MIAMI -– By the time Tim Lincecum took the mound Sunday afternoon, the roof was sealed tight at Marlins Park, the air conditioning was chugging along nicely and you began to understand why the Giants had orchestrated their second-half rotation the way they did.
Better to start Lincecum in the AC than at muggy Philadelphia.
Better to have him start the day game after the night game, too.
That way they could keep Buster Posey’s bat in the lineup at first base against a left-hander, and let Hector Sanchez play pincushion behind the plate.
There are times when Giants manager Bruce Bochy implores his players to step on the gas. But over 162 games, it’s smart to coast on a few declines, too. Bochy acknowledged he might have overplayed some of his regulars in the first half, and he planned to keep them fresher with more days off on some of these hot East Coast trips.
There’s just one problem. No matter how well written the orchestration, you need musicians who can hold a note. And the Giants cannot like what they’re hearing from the second chair.
Since late May, Sanchez has flat-out forgotten how to hit. He has a .128 average in his last 28 games, with 21 strikeouts in 70 at-bats and just two walks. Bochy is hoping he can chalk up Joaquin Arias’ .182 average and grand total of one extra-base hit to the fact he hasn’t played as often.
But if Bochy’s wrong, there’s a cost associated with finding out.
And Gregor Blanco? He stopped getting on base a long time ago, and is no longer leading off. But it’s not like you can hit a guy 16th in the lineup.
So on a day when the top three hitters in the Giants lineup went 5-for-11, and yes, that includes Marco Scutaro’s first hit of the year, the bottom four hitters were 0-for-13 and cost the Giants in a 3-2 loss to the mistake-prone Marlins on Sunday.
Lincecum threw a quality start but lost because of one splitter that slipped out of a sweaty hand -– an 0-2 pitch that Casey McGehee hit for a two-run home run in the first inning -– and one scud that skipped past Sanchez for a run-scoring wild pitch in the seventh.
“We got the leadoff hitter on,” Bochy said. “We just couldn’t keep the line moving. Timmy was leading off a couple times, and that’s what you want to stay away from. The back end of the order had a tough day. We had a leadoff double and couldn’t make a productive out there. We just couldn’t move the runners.”
Michael Morse hit the leadoff double in the second inning. Sanchez grounded back to the pitcher, Arias popped up and Blanco flied out. Sanchez finished the day with a .194 average.
With Brandon Crawford getting a rest and Brandon Belt unavailable -- he'll be lost for at least one week to the disabled list with a concussion, too -- the Giants had too many drags in their lineup to pick up any downhill speed.
And if GM Brian Sabean cannot provide reinforcements at the trade deadline, Bochy will be forced to start pushing the pedal long before the finish line is in sight.
“That’s what we did in the first half and it might have caught up with a couple guys,” Bochy said. “You want to win every game but it takes 25 men. You’ll get into the dog days here, the hot weather trips. You need to keep guys fresh, and I’ve still got to do what I think is right.”
“If I have to change how I do things or put different guys out there, so be it,” Bochy added.
It’s hard to know just how often he’ll be able to play Scutaro, whose first hit of the season officially came on July 20 when he whistled a line drive to left field. He scored from first base on Buster Posey’s two-run double, too, and used sprinter’s arms all the way to the top step of the dugout.
Style points, or could he just not stutter-step to a stop with his bad back?
“I’ve got to look good when I score,” said Scutaro, with a weary smile. “I’m not concerned too much about production. Obviously, I want to win but the main thing is to start feeling good and to be able to compete. So today was a good day.”
Judging from the way he ran out of the box, though, Scutaro is going to be an inviting double-play target. Expect Bochy to put Hunter Pence in motion a ton. The Giants can’t afford to pass up RBI opportunities for the middle of their order. They can’t be sure those spots will come up again quickly.
They still took two of three from the Marlins. But when your opponents get themselves thrown out at third base three times in a game, they’re basically asking you to beat them. The Giants failed to comply. It felt like a drag, all right.