Sanchez better, but loses to Braves

Sanchez better, but loses to Braves

SAN FRANCISCO -- Tuesday night's game was one of many this season that left Giants fans anticipating the arrival of 2009.

During an uneventful 11-4 loss against the Braves, San Francisco was bland offensively and occasionally sloppy in the field. Jonathan Sanchez wasn't bad but certainly wasn't good, and the bullpen got tagged for eight runs.

In short, the exact opposite of Monday's performance. Typical of a young club, the Giants gave one night and took away the very next.

The inconsistency should be expected. Along with the club's long-awaited shift to 2009-tryout mode, Bay Area fans will have to sit through nights like Tuesday, when nothing seems to go the Giants' way.

After Sanchez (8-8) surrendered a three-spot in the fifth and Osiris Matos matched him in the seventh, San Francisco put together a close-but-no-cigar rally in the eighth. Down 6-2, Aaron Rowand and Bengie Molina hit RBI singles to tighten the game.

But Fred Lewis and Rich Aurilia couldn't extend the run, striking out on six combined pitches to end the threat. It was fitting that rain began falling shortly after -- the first steady stream at AT&T Park this summer.

Sergio Romo didn't help the cause in the ninth, allowing four earned runs in the worst outing of his short career. His ERA nearly doubled, jumping from 2.35 to 4.41.

Before Romo and Matos pitched the Giants out of contention, Sanchez had an encouraging outing, pitching well through the first four innings. The lefty has struggled recently -- his last win came June 29 and the Giants have lost his past six starts. He's tallied three losses with a 9.56 ERA since July 4.

"Everything worked good till the fifth inning," said Sanchez, who didn't walk a batter for the first time this season. "I was good. I was on top of the ball."

In just his third start in three years, Mike Hampton held the Giants to two runs through seven innings. The win was his first since August 2005, and he looked a lot like his old self -- on the mound and at the plate.

Known for his hitting prowess, Hampton ruined Sanchez's night. Down, 2-1, with two outs in the fifth, Sanchez left a 3-2 fastball over the plate that Hampton smoked to left-center field to score Kelly Johnson. Yunel Escobar followed with a double to score Hampton before Sanchez ended the inning.

"I got behind the pitcher," Sanchez said. "That was the guy I had to get out."

Manager Bruce Bochy recently said the club will monitor Sanchez's innings count for the rest of the year to keep him from wearing out. Including Tuesday's performance, the 25-year-old has thrown 128 innings this season, surpassing his previous single-season high of 125 2/3 in 2005 with Class A Augusta.

Sanchez, though, insisted he's not tiring out. He pointed to his steady fastball that reached 94 miles per hour as evidence.

"My velocity is right there," he said. "As long as my velocity is there, I'm not tired."

For the first seven innings, it was the Giants' offense that looked like it needed rest. After winning three of their past four games, the Giants were blanked by Hampton through the first four innings. Jose Castillo broke the funk in the fifth with a grounder that scored Fred Lewis, and Lewis banged a monster home run to right field in the seventh.

Batting fifth in the lineup instead of third because of his poor lefty-righty splits, Lewis showed that he's getting more comfortable against southpaws. Last month, Lewis had four hits against Randy Johnson, and he had a pair of hits against Hampton.

"I got a pitch that I can hit and I drove it," Lewis said of his home run. "[The] more and more opportunities I get [against lefties], I try to go with my game plan. I like to show people that I can hit left-handed pitching."

The Giants as a team, though, haven't been hitting for much power against anyone. Before Lewis' shot, San Francisco hadn't hit a home run in 12 games dating back to July 22. Of the Giants' eight hits, only Lewis' went for extra bases.

"These things run in streaks," Bochy said. "Hopefully we'll start driving the ball, hitting the gaps. It's not just home runs; just square up on a ball and drive it and they'll come around on that."

David Biderman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.