Giants concerned, not panicking after sweep

Giants concerned, not panicking after sweep

CHICAGO -- Concession speeches have mostly vanished from the Giants' lexicon in recent years. But after enduring Sunday's 2-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs, the defending World Series champions had to acknowledge reality.

"Simply, they outplayed us," catcher Buster Posey said after the Giants absorbed their first four-game sweep at Wrigley Field since June 9-12, 1977. Sunday's decision also concluded a distressing journey for San Francisco, which finished 3-7 on its three-city trip.

The series wasn't a complete embarrassment for the Giants, who lost three games by two or fewer runs. But their performances followed a pattern that hastened defeat.

Chicago scored in the first inning of each game, establishing immediate control. Interestingly, San Francisco entered Sunday having allowed the third-fewest first-inning runs in the National League. The Giants led just once in 36 innings, inching ahead, 2-1, on Saturday. Only one Giants starter, Jake Peavy, worked more than four innings. And he lasted just five innings, having to scramble after throwing 38 pitches in Sunday's rigorous first inning.

"It certainly wasn't the way you drew it up," Peavy said.

The same could be said for the Giants' fortunes overall. They led the Cubs by a game in the NL Wild Card standings and trailed the Dodgers by a half-game when this trip began. They now trail the Cubs by 3 1/2 games in the race for the league's second Wild Card postseason berth and were in danger of falling four games behind the first-place Dodgers in the NL West, pending Sunday night's Los Angeles-Pittsburgh result.

Asked whether the standings have become relevant at this juncture, Posey admitted, "I think it's time to pay attention to them."

Overcoming deficits in the standings will remain a challenge for the Giants, who are 0-4 in a 26-game stretch against teams with winning records.

These confrontations mean that they'll continue to face more elite pitchers such as Chicago right-hander Jake Arrieta (13-6), who surrendered four hits in 7 2/3 innings Sunday. Among the accomplished starters the Giants will encounter during their upcoming homestand, for example, are Houston's Scott Kazmir and Washington's Max Scherzer.

"He was crossfiring at 95-96 [mph], then with an 88 mile-an-hour slider, a 91-93 cutter and a hard curveball," Posey said, describing Arrieta's formidable repertoire. "That's probably some of the best stuff out there."

The Giants still generated multiple scoring opportunities but went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Their frustration mounted as the afternoon lengthened. Hunter Pence ended the eighth inning with a drive to deep right-center that fell several feet short of being a three-run homer. San Francisco loaded the bases with nobody out in the ninth before Cubs closer Hector Rondon fanned pinch-hitter Hector Sanchez and Angel Pagan and slipped a called third strike past Gregor Blanco on a 3-2 pitch, which the Giants believed missed the strike zone.

Peavy, whose arrival last year from Boston accelerated the Giants' surge toward the postseason, spoke bravely.

"Even with getting swept here," he said, "there's nobody panicking."

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.