SAN DIEGO -– The Giants said their piece. Then came the quiet.
A players-only meeting might have set their minds right, but it did nothing for their bats against a mediocre pitcher and a worse opponent Friday afternoon.
They had a wet fuse on Independence Day against Padres left-hander Eric Stults in a 2-0 loss -– their 18th in 23 games –- to disappoint the sizable orange-clad contingent at Petco Park.
The Giants had just four hits and advanced only one runner as far as third base against Stults and two relievers. They were shut out for the third time in their last five games.
Matt Cain pitched well but allowed a home run to Alexi Amarista in the third inning, and that was enough to keep him winless in 13 of his 14 starts this season.
Starting pitching report
Cain (1-7) took the mound with resolve and his pitches popped the glove, but the ball was jumping a little more than usual on a warm afternoon.
Amarista entered with one home run this season and 11 over his four-year career before turning around a 1-0 changeup in the third inning. It was Cain’s first home run allowed in three starts, but also the 12th he’s given up this season.
The Padres added a run after Seth Smith and Chase Headley collected one of his three singles off Cain. Sandoval cut off Morse’s no-chance throw from left field, and threw out Headley trying to advance. The run scored but the Giants were out of the inning and prevented the trail runner from advancing -– something that they allowed to happen far too often over their losing slide.
Cain did not break again, but he needed help after a single and two walks loaded the bases with one out in the seventh.
Jeremy Affeldt replaced Cain and didn’t allow any of his three inherited runners to score. Affeldt got pinch hitter Chris Denorfia to ground into a 6-3 double play, although it was far from routine. Belt, in his first game off the DL, made an impressive pick of Crawford’s throw in the shadows to prevent two runs from scoring.
At the plate
There was every reason to believe the Giants would let sparks fly against Stults. Pablo Sandoval was a .480 hitter in 25 at-bats against the portly left-hander. Buster Posey stood at .444 with a pair of homers in 18 at-bats. Joaquin Arias had a .381 average in 21 at-bats. Hunter Pence was at .300 with three homers in 30 at-bats.
Brandon Crawford? Try .308 with two homers in 13 at-bats. Even Mike Morse was 2-for-4 with a homer.
Well, at least Arias doubled in the fourth for his first extra-base hit of the season. It came in his 96th at-bat.
The Giants managed little more. They did load the bases in the second inning when Morse doubled into the left field corner and Stults pitched around Crawford and Juan Perez. But Cain struck out.
It appeared they had something going in the sixth when Posey worked a terrific nine-pitch at-bat that resulted in a leadoff single. But then Sandoval and Morse made three outs on four pitches.
Stults gave up just four hits in seven shutout innings. It was just the fourth time in his 90 career starts –- and first in two seasons -- that he lasted at least seven innings without allowing a run.
Stults won for the first time since May 10 –- one day after Belt fractured his thumb, to give you an idea how long ago that was.
The Giants had their 3-4-5 hitters in the ninth against Huston Street, but Posey flied out on the first pitch. Sandoval and Morse popped up to end another impotent performance from an offense that was so commanding in April and May.
Belt’s pick at first base was the most important defensive contribution of the game, but Sandoval had another sensational stop as well. He showed improved range and reaction time yet again while snagging Yasmani Grandal’s line drive in the fourth inning.
The Padres announced 31,126 paid, which makes 11,000 unsold seats on the Fourth of July. And half the crowd was there to see the visiting team.
No, the Padres are not capturing the marketplace. Given their current state, you wonder how long the Giants will hold the attention of theirs.
The Giants and Padres continue their three-game series at Petco Park on Saturday. Tim Hudson (7-5, 2.59 ERA) takes the mound against Padres right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne (2-0, 0.66). First pitch is scheduled for 4:15 p.m. PDT.