Possessing a 56-71 record, the Giants appear destined to return to the sub-.500 realm. But that wasn't their primary concern.
The evening's most significant development for the Giants was Matt Cain's avoidance of an ugly injury. Cain was hit on the right forearm by a Gaby Sanchez line drive to begin the fourth inning but escaped with just a bruise, though he left the game immediately. X-rays of Cain's arm revealed no serious damage, though his status for his next scheduled start, Tuesday at Colorado, is questionable.
"We are fortunate, and he is fortunate," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "That ball was smoked. But he's tough."
Before departing, Cain's recent sharpness deserted him. Having recorded a 2.25 ERA in his previous five starts and worked at least seven innings in each outing, Cain allowed three runs and seven hits. Pittsburgh opened the game with three consecutive hard-hit singles in his first nine pitches. He then surrendered second-inning homers to Garrett Jones and Jordy Mercer.
"I made some bad pitches with fastballs and they didn't miss them," Cain said.
The Giants briefly revived their 2012 brand of baseball. Trailing, 3-1, they pulled even in the fourth inning against All-Star left-hander Jeff Locke on Marco Scutaro's two-out, two-run single -- the kind of clutch hit he repeatedly delivered through the stretch drive and postseason.
Pittsburgh's big fifth quickly followed. The Pirates loaded the bases without a hit off Guillermo Moscoso, who struck leadoff batter Jose Tabata with a pitch before issuing a pair of walks.
"When the long [reliever] has trouble throwing strikes, that's a recipe for disaster," Bochy said.
In came Jose Mijares, who surrendered Pedro Alvarez's two-run double and Tabata's three-run double. Even the inning's first two outs produced runs -- sacrifice flies by Russell Martin and Sanchez.
Pinch-hitter Brandon Crawford's bases-loaded, two-run double off Jared Hughes with two outs in the eighth inning made the score a little less lopsided.
Jones spoke charitably of the Giants.
"They have good at-bats," he said. "They battle up there, don't chase pitches, just weren't biting on Jeff's pitches. It was good to get some big two-out RBIs and score a bunch of runs to relieve some pressure off our pitchers."
Anyone still wondering about the depth of the Giants' plunge from baseball's elite should consider this: In four home games against division-leading teams, San Francisco has been outscored 31-9.
Some intrigue remains in the Giants' season -- for instance, the left-field competition. Amid the backdrop of Andres Torres' strained left Achilles tendon that landed him on the 15-day disabled list, Bochy pledged to use left field as a proving ground for the team's younger outfielders, such as Roger Kieschnick, Francisco Peguero and Brett Pill, whose primary position is first base. Pill started Thursday in left and responded with a 3-for-4 performance.
Pill said that he feels "pretty comfortable" in left, where he started seven games for the Giants last year. He has worked extensively in the outfield during batting practice to sharpen his defensive technique.
"As for the routes, knowing where to position myself, that's obviously better," he said.
With right-hander Charlie Morton slated to start Friday for Pittsburgh, the left-handed-batting Kieschnick likely will receive the next turn in left field.