Despite a recent 180 degree turn in pitching performance, highlighted by a team ERA of 2.00 over the last five games, the San Francisco Giants could not break through offensively against the St. Louis Cardinals, losing 4-3 at the ballpark on the shores of McCovey Cove.
Giants starter Noah Lowry (5-9), making his third career ESPN Sunday night start, threw seven innings of inspired baseball, while striking out six batters. His supporting cast, however, was a different story.
Noah Lowry really threw great, said San Francisco manager Felipe Alou, who will be making a trip to the All-Star festivities to serve on the NL staff. That's maybe his best stuff of the year. We had trouble catching the ball. It was pretty nasty out there.
Alou was referring to the two flyballs that Alex Sanchez misplayed in the second inning, allowing the Redbirds to put a four-spot on the board, their only runs of the game.
Once the ball leaves my hand, its out of my control, said Lowry, who retired the next 14 of 17 batters he faced. In Sanchezs defense, he didnt hang his head. He bounced right back and had a couple of big hits.
Indeed he did. Sanchez, who went 3-for-5 with a run scored, brought the Giants (37-50) within one run after hitting a clutch two-out single in the bottom of the seventh.
Leading the NL with a .289 avg. with RISP, San Francisco surprisingly could not cash in on four separate RBI opportunities to tie the game in the late innings. First baseman Lance Niekro struck out twice in such situations, ultimately ending the game on a called third strike, frozen on a Jason Isringhausen curveball.
Still, the Giants played extremely tough against a first-place Cardinals ballclub that sports the best record in the league at 56-32.
We can play with anybody, said Lowry, whose team allowed just seven runs this series against the top-hitting team in the NL. I dont care who it is. We have the talent to stick around in any series and have a good chance to win, in my opinion.
Apparently San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean shares the same opinion, stating in a teleconference Sunday that the Giants are in acquisition mode.
We want to add to our roster for the present and the future, Sabean said. Getting another starter is more important than a left-handed bat. We're as active as we could be in trying to do that.
That left-handed bat could come in the form of one Barry Lamar Bonds.
According to a report from ESPN, a high-ranking member of the Giants told reporter Pedro Gomez that mid-August is the new target date for the return of Barry Bonds, who remains in Los Angeles. Bonds has been rehabbing near his home for the past 2 _ weeks with physical therapist Clive Brewster.
I like [the Giants] lineup, but it would be different if Bonds was in there, Cardinals shortstop David Eckstein said. I think thats the one factor thats missing. Hes able to put a team on his shoulders and let the others do their own thing.
I think Bonds would put them over the top.
But will it be a little too late for a playoff push?
It's going to be hard to come back, Giants shortstop Omar Vizquel said. We are going to have to overcome a lot of things. It's up to us to turn it around, but it's going to be hard. We've fallen a lot behind in the first half. A lot of things are going to have to happen before we catch some guys ahead of us.
San Franciscos saving grace could be that despite all their first-half struggles, they remain 10 games behind the San Diego Padres, who along with the rest of the weak NL West, have problems and deficiencies of their own.
It's dishonest to throw in the towel when you're only nine games back in the loss column, said Alou when asked about looking toward 2006. The only time is if we're eliminated. As long as we have a reasonable shot, we're not going to give up, and getting to .500 in our division is a legitimate shot.
How legitimate a shot depends on a crucial stretch the Giants will embark on immediately after the All-Star break.
San Francisco opens the second half with a four-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chavez Latrine, beginning with right-hander Jason Schmidt (6-5, 5.01 ERA). He will oppose Brad Penny (5-5, 3.43) on Thursday at 7:10 p.m.
Summarizing the first half of the 2005 season, Lowry said: Its been rough for us, but we cant sit there and dwell on it. We have to bounce back and luckily we have the break coming up here a chance for everybody to regroup and refocus.
Game notes: Jeff Suppan (9-7) picked up the win for the Cards in his first start in San Francisco since losing at Candlestick Park on May 31, 1998, when he was a D-Back. Isringhausen picked up his 25th save in 27 tries. San Francisco heads into the All-Star break with a losing record for the first time during the Sabean era (1996). The Giants have 20 outfield errors in just 87 games to lead the majors (they had 16 for all of 2004). The G-Men sport a .425 winning percentage at home this season compared to .622 from 1997-2004. The Cardinals are 51-2 when leading after eight innings. The Giants family will grow by two in the coming months as San Francisco broadcaster Dave Flemmings wife announced she is pregnant with twins.
Phil Delacruz was a transplanted Giants fan, buried in the Southland. After four strenuous years in College, studying (read: partying), he's back in the beautiful "City by the Bay" – San Francisco. Do you think he should move back to LALA land? Or do you like him where he is now and appreciate the good reads? Either way, send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to air out your frustrations or, more likely, songs of praise.
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