There they were, in living 58-inch plasma-infused color. Four nuns in full regalia sitting in the upper deck at Chase Field. The image brought only one thought to mind.
"We haven't got a prayer."
The Giants had a devil of a time with Arizona hurler Daniel Hudson, then fared no better against the D-backs train wreck of a bullpen in a 3-1 loss than dropped them two games back of suddenly upright San Diego. As has been the case all year, the Giants failed to display a killer instinct when faced with the prospect of a series sweep, instead acting as though the flight to San Diego for this weekend's crucial showdown left Phoenix Sky Harbor in about 20 minutes after first pitch.
For the umpeenth time this season it was Barry Zito who fell victim to non support. Zito hasn't won on the road since May 5 and had posted an ERA above nine in his last 10 appearances, but this wasn't his fault. To be sure, the run he allowed in the second was self inflicted but at the rate things are going, the Giants could get a no-hitter from their starter and lose. That's not hyperpole. Remember, they were a lone safety away from accomplishing exactly that earlier this year.
Once again the offense disappeared in the presence of quality opposition. Hudson was shaky early, throwing 55 pitches in his first three innings. Then the Giants than went back to their "schlock and ahhh" attack and let him escapce with a succession of single-digit pitch frames. Sad.
The sticks were certainly no help for Zito. Yes, the second-inning run was 100 percent his fault. Two walks to start the inning are the baseball equivalent of drinking nitroglycerin while playing jump rope, and the two-out hit cashed it in. Still, Zito deserved a better fate. Amidst all the talk about his struggles and even some calls for his next start to be skipped, he held up his end of the bargain. Unfortunately, the rest of the team was on an extended mental excursion to the some place tropical.
Damn those two-out hits. Get 'em and you win. Don't and you lose. The D-backs got a pair, including the obligatory add-on run in the eighth versus the always-scary San Francisco pen. The G-men didn't. And so it goes.
No question the Giants offense lacked spirit. Freddy Sanchez's first-inning solo blast was the lone highlight as the swing-at-anything-remotely-close-to-the-vicinity-of-the-zip-code-containing-home-plate attack made it's 456th apperance of the season. Hard to contribute any thoughtful analysis (I can only ride that scooter so long) other than to ask why, at this stage of the season, Melonhead would ever field a line-up without Pat Burrell.
Burrell isn't a savior by any means, but he's the one hitter in the line-up who gives a professional AB every time. Match-ups aside, the Burrell approach would have been imminently more palatable compared to the ninth-inning strokes by Edgar Rentawreck and Juan Uribe, who both flailed away at tosses that posed more threat to earthworms and inattentive dugout occupants than to the strike zone.
Ah, Bruce Bochy. Gotta love a guy who sees the tying run at third with two out in the seventh and opts for a pinch hitter who is two for his last 27. Travis Ishikawa's dribbler to end the frame was both anticlimactic and predictable. Could Burrell have been used there? He was available, sitting in favor of Cody Ross, whose accidental swing produced the weak tapper that provided a fitting conclusion to this sordid affair.
I also found it interesting that Bochy opted to pinch run for the Panda after his lead-off single yet waited an out before taking the leg irons off of Darren Ford. A runner at second with none out is a potential rally. With one out, well, you've set the stage for that wonderous Ishikawa moment. If you've made the decision to replace a bat for speed, you'd better make that move pay off, especially when you can anticipate that spot in the line-up rolling around again. Renteria or Sandoval in the ninth? Hmmn. Edgar could have salvaged that brain fart by delivering a hit, but he's already had his timely safety for September. His insistence on swinging at crap didn't polish that turd of a decision one iota.
One more shot at Botch-y, who you may have guessed isn't exactly my favorite manager. Heck, Charlie Fox would get more popularity votes in my house. Note his postgame comment: "We took a series here. We did in L.A., too. That's what you're trying to do."
Uh, Bruce. While you took that series in Arizona, you LOST ground on the Padres -- largely due to The Hated Dodgers again failing to contribute anything useful or meaningful to the universe. During those two series, taking two of three made up exactly one game in the standings. JUST winning series ain't gonna feed the bulldog here. When you have a chance to step on someone's throat, as the Giants had with the D-backs, you gotta cash it in.
Here's how important that one game is. The Giants now must sweep San Diego to leave Hairball Park with the divisional lead. Taking three of four manages only a deadlock. Anything less is counterproductive to the cause and does nothing more than get the Giants a step closer to Game 162 while booking reservations for October fishing trips -- probably to the same unspecified remote location (was Dick Cheney there?) into which the offense now disappears periodically. That's a tall order against a team that you've beaten exactly twice -- both times in extra frames -- in 11 tries.
Hey, winning series is impressive. If the Giants "win" each set that's 13-6 the rest of the way. Of course, the Padres play 21 games in that same span and could drop nine of them and maintain their lead. Meanwhile, in case you missed it, Colorado isn't going away. The Rockies will be motivated, and they get the Orange and Black at Beer Swill Stadium in the Giants' road finale. Two games doesn't sound like a lot, but the hole in which the Giants find themselves is still rather considerable.
As far as San Francisco is concered, the playoffs start tonight. They're Karl Wallenda, and any slip now is likley fatal.
Andrew Baggarly noted in this morning's San Jose Mercury News, the Giants believe they're the better team despite their record against the Padres. Time to prove it, starting tonight.
Since there will already be plenty of Padres on hand...no nuns allowed.