"It's kind of the way our season has been going," Winn said. "We realize we need to play good baseball consistently to win. We can't afford to make a whole lot of mistakes, either defensively or offensively."
The most encouraging development for the Giants was their starting pitching, as is usually the case. Sanchez, who has displayed increased confidence but only incremental improvement since his July 10 no-hitter, allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings, a distance he has reached twice in three starts but only three times all season.
The Giants must rely on more than just their twin aces, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, to remain postseason contenders. Sanchez has compiled a 4.04 ERA since his no-hitter but has limited opponents to a .202 batting average in that span. The Giants would be thrilled if he could maintain consistency and deepen the rotation.
"They're going to be big," Sanchez said of his remaining starts. "We have to win those games."
Sanchez blanked the Mets (55-62) until the fifth, when Angel Pagan's two-out double prolonged the inning. Lewis, dashing to his left, caught up with the ball and grabbed it, but it squirted out of his glove. It was scored a double.
Manager Bruce Bochy refused to criticize Lewis.
"We're not going to get into pointing figners here," Bochy said. "He ran a long ways. He didn't cost us a run by dropping it. Sanchie just made a mistake to the next hitter."
That was Luis Castillo, who hadn't homered since May 30 of last season -- a span of 475 at-bats. Castillo suddenly resembled Albert Pujols as he planted Sanchez's 3-1 fastball in the second deck in left field to put the Mets ahead, 2-1.
Sanchez explained that he intended to throw his pitch farther outside.
"[On] 3-1, everybody's going to look for a fastball," Sanchez said.
Castillo's long ball drought notwithstanding, Sanchez added: "He's in the big leagues. Anybody can hit home runs."
The Giants (63-54) couldn't, though they did enough at the plate to flirt with victory. Mets starter Mike Pelfrey allowed only three hits in seven innings before yielding consecutive one-out doubles to Velez and Winn in the eighth, which forced him from the game and tied the score. Winn's hit was especially welcome, since it interrupted an 8-for-55 skid and gave him some personal momentum after he sat out the series' first two games.
"It was more like a mini-All-Star break," Winn suggested.
San Francisco's rally ended as pinch-hitter Ryan Garko, facing Mets reliever Pedro Feliciano, lined out to second base with runners on first and second.
The Mets had better luck in the ninth as Jeff Francoeur grounded a leadoff infield single to the left side against right-hander Sergio Romo (3-2). After Fernando Tatis bunted Francoeur to second base, the left-handed Affeldt replaced Romo to face Murphy, a left-handed batter. The move made sense, particularly since Murphy and Omir Santos, the on-deck hitter, were batting .211 and .215 off left-handers, respectively. But Murphy mocked the Giants' strategy by lining his game-winning hit on a 2-2 curveball.
That pitch was the Giants' final slip of the day.
"It was supposed to be a little bit further away, a little bit further down," said Affeldt, who had excelled until allowing four earned runs and issuing six walks in his past four innings. "I threw a strike that was hittable instead of one that wasn't. There's really no secret to what happened."