SAN FRANCISCO – There is always a helplessness tethered to not understanding why.
So there was more going on in the Giants clubhouse than the usual quiet after they were limited to four hits in a 5-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday, dropping them to 0-4 on the homestand and 6-20 at home since June 9.
The silence was stupefying.
“I wish I had the answer to that,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, asked what in the name of Willie McCovey is happening at Third and King. “There’s no reason I can give you. It’s a park we have played very well in. Our struggles these weeks have been at home and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. They can’t. It’s a great park, and with the support we have here, it shouldn’t happen and that’s what’s got me buffaloed – all of us.”
Said Madison Bumgarner, more succinctly: “I wish I had an answer for you. I’d love to have an answer for you.”
Bumgarner has his own thundering herd of confusion. He is 8-2 with a 1.75 ERA in 12 road starts. He’s 4-6 with a 5.60 ERA in 11 starts at home after getting bull rushed in a four-run first inning that included his own error on a pickoff throw better suited for a blacktop dodgeball game.
“The big inning killed us,” said Bochy, who has watched his hitters flail and fail often enough at home to understand his odds at coming back from a four-run deficit.
They’ve scored five runs at home just five times over this 26-game run of yuck. They’ve been shut out in six of those games, and 12 times overall this season.
Cause and effect isn’t usually as simple as it sounds, but the Giants’ inability to compete at home correlates neatly with losing Angel Pagan to a lower back injury. The more you see them play without him, the more clear it becomes that this offense just doesn’t work in AT&T Park’s big spaces without him atop the order – especially when they aren’t hitting home runs. (Michael Morse hit four in his first 19 home games. He has zero in his last 38, dating to May 15.)
The Giants tried to change it up. Bochy tweaked the lineup. They even threw the baby out with the electrolytes, swapping out the blue sports drink that has filled the dugout jugs for several years with a reddish one.
After what the Dodgers did to them over the weekend, you couldn’t blame them for wanting to get rid of the blue stuff.
Maybe someone mixed some hooch in there. That's as good an explanation as any for why Gregor Blanco tried to steal second base in the sixth inning with the Giants down five runs.
“I guess he thought he was going to make something happen against a pitcher (who is) quick to the plate, a catcher who throws well,” Bochy said of Blanco, who is hitting .108 in his last 37 at-bats against right-handers and is getting a fat red F as Pagan’s replacement.
“There’s nothing on, I can tell you that.”
Vance Worley needed 100 pitches to throw his first major league shutout Monday. If not for Hunter Pence’s two-out triple in the ninth, the Giants wouldn’t have gotten a single runner into scoring position.
“I’ll say this: He may not have the stats, but tonight Worley threw very well,” Bochy said. “We’re not swinging the bats but I won’t take away how well he pitched. He kept the ball down. It goes to show anybody can get on that mound, a major league pitcher, and when he’s on, he’ll tough.
“Now, that said, we’ve got to find a way to get it done. I mean, us, tonight, we didn’t do anything.”
When your team can’t do anything, the front office tends to redouble its efforts to do something. They tried praying for a Lazarus act from Marco Scutaro, and it took five minutes to realize that wouldn’t work. They tried re-animating Dan Uggla. Three games and three errors later, they’re on the verge of canning that experiment as well.
They’re scanning rosters for a second baseman, but it’ll take more than an Asdrubal Cabrera to redirect this asteroid. They have to get Brandon Belt back soon, and yes, Pagan, and perhaps all of that will happen sometime on the 10-game road trip that begins on Friday.
And perhaps the Dodgers will go out and add Cole Hamels, John Lester or John Lackey to their three aces who overwhelmed the Giants here this past weekend. If that were to happen, not even Michael Bay with an unlimited budget could throw the asteroid off course.
The Giants’ turnaround, if there is one, won’t begin with Brian Sabean hanging up the phone. It’ll begin with a home series victory – something they’ve done just once in their last eight sets here. It’ll be one in nine if they lose again Tuesday.
(Bochy's other favorite euphemism, other than "buffaloed," is "buzzard's luck." The Giants weren't good enough to earn even that much Monday night.)
So for now, at this most dire hour, let’s turn to the one guy in the clubhouse who could find the silver lining in a blast crater.
“To sit here and feel sorry for yourself doesn’t make any sense,” Pence said. “If you give your all, you give your all. So we’ll keep giving our all. I feel pretty good about being in the playoff race and having a chance to win the World Series. You can look at it half full or half empty.
“I see a beautiful opportunity in front of us right now.”
Hey, it’s better than feeling buffaloed.