Cain’s career ends with a heartbreaking loss to Pads 3-2

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain raises his arms walking to the dugout after pitching in the fifth inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in San Francisco. Cain made his final start after announcing his retirement. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

By Jeremy Kahn

SAN FRANCISCO-On the day where Matt Cain pitched the final game of his 13-year career, he was not able to get the win.

Austin Hedges hit a two-run double with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, as the San Diego Padres came back to defeat the San Francisco Giants 3-2 before a crowd of 40,394, at AT&T Park.

Down to his last strike, Hedges hit a ball over the head of Hunter Pence in right field to score Christian Villanueva and Cory Spangenberg.

Cain was sharp in the final start of his career, and was in line for the win; however, the bullpen was unable to hold the lead that Pence gave them in the bottom of the third inning.

Pence narrowly beat out a Carlos Asuaje throw to first base that Pablo Sandoval to score from third base, as the Giants took a 1-0 lead.

Pence drove in Ryder Jones with a single in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Giants a 2-1 lead.

Cain went five innings, allowing just two hits, while striking out five and left to a standing ovation from the fans.

Not only did Cain receive a standing ovation from the fans, but every member of the Giants staff and players hugged 32-year old right-hander. The Padres also showed their respect, as they applauded for their longtime rival as he left the field for the final time.

Reyes Moronta blew the save in the top of the sixth inning, as he gave up the game-tying home run to Wil Myers.

It was the 30th home run of the season for Myers, becoming the first Padres player to top the 30-home run plateau since Chase Headley did so when he hit 31 in 2012. This was the sixth home run of the season for Myers.

Jhoulys Chacin pitched six strong innings in his last game of the season for the Padres, as he gave up one run on five hits, walking two and striking out six. Chacin finished the season with a record of 13-10.

During his career, Cain was a part of 109 no-decisions since 2005, which ranks as the third-most in the major leagues during that period. In 44 of those 109 games, Cain left the game with the lead

Not only did Cain receive a standing ovation from the fans, but every member of the Giants staff and players hugged 32-year old right-hander. The Padres also showed their respect, as they applauded for their longtime rival as he left the field for the final time.

Cain is just the fourth player to play at least 10 years and just wear the Giants uniform, joining Jim Davenport, Scott Garrelts and Robby Thompson.

Even though he did not fare in the decision, Cain ended his career with a 10-game losing streak, the longest of his career and the longest by a Giants pitcher since Rod Beck lost 11 in a row from August 21, 1995 thru April 29, 1997.

The right-hander ended his career at AT&T Park with a record of 60-60 in 179 regular season games.

NOTES: Johnny Cueto will close out the season for the Giants, as he takes the mound one last time, as he looks for his ninth win of the season. Like the Giants, the Padres season will come to a close on Sunday as well and they will send Luis Perdomo to the mound in the season finale.

The ninth inning loss was just the fourth loss of the season by the Giants after they entered the eighth inning with a lead. Coming into the game, the Giants were 49-3.

San Francisco Giants report: 100-loss mark is still reachable for Giants

Photo credit: San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants)

By Jeremy Harness

 SAN FRANCISCO–The Giants can make some history this weekend, but it’s surely not the kind they were looking for.

 See, they currently sport a 62-97 record, which is at press time the worst record in the entire major leagues, and they have a three-game series against the San Diego Padres at AT&T Park this weekend to close out the series.

 If you do the math, the Giants have a chance to lose 100 games in a season for the first time in quite some time. The Giants have lost 100 games or more only once in franchise history, as the 1985 team went 62-100.

 It was the year that Jim Davenport was fired in midseason and replaced by Roger Craig and finished sixth in the National League West, back when there were only two divisions in each league.

 If history is any indicator, things could quickly be looking up for the Giants. With Craig no longer the interim manager, the Giants quickly righted the ship the next season, finishing 83-79 and a third-place finish in the division before winning the NL West in 1987.

 In the meantime, however, it is not looking good at all, and the Giants do not want it to be historically bad when Sunday comes to a close.

