Instant Replay: Giants fail to capitalize, Reds rout again
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SAN FRANCISCO – Here’s the trouble with playing must-win games in late July:

You can’t just worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. There are too many games left on the schedule. If you run it too rich, you’ll flood the engine. So one day after a doubleheader, Giants manager Bruce Bochy felt compelled to rest his cleanup-hitting catcher Wednesday night.

The Giants had no trouble collecting hits without Buster Posey. They came up with 15 of them, including five from Hunter Pence, but 14 were singles and they somehow couldn’t string them together. The Reds made much louder contact while handing the Giants a dispiriting, 8-3 loss at AT&T Park.

The Giants fell to 7 ½ games behind the streaking Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s the furthest the Giants have been off the pace in the NL West all season.

[RELATED: MLB standings]

Chad Gaudin had his roughest start as a Giant while failing to get through the fourth inning; poor outfield play didn’t help him avoid baserunners or save him any pitches. But there’s no shielding or defending the way the rotation has performed against the Reds. The starting staff posted an 11.81 ERA (and gave up a whopping 53 hits in 26.2 innings) while the Giants lost six of seven games to Cincinnati in the season series, which came to a merciful end.

The Reds outscored the Giants 45-14 over the seven games.

How much louder was their contact? The Reds outhomered the Giants 6-0 over the four games and had 22 extra-base hits to the Giants’ five.

The Reds’ 15 doubles and 22 extra-base hits in the four games both set records in a series for a visiting club at AT&T Park.

Starting pitching report
Last year, the Reds and Giants rotations were models of stability. They became the seventh and eighth teams in major league history -– and the first since the 2006 White Sox –- to receive 30 starts from five different starting pitchers.

The Giants rotation has been anything but stable this season. In seven games against the Reds, their starting pitchers recorded a grand total of one out after the fifth inning –- when Tim Lincecum lasted 5 1/3 innings at Great American Ball Park. (Madison Bumgarner missed the Reds entirely, by the way.)

Otherwise, it’s been all early-round TKOs. Not even Gaudin was immune, even though he had posted a 0.77 ERA in his previous four outings.

Gaudin had his first rough appearance of any kind at AT&T Park, where he had been 1-1 with a 0.55 ERA in 14 games (3 starts) this season.

The right-hander was not sharp. But poor play and missed catches in the outfield cost him a lot of pitches in addition to extra baserunners.

The Reds scored a run in the first inning when Shin-Soo Choo doubled and scored on Joey Votto’s sacrifice fly. But the real trouble began with a quiet, two-out rally in the third.

Votto singled, Brandon Phillips followed with another single that right fielder Hunter Pence couldn’t cut off. Gregor Blanco, screened by Pence, kicked the ball for an error that allowed Votto to score. The official scorer initially ruled an error on Blanco, but changed to find Pence at fault for interfering with the play.

Jay Bruce stung a double into the right field corner and Devin Mesoraco hit a well placed RBI single to complete the three-run rally.

The Reds loaded the bases with no outs on a single and two walks in the fourth. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval made a diving stop of Joey Votto’s ground ball and threw for a forceout as a run scored, but Votto beat the potential double-play throw by a step.

Even pitcher Mike Leake had three hits, although that wasn’t as bad as it sounds. He’s done that twice before and he might be the best hitting pitcher in the major leagues.

Bullpen report
Well, at least they didn’t need Yusmeiro Petit a day after he threw 5 1/3 innings in relief.

At the plate
Comeback artists all through April and most of May, the Giants’ palette has gone dry.

That was never more evident than in the fourth inning, when Scutaro drew a two-out walk to bring Sandoval to the plate with the bases loaded. Sandoval entered 7-for-10 with two home runs and two doubles off Leake. The situation couldn’t have been more ideal to dent a 6-1 deficit.

Sandoval popped up the first pitch.

The Giants even failed to score after loading the bases with no outs in the seventh. First, Jeff Francoeur struck out swinging. Then the crowd erupted when Posey came off the bench to pinch-hit, perhaps somehow imbued with the belief that he was capable of a tying, seven-run home run. Posey did much less than that. He grounded into a forceout at the plate, and Guillermo Quiroz took a called third strike.

The Giants didn’t have an extra-base hit until Sandoval lined a two-out double in the eighth. Pence followed with his fifth single to match his career high for hits in a game, last done in 2008 while with the Houston Astros.

But the Giants were 4-for-16 with runners in scoring position and stranded 15 runners -– their most left on base in a nine-inning game since 2008.

In field
It was a rare night when Gregor Blanco was a step short on almost everything hit to him.

The Giants announced 41,512 paid, and it would’ve been easier to just keep cheering for the team in road uniforms. Counting the Giants’ win in Game 2 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, when they acted as the road team, the club that wore gray uniforms went 4-0 in the series.

Up next
At least the Giants aren’t on their second century without a World Series title. The Cubs are, and they’ll arrive for a three-game series beginning Friday night. It’ll be Matt Cain (6-6, 5.00 ERA) against Edwin Jackson (6-11, 5.03), followed by Madison Bumgarner (10-6, 2.93) vs. left-hander Chris Rusin (1-0, 5.40) on Saturday and Tim Lincecum (5-10, 4.73) vs. left-hander Travis Wood (6-7, 2.95 ERA) on Sunday.