SAN FRANCISCO -- How simply everything fell apart Tuesday night for the Giants. One mishandled throw hastened a four-run Dodgers outburst in the fifth inning. Displaying the offensive might that the Giants can only fantasize about, Los Angeles added five runs in the seventh inning to cruise to a 9-1 victory. Billed as a showdown between the National League West's fiercest rivals, this series has turned out to be anything but competitive. The Giants twice have scored first, though they mustered one whopping run on both occasions. Los Angeles has scored in just three of 18 innings, but amassed at least four runs each time.
Worse yet for the Giants, they have looked vulnerable where they've typically been almost invincible -- at AT&T Park. San Francisco, which briefly possessed the Major Leagues' best home record, is 1-4 on this homestand that ends Wednesday. The NL West standings accurately reflect the disparity between the teams. San Francisco dropped 7 1/2 games behind the first-place Dodgers. Put another way, if the Dodgers (69-45) played .500 ball the rest of the season, they'd finish 93-69, requiring San Francisco (61-52) to win at a .653 clip (32-17) to tie them. Giants manager Bruce Bochy tried to maintain the proper perspective. "They played better than us for two days here. We know that this is a big series, but it's not a do-or-die series," he said. "We've been bouncing back all year." The evening's brightest development for the Giants was Colorado's 7-3 loss to Pittsburgh, enabling them to remain a game behind the Rockies in the NL Wild Card standings. It's too easy to suggest that the Giants' defeat might serve as a microcosm of their ultimate unraveling. But their rapid descent in the division and the sudden reversal of their home fortunes prompt such a notion. Because it didn't take much for the Giants' promising evening to wilt. The Giants clung to a 1-0 lead when Martinez, who stranded six baserunners in the first four innings, walked Rafael Furcal on a 3-2 pitch to open the fifth. Martinez then made a remarkable behind-the-back grab on Russell Martin's subsequent comebacker and threw to second base in an attempt to generate what surely would have been a forceout and possibly a double play. But Eugenio Velez, replacing the injured Freddy Sanchez (sore left shoulder), mishandled Martinez's low yet catchable throw for an error, leaving runners safe at first and second. Andre Ethier's double scored them both. Manny Ramirez drilled an RBI double and came home on James Loney's single. Los Angeles pulled away in the seventh against reliever Brandon Medders as Ramirez yanked a two-run homer and Matt Kemp hit a three-run homer. Bochy believed that Velez's error precipitated the Giants' downfall. "It turned the whole game around," he said. "There's no doubt about that. ... It's especially tough when you don't get the double play and you have the heart of their order coming up." Martinez blamed himself. "I've got to make a better throw," he said. "It's got to be chest-high and a little bit easier to handle. It's a difficult play, trying to be on the move and catch [it] down around your knees and ankles. That's something that I usually feel like I'm pretty good at, and unfortunately today I didn't make that play, which was disappointing." Martinez denied that this miscue "haunted" him through the rest of the inning. But, he admitted, "It was a big point. If I make a good throw, there should be two outs and nobody on instead of no outs and two guys on. If you give any team in the Major Leagues some life like that, a lot of times it does come back to kind of kick you in the butt." Dodgers left-hander Randy Wolf (6-6) avoided such mishaps, permitting three hits in eight innings. He lapsed only in the third as Fred Lewis walked, advanced to third on Edgar Renteria's single and Martinez's sacrifice bunt and scored on Velez's groundout. "We hit a really rough patch. We just got in a funk," Wolf said, citing Los Angeles' 10 losses in 15 games while its division lead shrank from nine games to 5 1/2. "We had a meeting and said to ourselves every good team goes through this. You don't score and you play bad defense and make mental mistakes. It's going to happen. Good teams get over it. Teams that don't make it are the ones that harp on negative things." Sounds like good advice for the Giants to follow.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.