 What is also coming to a close along with the season on Sunday as Matt Cain’s career. The veteran righty has said that he will retire at year’s end, forgoing free agency as this is the final year of his contract. He will take the ball Saturday afternoon opposite Padres right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (13-10, 3.98 ERA).

 Chacin has won his previous two decisions, including an outing last Saturday that saw him shut out the Rockies over six innings and give up only one hit in the process, walking three and striking out six.

 Cain, meanwhile, will just hope to end his career on a high note before his home fans. He has suffered through a 3-11 campaign with a 5.66 ERA. On May 15, he beat the Dodgers by surrendering only a run on five hits, walking three and striking out five to improve his record to 3-1.

 He has not gotten a victory since. And he may need to pull out some of the old magic to keep his team from going to a historic low.


Diamondbacks walk off Wednesday’s win over Giants 4-3; Cain calls it a career

Arizona Diamondbacks’ John Ryan Murphy, right, celebrates with teammates, including Jeremy Hazelbaker (41) and Kris Negron (45) as David Peralta, middle, is doused with a liquid after his bases loaded walk scored the winning run against the San Francisco Giants during the ninth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, in Phoenix. The Diamondbacks defeated the Giants 4-3. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

By Daniel Dullum
Sports Radio Service
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Arizona added to the San Francisco Giants season-long misery Wednesday afternoon at Chase Field, when David Peralta drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth, giving the NL playoff-bound Diamondbacks a 4-3 victory.

J.D. Martinez kick-started the D-Backs rally by leading off the home ninth with a solo home run, his 49th of the season and 29th as a Diamondback since he was acquired from Detroit on July 18.

Martinez also tied MLB’s September home run record with 16, tying the mark Ralph Kiner set with Pittsburgh in 1949. He also picked up run batted in No. 36 for the month, breaking the D-Backs’ previous mark of 35 set by Luis Gonzalez in June 2001.

In the bottom of the ninth, Martinez’s home run was followed by singles by Jake Lamb and A.J. Pollock. Kristopher Negron, pinch-running for Lamb, was thrown out by Joe Panik when Daniel Descalso reached on a fielder’s choice.

After an intentional walk, Pollock scored when John Ryan Murphy also reached on a fielder’s choice. With the bases still loaded, Giants closer Sam Dyson (3-3) walked Peralta, who got the rare RBI walk to drive in Descalso.

Diamondbacks reliever J.J. Hoover (3-1) got the win.

Earlier, Denard Span tripled, doubled and scored twice for San Francisco. Jeff Samadzija had a strong start, with four strikeouts and a walk while allowing one run.

Pablo Sandoval’s first-inning double drove in Span – who led the game off with a triple – with the game’s first run. Panik scored on a Brandon Crawford groundout to give the Giants a 2-0 lead off D-Backs starter Braden Shipley, who lasted 3 1/3 innings.

Giants veteran right-hander Matt Cain announced that his Saturday start at AT&T Park will be the last of his 13-year career – all with San Francisco.

Cain, 3-11 this season, informed his teammates of his decision in a closed meeting before Wednesday’s game. He debuted with the Giants in 2005, pitched in two of the team’s three winning World Series appearances, and has a career mark of 104-118 with a 3.69 ERA.

The Giants announced they will honor Cain at Sunday’s regular season finale against San Diego on what is also the right-hander’s 33rd birthday. Cain, a three-time All-Star who threw the Giants’ first perfect game ever in 2012, is completing his contract, which had a team option for one more season.

Bullpen melt down: Giants see fifth inning lead evaporate in loss to the A’s

Oakland Athletics’ Chad Pinder, left, scores past San Francisco Giants catcher Nick Hundley during the eighth inning of a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., Monday, July 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

By Morris Phillips

OAKLAND–A 3-2 lead in the fifth inning isn’t nirvana, but for the Giants on Monday night in Oakland it was as good as would get. A leaky bullpen took it from there, offering free passes and hittable pitches to an A’s team itching for an opportunity.

