SAN FRANCISCO -- If this series was supposed to give the defending champion Giants a chance to build themselves up before heading on the road for 11 days, given that they were hosting a Miami team with the worst record in baseball, somebody forgot to tell the Marlins. Miami held the Giants to eight runs over 38 innings, out-homered them five to one and took three out of four at AT&T Park with a 7-2 flourish on Sunday afternoon.
The easiest culprit to point to was the Giants' offense, which went hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position on Sunday and 4-for-32 in the series. They're averaging 3.1 runs in their last 10 games. But the bullpen had its rocky moments as well -- nine runs allowed in 13 2/3 innings in the series -- while the Marlins had three pitchers earn their first win of the season, including Nathan Eovaldi in the finale.
"You look at a club, you look at the record sometimes and you think, well, this is going to be a little bit easier," manager Bruce Bochy said. "But I'll say this: they played great, they pitched outstanding the whole series. ... We got outplayed here."
That was the pervading reaction in the home clubhouse after Sunday's game. The Giants aren't used to losing homestands -- this 3-4 run against the Marlins and Padres was their first since last July 23-Aug. 2. Many of those fans who stuck around after Buster Posey grounded out with a runner on third to end the eighth in what was then a 3-2 game were sent heading for the exits a few minutes later as the Marlins made it a relative blowout with four runs in the top of the ninth off Jean Machi.
Matt Cain was asked after the game if this was a case of the Marlins catching the Giants at a bad time -- they're banged up, with Pablo Sandoval expected to return from the DL tomorrow in Los Angeles, the "move-the-line" offense is stuck in neutral, and before a seventh-inning home run by Hunter Pence on Sunday, the Giants hadn't hit a ball out of the yard since Gregor Blanco's leadoff shot in Atlanta on June 14.
"You can try to make excuses," Cain said. "But really we didn't get the job done. We didn't get some guys in when we needed to, and we didn't throw the ball like we needed to. We had some games where we had the lead and we didn't finish it off. We've got to kind of just say it's over with and move on now."
"I don't think anybody in here's going to make excuses," echoed Posey.
"I don't think we're pressing," Posey said. "But at this point it's time to crank it up a little bit and play with a sense of urgency."
Several players said they believe the return of Sandoval will help. The third baseman was 4-for-6 with two home runs in two rehab games with Single-A San Jose, so it looks like he's ready to contribute at the plate, and the Giants could use the energy Sandoval brings to the clubhouse.
A series against the Dodgers is always hotly contested, the Rockies are tied with the Giants in the West at three games back of first and the Reds are 13 games above .500. Whether it's as easy as plugging one guy back into the machine remains to be seen, and Bochy said he thinks "you can't put that much pressure on Pablo.
"But it certainly should do something for the club," he said. "We need a lift right now."
It's not official yet, but Bochy said when the Giants activate Sandoval off the DL, it'll be Nick Noonan heading back to Triple-A. Noonan was recalled June 11 after Sandoval hurt his foot, and Bochy said the Giants want Noonan playing every day in the minors.
Machi had a rough couple outings in the series, facing three batters without getting an out on Friday night and then giving up four runs -- including two home runs -- in 2/3 of an inning Sunday. His ERA, which was 1.80 on May 26, has shot up to 3.86.
Before the game, Bochy was asked if he thinks the Giants need another power hitter or another starting pitcher to really contend in the second half this season. He demurred on both counts, but said what the Giants may really need is bullpen help, because of injuries and the workload the relievers have shouldered through the first few months.
Afterward, Bochy reiterated the bullpen is a little worn down, and he believes "Machi showed the effects of it in the ninth inning." Santiago Casilla's return, which could occur as soon as the Cincinnati series, should help. But that's something to keep an eye on as the trade deadline nears.
Cain was spotty over his six innings, striking out eight but allowing single runs in the first -- on a leadoff home run by Justin Ruggiano -- the fourth and the sixth innings. In the sixth, Logan Morrison hit a sharp ground ball toward Brandon Belt that kicked off Belt's glove, allowing a run to score on what, ideally for the Giants, could have been a double-play ball. Belt was charged with an error.
It will go down as a quality start for Cain. It was also just the third time in the last 11 games that a Giants starter has given up more than two earned runs in an outing.
"Our starters have been doing a good job -- that's what really hurts more than anything is they've been doing a good job giving us a chance to win," Bochy said. "We just couldn't get the bats going."
Bochy said the Giants still haven't decided who's going to start for them against the Dodgers on Tuesday. If Chad Gaudin is still unable to go, it will likely be Michael Kickham, which would require another roster move.
If for no other reason, the Giants are probably glad this series is over to get Marlins center fielder Marcell Ozuna out of town. Ozuna went 2-for-4 with a home run in the finale and was 6-for-14 in the series with six RBIs.
"We made some awful pitches to him," Bochy said. "He took advantage of it. He's a young, gifted player. He came into this series struggling, and he certainly got on track and he killed us."
Lastly, Bochy was asked about Marco Scutaro's decision to try to take second base in the eighth inning with one out after he singled to right with Gregor Blanco on first base. Giancarlo Stanton threw to third trying to get Blanco and airmailed his cutoff man, but third baseman Ed Lucas saw Scutaro advancing and threw him out at second. So Posey hit with a runner on third and two outs in a one-run game instead of two on, one out.
"That's totally his read," Bochy said of Scutaro. "He rounded first, and if you see the throw's going to miss the cutoff man, that's the natural thing to do, keep going. ... They executed, there's not much else to say."
Not much else to cover here, either. The probable pitching matchups for the Dodgers series:
Monday: LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (6-3, 2.96) vs. LHP Madison Bumgarner (7-4, 3.25)
Tuesday: RHP Stephen Fife (1-2, 3.25) vs. TBA
Wednesday: LHP Clayton Kershaw (5-5, 2.06) vs. RHP Tim Lincecum (4-7, 4.52)
As for us, we'll be catching up with the A's when they return home Tuesday against the Reds. Thanks for following along, as always.