SAN FRANCISCO – Perhaps the most encouraging appearance by a Giants player on Sunday was that of third baseman Pablo Sandoval walking into the clubhouse before the game, his bags packed for the team's 10-game trip that begins today in Los Angeles.
Sandoval is due to come off the disabled list for the opener against the Dodgers, back into a lineup that just scored eight runs in 38 innings against a Miami Marlins team that owns the worst record in baseball – even after making it three of four at AT&T Park with their 7-2 win over the Giants on Sunday.
"You can't put that much pressure on Pablo, but it certainly should do something for the club," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We need a lift right now.
"That's a big bat, a presence in the lineup. And hopefully that'll take a little pressure off the other guys trying to do too much."
Since arriving in Atlanta on June 14, the Giants have scored an average of 3.1 runs in their last 10 games, in which they're 4-6. When Hunter Pence homered in the seventh inning Sunday, it was the Giants' first since Gregor Blanco led off the opener against the Braves with a home run – a span of 90 innings.
While Bochy has stressed that the Giants are more an offense that "keeps the line going," they weren't able to do that against the Marlins, either.
The Giants went hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position Sunday and 4 for 32 in those situations over the four-game series.
"We ran into some good pitching," Bochy said. "Still, you've got to find a way to get runs. They shut us down every game, really. We're just off offensively. I don't know what else to tell you."
Whether the return of one player can remedy that remains to be seen, though it certainly appears from Sandoval's line in two rehab games with Class-A San Jose – 4 for 6 with two home runs – that he is seeing the ball well after the layoff. In Sandoval's case, said catcher Buster Posey, his presence alone can have an impact.
"I think we've always fed off his energy," Posey said. "When he's swinging the bat well, he can be a game-changer."
As can Posey, who stepped to the plate in the eighth inning with Blanco on third and two outs in a 3-2 game Sunday but grounded out against Marlins reliever Chad Qualls. Posey might have been hitting with two on and one out if not for an alert move by the Marlins on the previous play.
Marco Scutaro singled to right field to send Blanco to third and tried to take second when Giancarlo Stanton overthrew his cutoff man, but was thrown out.
"As a baserunner as you're running to first, if you see the throw high, you keep going," Bochy said afterward. "They executed, there's not much else to say."
The Giants also had runners on first and third with one out in the previous inning, but pinch hitter Joaquin Arias grounded into an inning-ending double play. There was no such drama in the ninth after the Marlins scored four times in the top of the inning off reliever Jean Machi, who surrendered home runs to Marcell Ozuna and Justin Ruggiano.
Earlier, Ruggiano had hit the second pitch of the game from Matt Cain for a home run to give an early lead to Marlins starter Nathan Eovaldi, who allowed two runs in six innings. Cain struck out eight but gave up single runs in the fourth and sixth innings – only the third time in the last 10 games a Giants starter has allowed more than two earned runs in an outing.
"We didn't get the job done," Cain said of the series. "We didn't get some guys in when we needed to and we didn't throw the ball like we needed to. Got to really just say it's over with and move on now."
Bochy called the upcoming three-city trip through Los Angeles, Colorado and Cincinnati "critical for us." Though they have lost 15 of their last 25 – including a 3-4 mark against the Marlins and San Diego Padres for their first losing homestand since last July 23-Aug. 2 – the Giants remain three games out of first place in the West.
"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."