If you’re Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy, where can you turn?

In the opener of the Bay Bridge Series, the first three relievers summoned by Bochy allowed at least one run. Josh Osich walked a pair of batters, and loaded the bases while recording just one out. George Kontos followed, and his third pitch was grooved. Marcus Semien sent Kontos’ fastball in the middle of the plate beyond the centerfield wall for a grand slam.

Two innings later, Kyle Crick and Hunter Strickland offered Oakland the cherry on top, and they gladly accepted. Matt Joyce singled and Khris Davis walked courtesy of Crick. Then Strickland allowed a two-run, two-out knock to Ryon Healy.

The final damage? The Giants’ pen allowed six runs on five hits, including one game-altering grand slam, and six walks. Six walks?

“In the major leagues that shouldn’t happen and that’s what did us in,” Bochy said of the walks. “Of course the grand slam, that made it a steep uphill climb for us. But we have to control the ball better. We have to get better in the bullpen.”

Four games into the worst road trip in a season of bad road trips, the Giants’ bullpen has allowed 11 earned runs in nine innings, lost three times, and recorded no saves despite four opportunities. That’s bad.

By comparison, the A’s bullpen, depleted by a trade and John Axford’s release, has strung together 11 1/3 innings of scoreless relief in the last two days. In that same span, the Giants have a pair of painful losses. From the Giants’ perspective, it’s not a good comparison.

Four consecutive losses have saddled the Giants with baseball’s worst record, at least for now, worse than the Phillies. The Giants probably won’t lose 100 games, becoming the second club in the San Francisco era to do so, but it’s a possibility.

If so, something has to give. General manager Bobby Evans spoke last week of retaining the team’s core, in part due to the numerous, prohibitive contracts, and in part due to the accomplishments of that core. But that same group has baseball’s worst record since last season’s All Star break, more than a full season of baseball.

Needless to say, tough decisions are looming.













Kicked when down: Pirates turn to put their imprint on the Giants’ historically poor season

Pittsburgh Pirates’ Jordy Mercer (10) is congratulated by third base coach Joey Cora (3) after hitting a three-run home run against the San Francisco Giants during the eighth inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Monday, July 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Despite their lowly perch of 24 games below .500, a level near earth’s core, more than 30 games off the pace of the division-leading Dodgers, and with the franchise’s worst-ever record in sight with 62 games remaining until the still-distant finish line, the Giants still haven’t truly hit rock bottom.

That quest resumed in earnest on Monday night.

The Pirates came in smarting from being swept by the Giants in Pittsburgh at the beginning of July, and made their intentions for retribution clear in less than two innings. By that time, the Giants were dizzied, staring at a six-run deficit, and frustrated enough with home plate umpire Chris Conroy that the remainder of Bruce Bochy’s evening was restricted to the clubhouse after a fit of profanities got the manager chased.

And the journey to rock bottom?

Well, that path wound past pinch-hitter Conor Gillaspie’s quiet groundout to second base with the bases loaded in the fourth, and pitching coach Dave Righetti’s ejection in the ninth. Matt Cain’s listless, 11th consecutive start without a win, and the team’s 55th game with three runs of offense or less were low points as well.

“You get six runs down against a guy like (Pirates starter Gerrit) Cole, that’s a big hole to climb out of,” Bochy said after the game while gamely answering all questions without succumbing to reliving the emotion of the frustrating, second inning.

Conroy’s obvious blown call on a 1-0 pitch to Andrew McCutchen with two runners aboard was the start of it, and McCutchen’s three-run homer three pitches later was the beginning of the end. Cain’s snap reaction to the home run came within ear shot of Conroy, and Bochy stepped to the umpire to take the focus off Cain, and the manager paid with his ejection in mere seconds.

Afterwards, Bochy made it clear that it was more than one bad call.

“I think there was some frustration really all night,” he said. “I don’t think (Conroy) had a real good night, to be honest, as far as consistency, but that really had nothing to do with what happened tonight. We gave up three-run homers.”

