SAN FRANCISCO -- Even manager Bruce Bochy sounded puzzled by the question that was probably on a lot of people's minds who were at AT&T Park for the Giants' 12-1 loss in their series finale against the Boston Red Sox: How does a team that brought so many key pieces back go from winning the World Series one year to looking like they did Wednesday -- offensively inept and at times just fundamentally unsound?
"Every year's different, you understand that," Bochy said. "But still we have a lot of the same club back and for us to probably make so many mistakes I think on the mental side or even physically, I think that has surprised us as much as anything.
"As far as holding up, we're trying to stay positive through this. We're trying to finish on a good note and it's going to be important that we do. We're trying to push that on everybody. I know we looked flat, we looked bad today, but I know they came out and they were going to do all they could to win the game. It just got away from us. It's not lack of effort. It's not."
At times, though, it was lack of executing the basics. A failure to get an out on a sacrifice bunt. A pop-up that fell between three defenders in shallow right field. A hittable pitch to the No. 8 hitter with two outs and an American League pitcher on deck. A double-play ball fielded cleanly and then thrown into center field.
"Today at times I do think we drifted mentally a little bit," Bochy said. "And that shouldn't happen." At 56-70, the Giants have already eclipsed their loss total from last year and would need to finish the season 25-11 just to get to .500. Their first 90-loss season since 2008 looks like a strong possibility.
"No one's throwing in the towel here," said starter Barry Zito. "It's just a strange game sometimes. ... You make mental mistakes, that's a different thing. But if you go out there and give it your all it'll usually work out if you have talent like we do. And sometimes it doesn't and sometimes it won't work out consistently.
"That can't let us down or get us down. We've just got to keep moving forward."
Still, the Giants just wrapped up a three-game series in which they were outscored 21-4 by a first-place team and went hitless in 15 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Salvaging a game on a walk-off walk Tuesday night put them in position to win consecutive games at home for the first time in a month. Instead, they're now 0-4-1 in their last five series at AT&T Park and 32-33 at home for the year.
Officially, the home sellout streak reached 229 regular-season games Wednesday, but many of those fans had filed out by the time Hector Sanchez grounded out to end a two-hour, 46-minute grind. Offensively, the Giants managed Joaquin Arias' first home run of the season and four singles. Arias was the only runner to pass first base.
Zito allowed six runs in 3 2/3 innings in his return to the rotation in place of injured Chad Gaudin, and will have to wait to see if he'll get another start Monday against the Rockies in Colorado. Another option might be Mike Kickham, but Kickham didn't generate a lot of confidence by allowing six runs in four innings of relief Wednesday.
Zito was asked if he has noticed the circumstances of the season taking a toll on players in terms of work ethic behind closed doors and said he hasn't. "I obviously can't speak for everybody, but what I've seen and heard in the clubhouse, I don't see anyone doing that," he said. "If anything guys are working harder behind closed doors than throwing in the towel."
Zito also ventured: "Baseball is a strange game sometimes." His manager, along with fans inside and out of the stadium on Wednesday, would likely agree.
* With Gaudin's injury, Zito had a chance to make a case for reclaiming the rotation spot he lost upon Ryan Vogelsong's return. Instead, Zito ran his ERA to 7.54 in 11 starts and four relief outings since his last win -- which came on May 30.
Bochy was asked if Zito will start Monday against the Rockies and was noncommittal. "I don't know," he said. "I don't want to go into our choices or what we may do right now. I'd like to talk to the staff before we talk about that."
Zito said he's prepared for either possibility. He has been awful on the road this season -- 0-7 with a 9.45 ERA, including two losses at Coors Field -- but the Giants' other options, as this year has showed, are limited. Wednesday, he was asked what he hopes to get out of the rest of the season.
"First I want to stay healthy," he said. "And I just want to capitalize on the opportunities when I get out there. ... As far as all the other things, it's not a good thing for me to try to paint all these scenarios."
* The ugliest miscue Wednesday was the two-out pop-up in shallow right field off the bat of Shane Victorino that fell between Brandon Belt, Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence in the fourth, which allowed a run to score and ended Zito's day. Nobody took charge on the play and none of the three made an effort on the ball as it hit the ground.
"That's just kind of a freak play," Belt said. "We've worked on that stuff in the past and you go through that stuff in spring training. You have a pop-up and people have got to communicate and we didn't do it that time. ... Nobody said anything."
Belt appeared to end up closest to the ball, but had the toughest angle of the three. Bochy said it was a case of a ball hit into the "Bermuda Triangle" -- a problematic area on a few occasions for the Giants this season.
"Belt looked like he was under it, hands were up like he thought he had it," Bochy said. "I think that's why Scutaro and Pence might've backed off a little bit. He realized he wasn't camped under it. It has been a tough spot for us. Really not much else to say."
* Arias' home run was the first at AT&T Park by a Giant not named Brandon Belt or Buster Posey since June 23, when Hunter Pence hit one against the Marlins. It was also Arias' first home run of the year and first since last Oct. 2 against the Dodgers.
The Giants scored four runs in the three games without getting a hit with runners in scoring position -- the second time this year they've gone an entire series without one. The other was July 1-3 in Cincinnati. One of those games was rain-shortened to six innings, and in another they were no-hit by Homer Bailey.
* The schedule doesn't get easier as the first-place Pirates arrive Thursday night for a four-game series. Here are the pitching probables:
Thursday: LHP Jeff Locke (9-4, 2.90) vs. RHP Matt Cain (8-8, 4.35) Friday: RHP Charlie Morton (4-3, 3.67) vs. LHP Madison Bumgarner (11-7, 2.87) Saturday: LHP Francisco Liriano (14-5, 2.53) vs. RHP Tim Lincecum (6-13, 4.53) Sunday: RHP A.J. Burnett (6-8, 3.09) vs. RHP Ryan Vogelsong (2-4, 6.29)