Giants left with two options: Step up or wilt

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Giants left with two options: Step up or wilt

Melky Cabrera is already a fading mist in San Francisco, a gift that became a rental, a building block made of Styrofoam, enduring to ethereal.

And the Giants are left not to clean up his mess, but to fill his locker. The likelihood of that happening -- less than more likely.

Unlike two years ago, when the Giants made their run right about this time, the Giants have three starters rather than four, a committee rather than a closer, and no more margin for error.

And of all the things we know about the Giants, they need all the margin they can get grab.

That is, unless you believe that:

Tim Lincecum can be Tim Lincecum from this moment out.
Brandon Belt can remove the inconsistencies from his game for good.
Pablo Sandoval remains healthy.
Hunter Pence becomes the Hunter Pence of Houston days.
Santiago Casilla relocates what made him a closer.
Buster Posey can become more than the best player he already is and more of a leader by more than example.

That last one seems curious, but this team needs not only all the other elements but someone to become the center of the clubhouse and the field, and Posey must be that center, whether it suits his personality or not. He is in charge of the pitching staff, he is the best hitter, and has all the voice he wants to use, if he wants to use it.

And in the current production void, nobody else can do that job.

Yes, all hands are on deck starting today, but some hands matter more than others. Matt Cain has a leaders personality but is unavailable four games out of five. Posey, on the other hand, is about to be used as he was two years ago -- as in, every single day -- and there is no third alternative to the leadership issue.

Cabreras absence hurts, and his link to the Giants unsettling PED history will be exhaustively referenced between now and seasons end. You as a consumer may chose to be as offended as you wish by this news.

NEWS: Cabrera suspended

But as a purely cynical matter, he kept the Giants in the divisional race for 117 games. His deeds and the results those deeds provided remain.

Thus, the Giants and their customer base can be as wounded as they wish about Cabreras detection as a hormone-head, but this is the new paradigm. They benefited from his presence, and they must deal with his absence in one of two ways.

By embracing the challenge, or shrinking from it. And well know soon enough which one they choose.

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.