Instead the San Francisco Giants find themselves at an even 46-46, but remain a remarkable 2 and a half games behind the division-leading San Diego Padres. Just two weeks until the infamous July 31st trade deadline, the Giants at .500 now find themselves in a predicament.
Are they buyers, needing just a power-hitting first baseman and/or bullpen reinforcements to catapult them to the next level? Or are they sellers with no chance at postseason glory, better off trading away soon-to-be free agents?
Losing pitcher Steve Kline, who surrendered three runs on two hits, took the loss Sunday, but offered some words of encouragement.
“We just need to play better,” Kline told MLB.com. “We need to start thinking playoff baseball here, tying up the loose ends and get this thing going. We can't wait until the last month to pick up games.
“We still have 70 games left, and we're not going to panic and start sacrificing live chickens. We need to play good baseball and do the little things.”
The Giants failed to do the little things against the Philadelphia Phillies, who used a four-run eighth to take the rubber game of the series, 6-2, at 24 Willie Mays Plaza Sunday afternoon.
“It's weird,” said Kline, who gave up the go-ahead run to Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard. “I threw two good pitches and thought they were outs. I got that big lug (Howard) to hit a ground ball, and that's all you can ask for. But the wheels fell off the circus (wagon).”
The lefty reliever was referring to the pitch he threw Chase Utley that landed in between outfielders Randy Winn and Moises Alou for a triple. The second, of course, was the base knock by Howard that found a hole in the right side of the infield to give the Phillies the lead for good.
Summarizing the Giants state, Kline said: “Our starters are pitching great, every day giving up quality starts, but the bullpen has to pick it up a notch.”
Starting pitcher Matt Cain pitched a quality start indeed, going six innings and giving up just one run. The rookie struck out five and allowed just five baserunners.
“I threw the ball well, but I made a couple of mistakes getting behind guys then having to battle back to get back in the count,” said Cain, who left the game after throwing 105 pitches.
“I'm pretty happy with things,” the right-hander said. “You're never going to complain about an outing (like) today was -- you always want to learn from it and build from it and move on. You want to get better every start.”
Cain’s counterpart, Brett Myers, was making his first start after being reinstated by the Phillies, following an arrest on June 23 for a domestic violence charge against his wife.
“I had some time to think about some things and put things in perspective,” Myers told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I think I was ready to come back and do my job. ... I think there's always going to be that in the back of my mind. But to go out there and just pitch is something that I want to do. I think it was time for me to go out and do it.”
Despite the lay-off and obvious distractions, Myers fought off jeers and loud boos from the San Francisco crowd and stymied the Giants for seven innings. He struck out seven and allowed two runs to pick up the victory.
One of those runs was a towering blast off the bat of Giants slugger Barry Bonds, who himself is facing off-the-field distractions and legal battles.
“I have total respect for him, but I went after him with my best stuff," Myers said of yielding Bonds 721st homerun. “I didn't want to back down from him. I didn't have to go after him, but I felt like that was my best pitch at the time. It was fun facing a future Hall of Famer.”
The potential Hall-of-Famer faces possible perjury and tax evasion charges, both of which may come in the next week.
When asked how he plans to approach the next few games until the dust settles, the Giants slugger simply took it in stride.
“Just play ball. That's it,” Bonds said. “The only challenge you have is competing. Go out there and compete.”
San Francisco will compete against the arriving Milwaukee Brewers Monday for the start of a three-game set. The Giants will send ace right-hander Jason Schmidt (6-5, 2.78 ERA) against lefty Zach Jackson (1-2, 5.94). Game time is 7:15 p.m. at the ballpark on the shores of McCovey Cove.
Game notes: Ray Durham -- who provided the Giants other run with a solo homerun -- departed in the sixth with a jammed right shoulder, which Alou deemed “not good.” Expect the oft-injured second baseman to miss some time with the setback. … San Francisco recalled first baseman Chad Santos, who collected his first major league hit in his big league debut Sunday. To make room for Santos, the Giants sent Lance Niekro to Triple-A Fresno prior to the game. ... Myers' is scheduled for an Aug. 4 court date, while his next start will be Saturday as he faces the always tough Philadelphia crowd at home against Atlanta. … Former Giant David Bell homered and tripled with two RBI.
SFDugout.com Player of the Game: Barry Bonds gets our choice for his relentless pursuit of greatness, despite the trials and tribulations he faces against the media, unruly fans, and now, the federal government. Keep your head up, Barry.
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 email@example.com to air out your frustrations or, more likely, songs of praise.
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