Jordy Mercer’s three-run homer off Josh Osich in the eighth inning put the Pirates up 9-3 in route to a 10-3 win. The Giants fell to 3-5 on their 10-game home stand with two games remaining, and the Pirates won for the 13th time in their last 17 games to gain traction in the winnable NL Central.

Eduardo Nunez, Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford each had two hits, but none of the three scored a run. Reliever Albert Suarez provided the bright spot with two innings of effective, scoreless relief.

Madison Bumgarner attempts to again capture his first win of the season on Tuesday. Bumgarner will be matched up with Jameson Taillon of the Pirates at 7:15pm.


That’s different: Eighth-inning rally gets Giants a rare, series win over the Indians

San Francisco Giants’ Conor Gillaspie, right, is congratulated by Gorkys Hernandez after scoring against the Cleveland Indians during the eighth inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, July 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Tuesday night, the Giants walked off with a win, and walked into a hearty celebration. Wednesday afternoon, the Giants engineered a successful, late inning comeback, and resigned the Panda.

That’s changing the narrative.

In a season so disappointing any true momentum shift would likely involve Mays, McCovey and both Bonds in a Field of Dreams: SF television pilot scenario, the sad-sack Giants will likely have to do with far less.

They appeared to get that in their last two wins over the AL Central-leading Indians. Buster Posey’s two-run, pinch-hit double in the eight inning propelled the Giants to a 5-4 win and a rare, series victory.

“It’s big,” Brandon Crawford said. “We obviously want to have a good, second half. The first half didn’t go the way we wanted, obviously. It’d be nice to turn that around and winning two, close games where we had to come from behind against a good team that’s a good start, definitely.”

The trends the Giants bucked in winning Wednesday were numerous, enough to prompt most to drive to Vegas in a triple-digit heat looking to cash in on all the abnormalities. The Giants had been a major league worst in day games (11-24), a bust when trailing late (6-51 when trailing after seven innings), and a zero when Matt Cain starts (seven, consecutive losses).

Posey hadn’t been productive in his infrequent turns as a pinch-hit either, but that didn’t keep the All-Star catcher from sending reliever Bryan Shaw’s 3-2 offering off the left field wall scoring Conor Gillaspie and Crawford with the deciding runs. Shaw had to live with getting beat on a slider, something other than his best pitch, and Posey got to exault in helping the club on his scheduled day of rest.

“My pinch-hitting numbers are not very good, but it’s nice to come through,” Posey said.

The Giants won a series against an American League opponent for the first time in more than a year. Cain did his part by pitching six innings, allowing three runs. Denard Span contributed a homer and a double, and Crawford had two hits and a run scored while hitting cleanup.

The Indians post-All Star break week in the Bay Area ended poorly as the team won once in six tries and escaped with their division lead almost all but wiped out. The reoccurring theme of bullpen games, and narrow losses wasn’t lost on manager Terry Francona.

“When you’re playing games like this where every run is so magnified, we have to play clean baseball. I don’t think our bullpen can’t handle it. I just think we have to play the game in all areas,” Francona said.

In a surprise announcement, the Giants confirmed the signing of Pablo Sandoval to a minor league contract, giving the Panda an opportunity to resurrect his career starting at Triple-A Sacramento after he was let go by the Red Sox despite the $49.5 million left on his contract.

On Thursday, the Giants open a four-game set against the Padres with Madison Bumgarner facing San Diego’s Jhoulys Chacin.


Naturally it’s the Nats: Scherzer not the one to surrender momentum to the struggling Giants

National’s Ryan Zimmerman circling the bases after his three-run, first inning home run off Matt Cain at AT&T Park on Wednesday night. (AP/Eric Risberg)

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Representing varying degrees of pressure, the 3-0 deficits the Giants faced in each game of their just concluded series with the Nationals said it all about being down, and not being let up.  Those significant, but normally surmountable leads said plenty about the current acumen and confidence of the Nats, versus the increasing lethargy enveloping the Giants as well.

