What ticket-holders endured during the following three hours, however, wasn't as pleasant -- a sometimes sloppy, frequently messy, 5-3 loss to the rival Dodgers.
The Giants-supporting portion of 38,290 folks in attendance hardly received an enjoyable parting gift from their team, which won't again grace the shores of McCovey Cove for nearly two weeks. The white unis turn gray for the next six games (three apiece against the Mets and Cubs), and then comes the Midsummer Classic. The Giants' hopes of winning a series against Los Angeles turned gray, too, thanks to a pair of two-run innings by the Dodgers. In the rubber game of the three-day set, Matt Cain (5-7) lasted six innings, but gave up five runs and three walks. Far removed from his last outing, a dominant, eight-inning, two-hit shutout against the Cubs. With the loss, one Cain said was borne of "little things that go wrong," the Giants fell five games out of first in the National League West. And if that stat can't be perceived in myriad ways, then none can. Preseason expectations for San Francisco were filled with doom, gloom and 100-loss forecasts. Heading into their last trip before the All-Star break, though, the Giants are very much in contention in their division. "Anytime you're within under 10 games at the halfway point," manager Bruce Bochy said, "you saw what happened last year with Colorado, how they came back. Nobody is running away from this." So what if the division leader as of Sunday, Arizona, was 44-45. "You'd expect this division to play better in the second half," Bochy said. "That's going to have to be the case for us." Actually, the second half has already begun. The Giants have played 89 games and, unexpectedly, have won seven of their past 13. They're 22-22 away from home and have finished three consecutive road trips above .500. Now, they must win at home. Heading into Sunday's game, San Francisco was on the brink of winning its first homestand of the season. Losing to Los Angeles, though, nixed that opportunity. Worse still for the Bay Area faithful, the Giants are now 2-4 against the Dodgers this season. San Francisco had an error in the third, but it was Cain's minor flinch in the frame that was the Giants' undoing. With the game tied at 1, no outs and Angel Berroa at first, Dodgers pitcher Eric Stults reached over the plate to slap Cain's fastball to shortstop Emmanuel Burriss. Stults' shot was ruled a hit and, to compound matters, Burriss made a throwing error that let Berroa and Stults take an extra base. Matt Kemp then hit a ball that first baseman Rich Aurilia fielded away from the bag, and Cain was supposed to cover for him. But the righty briefly looked toward third base before sprinting to first, and he was too late to record an out. Berroa scored to give the Dodgers a one-run lead and Stults scored on the next play. "That's always frustrating when little things like that go wrong," Cain said. "But I can always control what I did, and I didn't get an easier out that I had to at first base. I just flinched; I don't know exactly really what happened." In seven career starts against Los Angeles, Cain remains winless (0-4). Though he threw 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball against them earlier this year, the Dodgers remain the only NL West team Cain hasn't beaten. The season has been bumpy for Cain. He showed flashes of brilliance in his previous start, but allowed four runs in five innings before that. "It's disappointing for me, for us," Cain said. "I feel like I let us down. Coming off of a good start, I feel like I had a lot better stuff than I showed today." Cain also surrendered one run in the first and two in the fifth, all three courtesy of two RBI doubles from James Loney. Bochy said Cain pitched better than the numbers showed, but "he was up a little more today. When that huge [third] inning started, he hung a breaking ball, [and] he just wasn't quite as sharp." A trio of Giants had multi-hit games, but none matched Aurilia. One of the team's few veteran hitters, Aurilia singled to open the second inning and pulled a solo homer to left field in the fourth, his 1,500th career hit.
Lewis chimed in with a pair of hits and scored the team's lone run in the first on Bengie Molina's groundout. Burriss, replacing Omar Vizquel in the lineup for the day, reached base in every at-bat with three singles and a walk.
Now the Giants are off on the road, packing their bags, sleeping in hotels and doing all those things in which they seem to take comfort.
For the first time since August-September 2003, the Giants have won three consecutive road trips. They've been victorious in 16 of their past 24 away from China Basin.
If San Francisco keeps that up and manages to improve at home, Bochy, Cain and the rest of the team will continue the refrain fans have heard all year.
"We are lucky to be in this division this year and everybody has to feel like they're in it," Bochy said.
"It's something that we need to capitalize on," Cain added. "Get on a good streak going into the All-Star break and, obviously, carry that into the rest of the season."
David Biderman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.