Clutch hit elusive during Giants' slump

Clutch hit elusive during Giants' slump

SAN FRANCISCO -- As the Giants' fortunes have swung manically from one extreme to the other, their hitting in crucial situations has followed suit.

San Francisco's hitters continued to struggle in the clutch during Tuesday night's 7-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Giants went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, bringing their two-game series total to 2-for-21. During their four-game losing streak, the Giants are 4-for-31 (.129) with runners in scoring position -- far off the pace of their charmed performance in May, when they spent most of the month batting .300 or above in those situations.

Thriving with men on base and two outs typified the Giants' surge.

"That's what wins ballgames for you," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

These days, the lack of two-out hits has characterized the club's collective slump. It accounted for their inflated total of 11 runners left on base Tuesday.

The Giants experienced plenty of "almosts" against Pittsburgh starter A.J. Burnett, who entered the game with an imposing 1.81 ERA before allowing the Giants four runs and eight hits in five innings. It could have been more.

Hunter Pence scorched a ground ball directly to shortstop with runners on first and second base to end the second inning. Similarly, Buster Posey concluded the fourth inning by lining out to short wiih men on second and third. Joe Panik, who has hit safely in 16 consecutive games at AT&T Park, grounded into a force play with the bases loaded in the eighth.

"We needed a hit and not too long ago we got it," Bochy said. "But, you know, we're seeing some good pitching and when they're making pitches, you're not always going to get them. It seems like they go in streaks."

For the second straight night, the Giants jumped ahead with a pair of first-inning runs.

"That's what you try to do, but it doesn't always work out," Bochy said.

In fact, the Giants' penchant for winning when scoring first has at least temporarily deserted them, though they still own an enviable 24-11 record when that happens.

In that opening inning, Nori Aoki, Pence and Posey stroked opposite-field hits. It seemed like a shrewd plan against the potentially dominant Burnett. But that happened to be coincidental.

"It was nothing that we got together before the game and talked about," Posey said.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.