On Monday, the Nats built their 3-0 lead in the eighth inning. Perhaps the rare, cross country flight between day games on consecutive days delayed the NL East leader’s impending takeover by an hour or so.  On Tuesday, the Nats built their 3-0 lead after two innings.  On Wednesday, they built the lead after the first four batters of the game, capped by red-hot Ryan Zimmerman’s three run homer.

Term the series pressure, followed by pressure packed, followed by pressure filled, with Max Scherzer, Washington’s Wednesday night starter, providing much of the later. Consequently, the Giants never looked comfortable at any point.

We did say they’re different levels to this game.

Scherzer, bouyed by Giants’ hitters anxious to avoid deep counts when facing one of MLB’s most dominate pitchers, cruised to a 3-1 victory, holding the Giants without a hit until the fourth, and only surrendering five hits in a complete game performance that was breezy, if not brief.

“We got a break with one run or we’d probably get shut out, to be honest,” manager Bruce Bochy said.  “He’s done that to a lot of clubs.”

Former Giant’s manager Dusty Baker saw his win total as a big league manager reach 1,799, one win from a milestone reached by just 16 others. Baker’s gameplan for the occasion was brutally simple: ride his ace to the finish, if possible, in the absence of closer Koda Glover, who was unavailable due to a heavy workload in recent games. The result was a spectacular success; Scherzer finished off the Giants with 100 pitches, 79 of those strikes, and he retired the first hitter in every inning. Baker’s seen it all, but sounded giddy when asked about his ace.

“The difference was, he was getting strike one,”  Baker said. “Who out there can deal the way he was dealing? Boy, that was masterful.”

While Scherzer dealt, Washington’s hitters extracted every pitch out of Matt Cain, just as they sucked every pitch out of Jeff Samardzija the day before. Somehow, Cain kept it close despite throwing 80 pitches in the first four innings, but it mattered little as the Nationals’ completed the sweep, their eighth win in their last 11 games.

Bryce Harper saw his suspension reduced from four games to three, and began serving it immediately.  That left the Nats down an MVP candidate, and it hardly mattered. Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon had two hits apiece, and seven of the Nationals’ nine hits came in the first four innings. On Tuesday, 13 of the Nats’ 14 hits came in the first five innings.

“Everybody had their fingers on this,” Scherzer said.

Once again, the Giants got caught marching in place offensively. Only in the fourth inning did they manage to couple hits, and that entailed two Washington outfielders failing to catch Busted Posey’s fly ball that fell between them when Jayson Werth and Michael Taylor both lost the ball in the lights. Posey’s ball was ruled a double scoring Eduardo Nunez.

The Giants finished 2-4 on their homestand, and were twice shut out before scoring just one run Wednesday. They fell 11 1/2 games off the pace of the Dodgers in the NL West.

Changing their tune: Giants nip Dodgers behind Cain’s third, consecutive encouraging start


By Morris Phillips

In a close game against the hated Blue, Giants’ catcher Buster Posey and starting pitcher Matt Cain’s moment of realization while sitting together in the dugout between innings could have signaled the pair were on the same page, a determined alliance of stubborn, veteran ballplayers tired of losing, and willing to unearth any details that might prompt a reversal of their fortunes.

Or just two old guys acknowledging how much time has passed in their baseball careers without being too smug to admit it.

“Goodness. He looks really young,” Posey said to Cain regarding Giants’ rookie Christian Arroyo, 21, making his big league debut on Monday.

And truth by told, Arroyo did look young, but he didn’t play like a youngster.  The Giants’ number one ranked prospect was tabbed from Sacramento to help jump start a club that found itself in sole possession of the National  League’s cellar on Monday morning, promoted as a desperately needed shot in the arm.

And while it took just a shade under three hours, the Giants achieved the desired result, a win and another encouraging outing from Cain, a guy who suddenly fills a huge void in the absence of Madison Bumgarner.

