SAN FRANCISCO -- Wednesday's final out didn't end the Giants' effort. After San Francisco's 4-2 loss to the San Diego Padres, there was no shortage of players trying to accept responsibility for the second loss in a row to a sub-.500 team -- at home, no less, where the Giants usually excel. Barry Zito blamed himself for pitching poorly and not following the basics.
Kevin Frandsen faulted himself for failing to lay down a sacrifice bunt. Freddy Sanchez lamented the team's insufficient offense overall -- a familiar refrain among the Giants -- but pointed the proverbial finger at himself for being less than efficient at the plate. None of this admirable accountability helped the Giants in the standings. They began Wednesday trailing first-place Los Angeles by 6 1/2 games in the National League West and Wild Card-leading Colorado by three games. Fortunately for the Giants, they can take a direct path toward improving their status, since their homestand will continue with a three-game series against the Dodgers beginning Friday, followed by another three-game set against the Rockies opening Monday. By this time next week, the Giants should know how meaningful the rest of the month will be. If they continue to flounder offensively as they did against San Diego, which limited them to five runs in the series' final two games, the beginning of the end of the so-called pennant race will arrive sooner rather than later for the Giants. "It's going to come down to us swinging the bats," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "... There's no easy answer when a team gets in a skid offensively. If you keep working, that's all you can do. But it's going to be up to them. They're getting everything they need -- information, batting practice. It's going to come down to some guys getting hot with the bat and getting it done." Bunting, not swinging, generated one of the game's low points for the Giants. They mustered four hits in seven innings off Padres starter Wade LeBlanc (2-1), a rookie left-hander who entered the afternoon with a 6.06 ERA. Andres Torres solved the mystery of LeBlanc by belting a two-run homer in the third inning, but the lefty recovered by retiring 11 consecutive batters from the fourth through seventh innings. Then the Giants roused themselves with uncharacteristic patience. With San Diego leading by the ultimate final score of 4-2, Aaron Rowand walked on four pitches leading off the eighth inning and Nate Schierholtz coaxed another free pass on a full-count pitch. Right-hander Luke Gregerson relieved LeBlanc, prompting the Giants to counter with Frandsen, who had explicit instructions to bunt the runners along. Bochy considered Frandsen his best bunter available. Frandsen had accumulated 19 sacrifice bunts in his six Minor League seasons and three in his scattered stints with the Giants. But Frandsen foiled Bochy's strategy by squaring around and popping up a 3-1 pitch to third base. Eugenio Velez struck out and Sanchez popped up to end the rally. Executing fundamentals such as bunting, said Bochy, "is so important for us because we don't score a lot of runs." Frandsen, in the second day of his latest recall from Triple-A Fresno, criticized himself harshly. "It couldn't have been a straighter fastball down the middle of the plate," Frandsen said. "Boch puts me in there in that situation to get the job done. I feel like I've done it a ton of times in the Minor Leagues. Probably one of the reasons I'm here is to get the little things done, and not to get it done at all is quite disappointing." Zito bemoaned his lack of command with his curveball. That left him vulnerable against Adrian Gonzalez, who lined a first-inning RBI single and a two-run third-inning homer. But Zito might have avoided Gonzalez's first hit had he covered first base when Everth Cabrera opened the game with a grounder that scooted past the inside of the bag. Pablo Sandoval fielded the ball but had nobody to throw to, giving Cabrera a free infield single. Zito explained that he thought the ball was foul. "It was a bad read on my part. There's no excuse," he said. Though Zito (9-12) wasn't at his best, he hardly got hammered. He yielded three runs and six hits in five innings. But his teammates have supported him with two runs or fewer in 18 of his 29 starts. With all due respect to LeBlanc, this wasn't what Bochy expected. "With us healthy and the lineup we had out there, I felt good," he said. "I thought we would get some runs on the board." Sanchez noticed the offense's flaws. "Starting with myself, as a team we needed to have a better approach," he said. "I don't think we made adjustments on [LeBlanc] throughout the game and I'll be the first one to admit that I'm one of those guys."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.