Combined major-league starts belonging to the Giants’ Matt Cain and Tim Hudson prior to their outings in the first two games of this week’s series against the San Diego Padres: 716. Combined starts owned by their San Diego counterparts prior to the series: three.
Still, when one’s job is to deceive major-league hitters, there is something to be said for unfamiliarity. A night after the Giants were shut out by Odrisamer Despaigne, a Cuban right-hander making his MLB debut, they were subdued again Tuesday by rookie Jesse Hahn, managing four hits and striking out eight times in six innings against the Padres’ right-hander in a 7-2 loss at AT&T Park.
Hahn held the Giants hitless over the first four innings, striking out six of the first eight batters he faced, while the Padres built a 3-0 lead against Hudson. The Giants broke up the no-hitter and shutout in the fifth, as Pablo Sandoval led off with a single and scored on a Tyler Colvin groundout. But Hudson couldn’t keep it close, allowing three more runs in the sixth to lose consecutive starts for the first time this season.
Since June 8, when they were a season-best 21 games over .500 with a 9 ½-game lead in the National League West, the Giants have lost 11 of 14, with their starting pitchers posting a 5.63 ERA. Hudson has allowed 13 runs (11 earned) in 101/3 inningshis last two outings after giving up 10 earned runs total in his previous nine.
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The Padres put their leadoff man on in each of the first six innings against Hudson. Three times, Hudson promptly erased the runner on a double play. But the Padres made him pay for the other three, including the three-run sixth in which six consecutive batters reached safely, capped by run-scoring singles from Cameron Maybin and Alexi Amarista.
The Giants, meanwhile, appeared to get a better read on Hahn their second and third turns through the order but couldn’t match the Padres’ big innings. They left two runners on in the fifth and another in the sixth, when Buster Posey drove in Gregor Blanco with a one-out double but was stranded as Sandoval lined out to second and Michael Morse’s liner to right was caught by a sliding Will Venable.
While Despaigne on Monday flummoxed the Giants with a variety of pitches and speeds, Hahn primarily threw fastballs and curveballs, but mixed in a changeup with which he finished several of his strikeouts and increased the use of his curve in the later innings. He allowed only the one extra-base hit to Posey and became the first pitcher this season to beat Hudson at AT&T Park.
Left to ponder is whether Angel Pagan might have been able to spark the Giants’ offense on either night. The leadoff hitter and center fielder missed his eighth consecutive game Tuesday with back inflammation, though the Giants have refrained from placing him on the disabled list in hope that a return is imminent.
Pagan hit off of a pitching machine Tuesday afternoon and appeared to be taking more aggressive swings, a potentially encouraging sign. But manager Bruce Bochy said the DL is still very much a possibility for Pagan, who hasn’t played since June 14, and “we’re probably going to have to make a call here in the next day or so.”
The Giants would certainly prefer not to be without Pagan for another week. This season, they are 36-21 in games he’s started and 9-11 when he hasn’t. That includes a 2-6 record in their last eight games. Bochy said the Giants have “missed him through this stretch here ... he is so good at making us go.”
Offensive reinforcement in the form of Brandon Belt is coming but still a little ways away. Belt, recovering from a broken left thumb, is expected to begin playing rehab games this week, possibly Thursday, Bochy said.
Belt will likely start at High-A San Jose, where he can get at-bats as a designated hitter while working his shoulder into throwing shape. He said this week he’s targeting July 4 to rejoin the major-league club.