Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press

Hunter Pence, left, gets a handshake from teammate Brandon Belt after his second home run of the season tied the game 1-1 in the second inning.

Timely hitting lacking in Giants' loss to Cardinals

Published: Sunday, Apr. 7, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 4C
Last Modified: Sunday, Apr. 7, 2013 - 12:52 pm

SAN FRANCISCO – Buster Posey took a moment to recall situations in which the Giants hit with runners on base Saturday before coming up in the eighth inning, when he doubled with nobody out but ended up stranded on second.

It was a recent example but certainly not the only one. Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence both hit their second home runs of the season in the Giants' 6-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, but both did so leading off innings, and Sandoval's two-out RBI single in the third was the Giants' lone hit in five at-bats with runners in scoring position.

In fact, the Giants left a man standing on base at the end of every inning except the second, while the Cardinals managed enough timely hits off Ryan Vogelsong to knock the Giants right-hander out of the game before he completed six innings – something that didn't happen last year until Aug. 13.

"It just doesn't seem like we've had a game yet where we've had some consecutive guys on, a double or a homer," Posey said. "We haven't quite hit that stride as an offense. But I think guys are putting together good at-bats, and I feel confident that it'll come."

A few inches' difference might have changed the story Saturday. With the Giants down 5-2 in the sixth, Cardinals starter Shelby Miller walked Pence and Brandon Belt with one out and was replaced by left-hander Randy Choate.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy sent in Joaquin Arias to pinch hit, and Arias smoked a line drive down the first-base line. But Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig made a diving catch and easily doubled Belt off first. Belt also hit two balls hard – including a line drive that Craig snared on a leap – with nothing to show for it.

Pence and Sandoval have now homered in the same game twice this season.

That's also the number of hits the Giants have in 21 at-bats with a runner on second or third, after Sandoval's third-inning single off Miller that scored Angel Pagan.

"You go with the history, the track record of these guys – they're getting in the flow of things," Bochy said. "It's just a small sample size right now. And this is a good offensive club. We'll start clicking."

Vogelsong's outing also hinged on a few close plays. With two on and two outs in the first, he threw a full-count changeup that Carlos Beltran looped over Marco Scutaro's head for an RBI single. It ended the Giants' rotation's streak of innings without allowing an earned run to start the season at 26.

Beltran also delivered the big hit in the Cardinals' three-run fifth, a bases-loaded single with two outs on a fastball that Vogelsong left over the plate. It came one batter after Craig reached on an infield single that Sandoval dove to his left for but couldn't glove.

"I thought Vogey was all right," Bochy said. "Maybe a little off in the fifth there. But he had some bad luck with the infield hit. … Left a couple balls up there, but he's fine."

Vogelsong retired eight hitters in a row at one point. But he left after 5 1/3 innings having allowed five runs for just the sixth time since he rejoined the Giants in 2011.

"I don't feel like I threw the ball all that terribly," Vogelsong said.

"It's not like I was getting balls hit off the wall or getting a whole lot of balls squared up on the barrel. Just one of those days where a step here, a step there, we're talking about a totally different ballgame."

Posey honored – Before the game, Posey was presented with his 2012 National League MVP and Silver Slugger awards, along with a ring commemorating his batting title. Posey was joined on the field by his grandparents, parents, wife and young twins, and past Giants MVPs Willie McCovey, Willie Mays, Kevin Mitchell and Jeff Kent.

Posey spoke for about 21/2 minutes, describing having his name announced as the MVP last fall as a "surreal feeling" and thanking his family, childhood and current coaches, fans, the Giants' staff and his teammates.

Bochy also spoke and echoed comments he made before the game, when he said of Posey: "I've been fortunate to have been doing this for a while and managed some great players. But he's as good as I've had."

Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. Read his Bay Area Baseball blog at blogs.sacbee.com/bay-area-baseball/. Follow him on Twitter @matthewkawahara.

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Read more articles by Matt Kawahara



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