All eyes will be on Giants-Dodgers Monday

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All eyes will be on Giants-Dodgers Monday

SAN DIEGO Someone asked Giants manager Bruce Bochy about the upcoming three-game series at Dodger Stadium. Was he keeping an eye on what the Dodgers were doing?

This is usually when the skipper throws out one of his stock answers. Were just focused on ourselves here. Something like that.

But Bochy had the Dodgers-Braves game on in his office Sunday morning. So he had to be honest.

You cant help it. Its what we do, Bochy said. And were fans, too. Well watch games when theyre on. Well check scores. Thats the fun part, particularly this time of year.

The Giants destroyed the Dodgers in three consecutive shutouts in June when Matt Kemp was on the disabled list. The Dodgers were nearly as dominant July 27-29 while sweeping three games by a combined score of 19-3 at AT&T Park.

The Giants were flat-footed without Pablo Sandoval at the time. They will be without Melky Cabrera for the remainder of the season. But now Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro are settled into their surroundings.

So how will they match up this time? Will this series provide the true indication which squad is best in the NL West?

Two good teams, said Bochy, whose Giants enter with a half-game deficit. Both clubs know whats at stake and theyre playing well. Obviously, they had their way with us last time. Well have to play better. We know it. All of the guys look forward to it.

Including Brandon Belt, who said he is ready to experience his first pennant race as a full-fledged regular.

I think everybody is excited. You can feel it in the locker room, Belt said. This is the fun part of the year. Well go over there and hopefully do some damage in this next series.

There might not be much damage on the scoreboard Monday, when Clayton Kershawtangles with Madison Bumgarner. Its the fourth time that Kershaw will face the Giants this season; hes 1-2 with a 1.57 ERA in three starts, having been turned aside twice by Ryan Vogelsong.

Bumgarner hasnt faced the Dodgers in 2012. He was 3-2 with a 4.11 ERA in five starts against them last year.

He knows the Dodgers are coming off a 10-game trip that could have presented a sizable pitfall. Instead, they won seven of 10 in Miami, Pittsburgh and Atlanta.

Belt might be new to a big-game atmosphere. Not Bumgarner, who pitched the Giants to a Halloween night victory in Game 4 of the 2010 World Series.

Take it like any other start, he said, after pulling on his ostrich boots for the bus from Petco Park to Los Angeles. Just be prepared and have a plan against those guys and be sure Im on my game, because theyre a good hitting team. If I can do that, the rest will take care of itself.

Giants get blanked by Braves, now have lowest-scoring team in majors

Giants get blanked by Braves, now have lowest-scoring team in majors

SAN FRANCISCO — Over in Cleveland earlier Friday, Brandon Moss hit a three-run homer for the visiting team and five other players chipped in a pair of hits. The Royals had six runs, which meant that when Jim Johnson closed the Giants out a few hours later, what has seemed true all season became officially true. The Giants have the lowest-scoring lineup in the majors.

At 3.32 runs per game, they have dipped below the equally-disappointing Royals (3.38). They are capable at the moment of making any pitching staff look dominant. A 2-0 shutout was the first of the year for the Braves, who previously had just two games this season where they allowed fewer than two runs. 

“Six runs in (the last) four games … I thought we would come home and get some rips in tonight, but it didn’t happen,” Bruce Bochy said. 

The manager’s frustration showed late in this one. After the only rally of the game — a two-run single by opposing pitcher Jaime Garcia — Bochy took his cap off and rubbed his forehead. He dipped his head and briefly stood as if he was going to fall asleep on the rail. The bats were equally still. 

The Giants had just four hits, all of them singles against Garcia, who is a nice pitcher but hardly one of the league’s best. One was an infield single by Eduardo Nuñez, another a single through Garcia’s five-hole, and a third a generous ruling by the official scorekeeper. 

“It comes down to, you’ve got to get some hits and create opportunities, and we’re not doing it very often,” Bochy said. “It’s just a matter of guys getting somewhat hot. We did, we had some success, and we won some games. The thing you like to see is some good cuts and I didn’t think we got enough of those tonight.”

That run, which spanned the last homestand and small parts of two road trips, has come to a screeching halt. The Giants have lost five of six. It seems silly to scoreboard-watch in May, especially when a team is playing like this, but it’s worth noting that the teams the Giants eventually need to catch keep winning. They fell 12 games back of the Rockies and 11 back of the streaking Diamondbacks. They are 9 1/2 back of the Dodgers, who might be the best team in the whole league. 

Matt Cain did his part to allow the Giants to keep pace. He got beat just once in seven sharp innings. The Giants intentionally walked Dansby Swanson to get to Garcia, who bounced a single into left. Brandon Belt had a play at the plate, but his throw was short and hit the runner. A second run scored. 

“That’s tough,” Cain said. “(Garcia) was throwing the ball really good and that’s what it comes down to, you’re looking for that one hit and he did it. He’s a good hitter. We’ve seen it in St. Louis. But it definitely is tough when the pitcher does that … it just stinks on my part to give up a hit to the opposing pitcher.”

Instant Analysis: Giants bats silenced, losing streak now at four games

Instant Analysis: Giants bats silenced, losing streak now at four games

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The return to AT&T Park was a huge boost to Matt Cain, who has wild home-road splits this season, but it did predictable things to an already-limp Giants offense. 

The Giants entered the night as the lowest-scoring team in the National League and they got blanked 2-0 by Jaime Garcia and the Braves. Garcia out-dueled Cain and provided the only offense of the night, as well. The Giants have dropped five of six.

Here are five things to know from AT&T Park, where they keep having Star Wars Night but they’ve never once celebrated Super Troopers … 

--- Cain entered the seventh with a 0.94 ERA at home this season, but the opposing pitcher busted him. With one on and two outs, the Giants intentionally walked Dansby Swanson to get to Garcia, a career .145 hitter. He bounced a single into shallow left and it looked like Brandon Belt had a play at the plate, but his throw home hit the runner. That allowed Swanson to race home for a 2-0 lead. 

--- Cain’s final line: seven innings, one earned run, one walk, three strikeouts. Yep, that’s a Caining.

--- Justin Ruggiano is here for the opportunity he was given in the sixth. Ruggiano has always crushed lefties, and Bruce Bochy put him behind Buster Posey on Friday night. The Braves intentionally walked Posey to load the bases for Ruggiano, who grounded out to third. Even the platoon splits are failing the Giants. 

--- If you need a little perspective on Christian Arroyo’s struggles, look across the field. Swanson, the former No. 1 overall pick, is batting .198. The shortstop slashed .302/.361/.442 as a rookie but his numbers are way down across the board, and he’s nearly two years older than Arroyo. These things take time. Having said that, Arroyo’s hole is pretty deep. He’s hitless in his last 21 at-bats after an 0 for 3.

--- There were three no-pitch intentional walks. I hope you used the extra ninety seconds wisely.