Cain hadn’t beat the Dodgers in nearly four years, and only five of the 312 starts in his career had resulted in a win over his team’s biggest rival.  But this time, things fell into place, and weren’t disrupted when the veteran pitcher was removed while favoring his hamstring in the moments leading up to the top of the seventh inning.

Instead, the bullpen hunkered down, 30-year old Posey threw out runners in the eighth and ninth innings, and the 32-year old Cain fell into the win column.

“We’re at our best when the pitching’s there and the defense is there. That’s our strength and it’s gotten away from us,” manager Bruce Bochy admitted.

“I don’t think we had a scenario where we very predictable,” Cain said.


Big Sugar: Cain sweetens the pot with win over the Diamondbacks


By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–The 310th start of Matt Cain’s illustrious career had a nice ring to it: five plus solid innings, one run allowed and a win.

For a guy that hadn’t won in the month of April in five years, and had just eight wins total in the last three seasons, Wednesday’s outing was akin to walking out to the pitching mound and discovering gold slivers underneath the pitching rubber.  Cain wasn’t spectacular, but he was effective, and that alone pays dividends for the Giants going forward.

“He did everything tonight that you can do,” reliever Cody Gearrin said of Cain. “He’s hitting doubles in the gap and pitching outstanding. It’s fun for us as a bullpen to come off of that. He really set the tone tonight.”

Cain had a rough first inning, allowing a run.  But he settled in, and was still around in the fifth when his two-base hit incited a three-run rally.  The wet weather, and the Giants’ pen led by Gearrin took it from there in the Giants’ 6-2 win over Arizona.

The 32-year old Cain is light years removed his last All-Star appearance in 2012, which means his 2017 salary of $21 million guarantees very little.  In fact, after a rough, first outing against the Padres, another could have had the Giants’ tapping the Ty Blach/Tyler Beede spigot. Instead, Cain’s fastball had low 90’s snap, and the double off his bat in the fifth left home plate at 106 mph. Manager Bruce Bochy took note of it all.

“His command, he had four pitches going tonight,” Bochy said.  “He had a good curveball along with the changeup and the fastball command. If you look at his last few games, here he gives up a run but he just bowed his neck and went out there and pitched very well.”

After allowing a triple to A.J. Pollock to lead off the game, and a couple of first inning walks, Cain settled.  He struck out six in a 10-batter stretch at one point, and kept the D’Backs, who led the National League with 53 runs scored coming in, at bay.  When the first two batters in the sixth reached, Cain was finished, having thrown 92 pitches.

Gearrin relieved Cain, and struck out the next three batters on just 13 pitches. Brandon Drury got the worst of those encounters, lasting just three pitches and getting fooled by a slider on check swing strike three.

George Kontos, Derek Law and Hunter Strickland each got an inning after that.  Only Law labored, allowing two hits and a run.  Closer Mark Melancon got the night off as the Giants’ four-run, ninth inning lead didn’t yield a save situation.

The Giants improved to 4-6, but remain in the NL West basement, three games behind Arizona.  But 4-6 isn’t 1-5, as the Giants have experienced a nice rebound after a rough first week.  The Rockies visit AT&T Park on Thursday, the first of four games.  In the opener, Madison Bumgarner faces the Rockies’ 2013 first-round pick, Jon Gray.  The 6’4″ Gray possesses an elite slider, and at least to this date in his career, his numbers have been far more impressive at Coors Field than on the road. Gray was 10-10 in 2016, making 29 starts.

GAME NOTES: Several Giants had encouraging moments at the plate, after the entire lineup struggled to hit during the season’s first week.  Hunter Pence came up with a RBI knock on a half swing that gave the Giants their first lead, 2-1.  Denard Span had a double and a single, and has hit safely in each of his last three starts. And Jarrett Parker, part of the left field equation that was MIA the first week, delivered a nifty single to the left side to beat the shift.

Giants are beat up and the Dodgers are ascending, how does S.F. stem the tide?

