SAN FRANCISCO -- After throwing seven innings without allowing an earned run on June 12 against the Washington Nationals, Tim Hudson’s ERA sat at 1.81 in his first 13 starts. In his two starts since, that mark has risen nearly a full run -- to 2.62 after Hudson had another shaky outing in the Giants’ 7-2 loss to the Padres on Tuesday night.
Hudson’s troubles are representative of the rotation as a whole over the past two weeks. Since being a season-high 21 games over .500 on June 8, the Giants have lost 11 of 14 games, during which the starting pitchers have recorded a 5.63 ERA.
"I think it’s fair to say that’s our biggest issue right now during this tough stretch," said manager Bruce Bochy.
It’s by no means the only issue. The Giants have scored two runs in the first two games of this series, facing a pair of San Diego starters who had a combined three major-league appearances between them before the series began. They’ve played the last eight games without Angel Pagan, who could be headed for the disabled list Wednesday, and clearly are missing his spark at the top of the lineup.
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Still, the Giants have received quality outings from their starters in just three of the last 14 games. Hudson has allowed 13 runs (11 earned) in 10 2/3 innings over his last two starts after giving up 10 earned runs total in nine starts before that. He said he felt better Tuesday night than in his seven-run outing against the White Sox last week, but it didn’t translate to results.
"I felt pretty good tonight. You’ve got to give them credit," said Hudson, who lost for the first time this season at AT&T Park. "When I did make some mistakes they were able to capitalize on it. There’s really not a whole lot else to it."
The Padres put their leadoff man on in all six innings Hudson pitched. Three times, he erased the runner on a double play. In the other three, the Padres made him pay. They got some help in the fifth when second baseman Joe Panik couldn’t handle Pablo Sandoval’s throw on a potential force play, giving the Padres two runners on with no outs, both of whom eventually scored.
In the sixth, though, Hudson allowed six consecutive hitters to reach safely. The Giants cut down a potential run at home on a Gregor Blanco-to-Brandon Crawford relay for the first out of the inning. But Hudson loaded the bases by hitting Jake Goebbert with a pitch, Cameron Maybin beat out an infield single to score one run and Alexi Amarista followed with a single to right to score two more, giving the No. 8 hitter three RBIs on the night.
Bochy said the main difference with Hudson in his past two starts is: "He’s just been up a little bit more. He’s not quite getting that same sink, I think. … He’s just missing spots a little bit and elevating the ball."
Hudson said he thought the Padres "hit a couple pretty good pitches, and they hit a couple pitches that weren’t very good." He was then asked about the rotation struggles as a unit recently and gave a similarly diplomatic response.
"You just have to keep going out there and working hard and doing what you can to get ready and prepare for your next start," Hudson said. "It’s baseball. You’re going to have to go out and grind through some games and figure some things out when you don’t feel like you have your best stuff.
"It’s a long season, nobody expects to go out there and be lights out every pitch, every outing. It’s just the games you don’t have your good stuff, you need to grind it out and give your team a better chance to win."
The next chance goes to Tim Lincecum, who has a 6.85 ERA in four June starts. He’ll likely need to do better than that if the Giants want to avoid a sweep. As it is, they have lost five in a row at home -- their longest losing streak at AT&T Park since July 25-30, 2012 -- while dropping a series at home to the Padres for the first time since 2010.
* Bochy after the game said there will be a decision Wednesday on whether to put Pagan on the DL. If they do, the Giants can backdate Pagan to June 15, meaning he’d be eligible to return next Tuesday against the St. Louis Cardinals.
It’s fair to wonder whether Pagan would have made a difference in the first two games of this series. He had been in a 4-for-24 funk before missing the last eight games with back inflammation, but often seems to spark the Giants’ offense just by being in the lineup. In games Pagan starts this season, the Giants are 36-21. When he doesn’t, they’re now 9-11, including 2-6 in this current stretch without him.
* The Giants were subdued for the second night in a row by a pitcher they’d seen little of before this week. They didn’t get their first hit off right-hander Jesse Hahn until the fifth, when Pablo Sandoval led off with an infield single, and finished with four hits off Hahn and eight strikeouts in six innings.
"He’s got pretty good stuff," said catcher Buster Posey, who had the Giants’ lone extra-base hit off Hahn with an RBI double in the sixth. "He’s got good life on his fastball, and obviously the curveball was good. He changed speeds with the curveball a lot, which made it effective."
Unlike with Odrisamer Despaigne on Monday night, who was making his major-league debut and eighth start overall in affiliated baseball, Hahn had three prior big-league starts, so the Giants had some better film on him. They seemed to get more of a read on Hahn in the later innings, as five of nine batters reached safely starting with Sandoval’s single, but couldn’t match the Padres’ big innings and by then were playing from behind.
"He was able to throw all his pitches for strikes," Panik said. "Talking to the guys, he used all three of his pitches -- fastball, curveball was good and then his changeup he used to lefties."
Said Bochy: "Their two young guys pitched very well, they played well, they’re swinging the bats. We’re not swinging the bats and not pitching well. That doesn’t work out."
* What it does work out to is a 2-0 series lead for the Padres, who began the series at 13 games under .500. The Giants, meanwhile, saw their cushion in the N.L. West dwindle further Tuesday night. The Dodgers won in Kansas City, trimming the Giants’ division lead to three games -- their smallest since May 22. In the last 16 days, Los Angeles has made up 6 ½ games in the standings.
The Giants will try to salvage the finale Wednesday behind Lincecum (5-5, 4.90), while the Padres will counter with right-hander Ian Kennedy (5-8, 3.90). First pitch is at 12:45 p.m.