Madison Bumgarner seemed stumped by the question.
What had changed between three days in Arizona, where the Giants’ offense came alive in a promising sweep, and three days in San Francisco, where it fell back into dormancy against the San Diego Padres? How to explain a Giants team, clinging to a postseason berth, returning home and getting swept in such quiet fashion?
“I wish I could,” Bumgarner said. “I don’t know. This second half’s been something like I’ve never seen before. And a lot of guys that have been around for a while say the same thing.”
On Wednesday, the Giants lost 3-1 to the Padres, totaling five runs in a series in which they faced Padres starters Paul Clemens, Clayton Richard and Luis Perdomo, who have combined for 13 wins this season.
They fell five games behind the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West and retained the smallest of leads in the wild-card race only because their two closest pursuers lost Wednesday. The Giants hold a half-game lead over the New York Mets and a one-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals, who arrive at AT&T Park on Thursday to begin a four-game series.
With a good weekend, the Giants could seize a strong position in the wild-card race entering the season’s last two weeks. Manager Bruce Bochy was asked if those circumstances could provide the Giants with a much-needed spark.
This second half’s been something like I’ve never seen before. And a lot of guys that have been around for a while say the same thing.
Madison Bumgarner, Giants pitcher
“Well, you certainly hope so,” Bochy said. “But this was a big series (against the Padres), I thought. They’re all big, but we needed to come home after that series in Arizona and play well, and it got away from us. We got shut down the first game, got shut down today. That’s something I didn’t see. I thought we were coming out of it.”
Wednesday’s pitching matchup appeared to favor the Giants, who had Bumgarner going against Perdomo, a right-hander with a 5.89 ERA. But Perdomo held the Giants to one run and four hits before departing with one out in the seventh, and three Padres relievers finished the game without allowing another hit.
Bumgarner allowed single runs in the first, sixth and seventh innings, with Luis Sardinas playing a role in all three. The shortstop singled and scored in the first. After leading off the sixth with a single, he stole second and scored on Alex Dickerson’s single. His two-out single in the seventh scored Adam Rosales, who doubled, and knocked Bumgarner out of the game after 106 pitches.
“I felt pretty good, making pitches, and they hit some balls hard,” Bumgarner said. “But for the most part we had a lot of weak contact. A few of them in the right situation found a hole. It cost us today.”
Bumgarner didn’t get much help. The Giants scored their lone run in the second, when Joe Panik singled to drive in Brandon Crawford and send Brandon Belt to second. Conor Gillaspie then stung a line drive right at first baseman Wil Myers, who doubled off Belt before he could dive back to the bag, ending the inning.
The top four hitters in the Giants’ lineup went a combined 0 for 14. Leadoff man Denard Span is in a 3-for-47 skid. Angel Pagan homered Tuesday but is in a 7-for-51 rut. Buster Posey has not homered since July 16, a career-high 177 at-bats.
5 Giants’ run total while being swept by the Padres in three games
Bochy rested Span, Panik and Belt on Tuesday, and a makeshift lineup scored four runs before the Giants’ bullpen melted down in the ninth. Before Wednesday’s game, Bochy said he could use Gorkys Hernandez in center field and Kelby Tomlinson at second base more against left-handed pitching down the stretch.
“Sometimes they need a break. Maybe a couple guys needed a break today,” Bochy said. “But we’re at that time where you’ve got to grind it out and find a way.”
The Giants couldn’t do that against the Padres, a team against whom they were 9-0 before the All-Star break and are 0-6 since. The Cardinals will provide another chance.
“The results weren’t good the past three days, but having the Cardinals come to town, it’s always a battle with them,” Panik said. “It’s going to be intense. We know how to play them. So it’ll be interesting.”