By Morris Phillips

AP photo: San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner delivers against the Atlanta Braves Sunday at AT&T Park Mad Bum’s last win

SAN FRANCSICO–On the same day the Giants banged out four home runs, four triples, and won 13-4 behind Madison Bumgarner, the Dodgers may have played more impressively.

In Los Angeles, the Dodgers pushed across the only run of the day in the eighth inning to back the pitching of starter Brock Stewart, and relievers Jesse Chavez, Grant Dayton and Joe Blanton—four guys who didn’t have definitive roles on the roster when the season began—and beat the Cubs, the team with the big league’s best record.

On a weekend the Giants played the worst team in baseball, and the Dodgers played the best, the Giants fared no better than their rivals, winning twice and losing once. After the Dodgers fell 8-1 to the Rockies in Denver on Monday, and the Giants enjoyed a day off, Los Angeles’ lead in the NL West sits at a 1 ½ games, so far a number the Dodgers are doing a lot more to protect than the six-game lead the Giants held during the All-Star break.

On the surface the teams couldn’t be closer in achievements and results—both have scored 586 runs this season, both have allowed 524—but this week shows that the Dodgers have clearly been the more impressive club, whether or not injured ace Clayton Kershaw finds his way back to the mound before the season ends.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Giants fell in Los Angeles with both their aces, Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto, on the mound. On Thursday, the Giants rebounded behind Matt Moore’s near no-hitter. Again, advantage to the Dodgers.

So what can the Giants do to close the gap?

Most importantly, they can’t blink now. After Wednesday, the Giants play 17 of their next 24 games on the road. Injuries are mounting; reliever Derek Law was placed on the disabled list, Brandon Belt is battling a stiff neck, and Hunter Pence hasn’t really been healthy all year. Since returning from his two-month stint on the disabled list July 30, Pence has hit just one home run. Now, Pence is battling a hamstring issue–the classic injury for a body forced to compensate for nicks in other places—and missed the previous two games.

Also this week, Jake Peavy and Gregor Blanco landed on the disabled list.

If the Giants can stay within striking distance, over the next 26 games, they then get the final six of the regular season at home, and the final three against the Dodgers (September 19-21). The trick is getting there, and a deficit of 2 ½ games heading into the final week may be the most realistic to overcome. That means the Giants must play no worse than one game off the pace of the Dodgers over that 26 games, with the last three in Dodgers Stadium.

It won’t be easy.  For one, the Giants don’t have a definitive fifth starter with Peavy on the DL, and Albert Suarez suited to long relief, as a guy who couldn’t get through the opposing lineup a second time in his start on Saturday. All of a sudden, Matt Cain is back in the picture, scheduled to come off the disabled list for a start Friday in Chicago.

Cain shut down the Cubs at AT&T the first time around, but how will he fare in Wrigley Field? Cain’s ERA in six road starts this season is over six. His ERA in three August starts before he was shut down was 7.24. Neither number bodes well for Cain’s viability on Friday.

So who can the Giants depend on with the team sliding and their collective health deteriorating? At the top of the list are leadoff hitter Denard Span and Joe Panik, who homered twice in the same game on Sunday, the first time he’s achieved that feat in his major league career. Span’s hit .346 in August, boosting his overall average to .277.

Jarrett Parker was promoted and replaced Pence in right field on Sunday. If Pence needs more time, Parker becomes the starter. With Parker it’s big (nine extra base hits, 19 walks) or insignificant (38 strikeouts in 114 official at-bats) further highlighting the tenuous position of the club as a whole.

With Law removed from the bullpen, someone else needs to get hot. If it’s hot as Law was (most recent 11 innings, 0.79 ERA) then it will be significant. Will Smith, Sergio Romo and Hunter Strickland are the likeliest candidates to heat up, but if one of those three falls off, that could be just as telling.

On Tuesday, the Giants welcome the Diamondbacks with Zach Greinke facing Johnny Cueto in a matchup of double-digit winners at 7:15pm.