Admirable as Penny's attitude was, it didn't prevent the loss from being added to the standings. The Giants (80-68) fell three games behind National League Wild Card leader Colorado, pending the outcome of the Rockies' game at Arizona later Saturday.
The Giants can anticipate Sunday's series finale eagerly, because their starter will be ace Tim Lincecum, who has never lost to the Dodgers. But Lincecum likely will confront temperatures exceeding 80 degrees, which could require some adjustments from him. Moreover, the Dodgers will counter with Randy Wolf, who has allowed San Francisco one earned run in 14 innings this season.
That was the kind of effectiveness Penny displayed earlier for the Giants as he allowed four runs in 22 innings. But the Dodgers more than doubled Penny's yield in the first inning alone by scoring five runs, all but one on Ronnie Belliard's grand slam.
Penny left the game after yielding back-to-back home runs by Matt Kemp and James Loney and a walk to Belliard in the third inning.
The consensus among Penny, catcher Eli Whiteside and manager Bruce Bochy was that the right-hander lacked command of the offspeed pitches that had helped him excel.
"It was going to happen," Bochy said of Penny's pummeling. "It's hard to pitch better than Brad did in his first three starts."
That body of work included a seven-inning, two-run effort at AT&T Park against the Dodgers last Sunday. This time, however, Penny dangled a 1-2 changeup that Belliard hammered. In other instances, Penny rarely forged ahead on the count, as reflected by the 36 strikes he threw in 68 pitches.
"I beat myself," Penny said. " ... Any time you face a team five or six days later, you have to make pitches. They're fresh on your mind; you're fresh on their mind."
Penny, who pitched for Los Angeles from 2004-08, was fresh on the minds of Dodgers fans, who booed him as he strode to the bullpen for his pregame warmup and whenever his name was announced. Penny downplayed the crowd's reaction -- "It wasn't even close to hostile," he said -- and denied the suggestion that he felt too keyed up for this game. Early in his postgame address, however, he did say, "My focus wasn't there," which was a fleeting yet perhaps revealing comment.
Though Los Angeles starter Jon Garland (11-11) limited San Francisco to an unearned run and seven hits in eight innings, this may have been one of the more eventful lopsided defeats in recent Giants history.
Randy Johnson, the future Hall of Famer, made his first appearance since injuring his left (throwing) shoulder July 5. Johnson began the sixth inning and yielded doubles to the first two batters he faced, Rafael Furcal and Andre Ethier, then coaxed Juan Pierre's flyout before leaving the game. Johnson threw just 14 pitches, but Bochy said that he and the 303-game winner had mutually agreed upon a light workload in his return.
Also, the Giants' top two prospects collaborated for the first time in the Major Leagues. Buster Posey, who pinch-hit in the seventh inning, stayed in the game behind the plate and stroked his first big league hit in his next at-bat and caught Madison Bumgarner's 1-2-3 eighth inning.
Witnessing this helped Bochy cope with the defeat.
"You always try to look at the silver lining," he said. "That is part of our future. We know it. When, I can't tell you."