Uncharacteristic play costly for Giants

Uncharacteristic play costly for Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- Despite allowing 17 runs and losing twice to the Los Angeles Angels, the Giants can allow themselves to dismiss this as an aberration.

Mostly, the Giants remain competitive. Until Tuesday night's 8-1 setback, they hadn't dropped a game by more than five runs since May 9, when the Dodgers drubbed them, 8-0.

Usually, San Francisco pitches well. Jonathan Sanchez yielded seven runs and 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings, duplicating Barry Zito's line from Monday's series opener. Manager Bruce Bochy called the similarity "incredible." Anybody tempted to bet on a third consecutive collapse Wednesday ought to be reminded that Tim Lincecum's scheduled to pitch.

Typically, the Giants avoid goofy mistakes. Don't expect first baseman Pablo Sandoval to repeat his three-error meltdown, including the pair of errors he committed on the same play to launch Los Angeles' four-run outburst in the third inning. Sandoval entered the game with only one error, helping San Francisco rank a respectable sixth in the National League in fielding percentage.

And though the Giants were baffled by Angels right-hander Sean O'Sullivan, who allowed just one run in seven innings in his Major League debut, they're still 7-4 against opposing starters they face for the first time.

But the Giants realize that they must end this performance dip before it becomes a full-fledged slump. One bad week, and they're a .500 team again. Their schedule is anything but forgiving. After they're done with the Angels, who are the first winning team the Giants have faced since they took two of three from St. Louis from May 29-31, they'll confront AL West-leading Texas.

"More than anything, you have to play your best ball when you play good teams," Bochy said. "Tonight, we didn't."

Sanchez's vulnerability largely accounted for the Giants' woes. But his third consecutive loss apparently won't endanger his starting status. Bochy said that he and general manager Brian Sabean have not discussed the possibility of removing the left-hander from the rotation.

Sanchez (2-7) tried his best to sound resilient, though he didn't look it as he slumped in his chair and stared into his locker before reporters approached.

"You have to come back," Sanchez said. "At some point it's going to turn around."

Sanchez lacked that attitude during the game. Asked whether untimely events such as Sandoval's errors jarred Sanchez, Bochy said, "At times, I think he did get distracted."

Sanchez fell behind on the count to Juan Rivera, 3-0, before the Angels' cleanup hitter smacked a first-inning RBI double. Instead of overcoming Sandoval's compounded mistakes in the third -- he played Maicer Izturis' grounder off his glove, then picked up the ball and fired it into the Angels' dugout -- Sanchez allowed Bobby Abreu's RBI single, Rivera's infield hit and Mike Napoli's three-run homer. By contrast, Sanchez blanked the Angels in the second inning despite Kendry Morales' leadoff double.

"When I made a good pitch, they hit it," Sanchez said.

That trend continued in the fourth inning. O'Sullivan led off by singling sharply off third baseman Rich Aurilia's glove before Izturis drove a 3-1 pitch down the left-field line for another homer.

From the Giants' perspective, there wasn't much left to watch after that.

The bullpen, which worked only two innings in the previous series against Oakland, hiked its two-game total against the Angels to 10 2/3 innings.

O'Sullivan, who compiled a 6.02 ERA in Triple-A -- which happened to be where he returned after the game, since the Angels' need for him was temporary -- surrendered San Francisco's lone run in his seventh and final inning as Bengie Molina singled, moved to third on Sandoval's double and came home on Nate Schierholtz's sacrifice fly.

Second baseman Matt Downs looked capable in his Major League debut. Despite going 0-for-3, he connected solidly each time.

"I felt good at the plate," said Downs, who replaced the demoted Emmanuel Burriss. "Nothing fell tonight. That's the way it is sometimes."

Wednesday's series finale promises to be different, at least in terms of personnel. Bochy indicated that Sandoval will play third base for the first time since injuring his right elbow last month. Travis Ishikawa, who has started once in the last 18 games, likely will play first base. Oh, and Lincecum's pitching.

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