SAN DIEGO -– History will record these immortal words of Buster Posey, that great national hero, were first uttered on an Independence Day afternoon in 2014:
Yes, Buster. It really, really does. All of it.
Matt Cain’s one stinking victory in 14 starts. The Giants holding their noses at the plate while getting shut out for the third time in five games. And yes, all due respect to his family, Padres right-hander Eric Stults kind of stinks, too.
Nothing personal, but we can back this one up. He was 0-8 with a 5.62 ERA over his previous 10 starts. He’s something less than Bob Gibson in the shadows, anyway.
The Giants held a players-only meeting Friday before batting practice. They came out of the dugout ready to charge up a hill, just like Matthew Broderick’s character in “Glory.”
You know how that ended.
Admire their gumption and resolve if you choose. But there was nothing admirable about the result in a 2-0 loss at Petco Park.
The Giants managed four hits. They advanced one runner to third base. They are 5-18 since June 8, when they were 21 games over .500 and held a 9 ½ game lead in the NL West.
You knew that already. Every time they sink deeper into this funk, we’re contractually obligated to remind you where they once stood. Nine and a half. By the end of this season, if things don’t turn around, this team will be more closely associated with that number than Kim Basinger.
What is manager Bruce Bochy to do now?
“I don’t know,” he said. “If there is, let me know, please. I’m open to suggestions.
“But kidding aside, this is our group. I believe in our group. I believe they will get it going. Before the game, this was the best energy I’ve seen in a long time.”
If their energy and mood were any indication, the players-only meeting was more Stuart Smalley than all-out scolding. They remained in a talking mood after the game, as Cain and Buster Posey went a little deeper than usual in their public comments.
“I don’t want to keep saying it because it’s been a long time, but we’ve got to find a way to do it, whether it’s a great start or guys clicking offensively,” Cain said. “Obviously, we’ve got to do something.
“There’s nothing more we can do off the field or with the effort level. We’ve got to find the right chemistry and the right mojo and then all this won’t matter.”
Said Posey: “It’s tough. It stinks, plain and simple. We’ve got to do a better job offensively. There’s really no excuse. Hopefully we keep the energy up, (which is) tough when you don’t score any runs.”
Cain again: “You start moping around and it can be a long season. … Buster, he’s a leader. He realizes that you can’t be that way day to day. This is the group you want to have, the group you want to be with.”
Could it be as simple as reminding each other that you’re playing a game, and to go out and have fun?
“When you keep losing, it doesn’t work that way,” Cain said. “Winning games and winning series, that’s the only way."
Cain’s most intriguing comment might have been the first thing he said. He didn’t want to keep talking about the funk they’re in because it’s gone on too long. There comes a time when it stops being a bad stretch and it starts to define a season.
As Posey put it, “When things are going good, you don’t have to think as much. There’s a little overthinking going on now. At the same time, that’s because we care.”
They do care. You can’t say anyone is going through the motions. It’s just stultifying, if you’ll pardon the word, that they could only manage four hits against a soft pitcher that so many Giants hitters have pelted in the past. Even the return of Brandon Belt, who was hitless with a strikeout in four trips, did nothing to ignite the lineup.
“The guys were fired up,” Bochy said. “They had a lot of energy in the dugout before the game. That’s what a starting pitcher can do to you.
“We just need a spark. We need to clean the spark plugs.”
Cain did his best to provide it, holding the Padres to two runs while pitching into the seventh inning. He joined Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry and Tim Lincecum as the fourth pitcher in the Giants’ San Francisco era to record his 1,500th strikeout, too.
Yet he is 1-7 in 14 starts. His overall record also dipped to 94-95 –- his first time in two years that his career ledger stood at under .500.
Some of that is Cain’s fault. Most of it is not.
It bothers him regardless.
“Yeah because in a good bit of starts, I don’t feel I gave our guys a chance to win and that’s frustrating,” he said. “I don’t want to be the weak link in the rotation. There are times I felt I had good enough stuff to get wins and I haven’t done it.”
Yet there are still things the Giants cannot take for granted, and fan support should be high on the list. On Independence Day, the Padres had 11,000 unsold seats and half the crowd was clad in not red, white or blue but orange. The Padres are not capturing the marketplace. The Giants continue to have a love affair with theirs.
“They’ve been so good to us through the tough times and that’s what makes this so tough,” Bochy said. “We can hear these fans. They’re making noise, they’re pulling for their guys. That makes it that much harder because they want to win for them as much for themselves.
“And you know, that is a pretty good club we are throwing out there. We have Belt back and you look at that lineup, it’s a lineup that has done a lot of damage. We’re not looking for help. We don’t need help. We’ve just got to believe it’s going to happen here. When we get on a roll, we’ll get back to the team we were earlier in the season.”
They can’t be looking for help because it isn’t coming. Right now, despite being eight over .500 and right behind the Dodgers in the NL West, there is no reason for management to believe they are a piece or two away. That’s why they have to turn this around, and quick.
Otherwise … well, the trade deadline will stink, too.