ATLANTA – The Giants moved slowly and quietly late Sunday night as they headed for a long journey home. They were done with another losing trip, but it could have been much different, manager Bruce Bochy said after a 3-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves.
"It could have been a great trip," Bochy said. "We were off and on."
Bochy was summing up the nine-game, 11-day trip, but he might as well have been talking about just Sunday night's game. Tim Lincecum was off, then he was on. The defense was on, then off in two crucial moments. The offense was simply off.
Lincecum needed 71 pitches to get through the first three innings, giving up four hits and walking four. But he gave up just two runs, saved partly by spectacular center-field play from Gregor Blanco.
Blanco usually plays left field, where this game was decided. Andres Torres was way off on two crucial plays, whereas Atlanta's Justin Upton turned on the jets to make a crucial catch.
Torres lost B.J. Upton's liner in the lights in the third inning, leading to a run. In the sixth, Torres let Ramiro Pena's single skid past his glove. Pena raced to third and scored on a squeeze bunt.
"To be honest, I have no clue what happened," Torres said, frowning. "I feel terrible."
Bochy said he would stick by the veteran, who has made a major-league-leading five errors in left field.
"This is the group that's going to be out there," Bochy said.
It's a group that has been maddeningly inconsistent, a trait epitomized by the starting staff and Lincecum in particular. He nearly was knocked out early but ended up getting through six innings and giving the Giants a quality start.
"It says a lot about how he gutted it out," Bochy said of Lincecum. "He kept us in the game."
The Giants nearly took Lincecum off the hook, but Justin Upton made a diving catch on Joaquin Arias' soft liner to left with two outs and the bases loaded in the fourth.
It was the second straight night that the Giants' fortunes turned largely on defense. On Saturday, Arias failed to scoop a ninth-inning grounder and opened the floodgates for a blown save.
The defensive twists and turns contributed to the Giants dropping the final two games on the trip. Still, they headed home in a decent spot in the National League West. The Giants went 4-5 on the trip and still picked up a game on the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks. They're 1 1/2 games back, one of three teams within two games of first.
"We're lucky no one has taken off and pulled away with the ups and downs," Bochy said.
Note – Center fielder Angel Pagan said surgery was presented as an option when the soreness in his hamstring persisted.
"I wasn't going to do that," Pagan said. "It's much better now, better than I thought it would be. We're ahead of schedule."
Pagan, who has not played since May 25, will get 10 to 15 minor-league rehabilitation at-bats when he can return to the field.