For Giants, it could be worse

San Francisco still within striking distance in NL West despite slump

SAN FRANCISCO — As Bruce Bochy prepared last week to manage the National League in the All-Star Game, fielding questions about his roster, it seemed to emphasize the unexpectedness of what happened in the season's first half in Bochy's permanent place of employment.

Months removed from their second World Series parade in three seasons, the Giants, who kept their roster mostly intact and began the year amid lofty expectations, stumbled into the break eight games under .500 (43-51) and 6 1/2 games behind first-place Arizona in the N.L. West.

That they aren't further back speaks largely to a jumbled division. Despite ending the half by winning three of four in San Diego — and the emotional high of Tim Lincecum's first career no-hitter Saturday — the Giants lost 15 of 20 games entering the break, scored the fewest runs in the league after June 1 and the rotation (aside from Madison Bumgarner) was uncharacteristic inconsistency.

"They need a break," Bochy told the San Jose Mercury News after a 10-1 loss to the Padres on Sunday. "I hope they relax and enjoy their families and come back ready to go. We've got to come back and fight our way back into this."

Injuries have forced the Giants to replace leadoff man Angel Pagan and starter Ryan Vogelsong and play stretches without third baseman Pablo Sandoval, late-inning reliever Santiago Casilla and second baseman Marco Scutaro, who nonetheless was named to his first All-Star team.

The offense's woes deepened over the last six weeks, as the Giants struggled to hit with runners in scoring position and averaged just 3.8 runs in 40 games beginning June 1, during which they went 14-26. But a team built on pitching and defense also found itself going stretches without the stability it has come to expect from its vaunted rotation.

Lincecum's no-hitter improved his record to 5-9, Barry Zito was too hittable in road games with an 0-6 record and 9.89 ERA away from AT&T Park, and Matt Cain has a 5.06 ERA after the shortest outing of his career (two-thirds of an inning) in his last start. Before consecutive wins by Bumgarner, Chad Gaudin and Lincecum against the Padres last week, no starter besides Bumgarner had won a game since Cain beat Pittsburgh on June 13.

Bochy has repeatedly professed faith in his players' resiliency, and with nearly 70 games left, the Giants still have time for a second-half run. But compared to a year ago, when they entered the break six games above .500 and only a half-game out in the West, the Giants have much ground to make up not only to stage a potential title defense, but to stay relevant down the stretch.

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