It's remarkable to consider that the Giants lost .346-hitting left fielder Melky Cabrera to a 50-game suspension for testing positive for testosterone during the month -- Aug. 15, to be exact -- and actually performed better without him. San Francisco is 10-4 since Cabrera vanished, moving past the Dodgers into the National League West lead while gaining 5 1/2 games, pending Friday night's Los Angeles-Arizona result.
Though the Giants maintained their typically capable pitching during August, the offense truly thrived. San Francisco entered Friday averaging an NL-best 5.47 runs per game during the month, a figure that dipped to 5.31 after the loss to the Cubs.
The Giants promised each other that one or more of them would "step up" in Cabrera's absence, and that they did in August. Joaquin Arias hit a preposterous .417. Buster Posey batted .371. Brandon Belt checked in at .349. Angel Pagan (.342), Marco Scutaro (.316) and Brandon Crawford (.281) also thrived. This offensive bonanza has been particularly noticeable on the road, where the Giants went 13-4 during in August.
Contrast all that with last August, when the Giants finished 11-18 and fell six games behind the eventual division-champion D-backs after leading them by two games when the month began.
As a result, the Giants have moved into a position where a defeat such as Friday's is annoying, yet not distressing. They're primed for the September stretch drive.
"It's a fun time of year," Posey said. "This is the time that you work so hard for in the offseason and Spring Training and the months leading up to this point. Guys are coming to the ballpark excited."
Despite trailing, 5-0, through three innings, the Giants generated some excitement against the Cubs. Led by Posey, who went 3-for-3 with two RBIs, San Francisco brought the tying run to the plate in the eighth inning but couldn't complete the comeback.
The Giants faced adverse conditions even before the game began. Having arrived in Chicago at approximately 3 a.m. local time after playing Thursday night in Houston, players operated on sleep deprivation at Wrigley Field. They also dealt with uncomfortable warmth -- the game-time temperature was 91 degrees -- that felt even more stifling due to high humidity.
"Today was especially a little more challenging, because the humidity was as high as I've felt this year, including Atlanta, Philly and Washington," said Posey, who bore the brunt of the heat as he squatted behind home plate wearing his catcher's gear.
Bumgarner (14-9) allowed five runs (four earned) and six hits in four innings, with most of his lapses occurring on two-strike counts. Alfonso Soriano drove in Chicago's first three runs, lining a first-inning RBI single on a 2-2 delivery before lofting a two-run, third-inning homer on an 0-2 pitch.
Bumgarner reacted by pouting, which was his most egregious mistake of the day. Soriano's 24th homer of the season ignited a four-run outburst for the Cubs, which continued when Starlin Castro singled. After Welington Castillo doubled to left field, Arias made an accurate relay home that Posey caught on a short hop but dropped as he tried to tag Castro.
"It didn't stick in my pocket," Posey said.
Bumgarner was slow to back up the play, enabling Castillo to charge all the way home as Bumgarner finally scooped up the ball and made a late, errant throw home.
"I was just acting like a baby and being stubborn with myself and it cost us another run. You never want to do that," Bumgarner said. "That won't happen again."