SAN DIEGO – Bruce Bochy had a hunch, and Chris Dominguez rewarded it.
But hunches and bright ideas only carry you so far through nine innings, to say nothing of a 162-game season. And the Giants’ lagging offense couldn’t extend further than Dominguez’s tape measure home run in an 8-2 loss to the San Diego Padres on Sunday.
[RELATED: MLB standings]
The Giants were swept in three games at Petco Park and the NL West is all but lost now; the Los Angeles Dodgers widened their lead to 4 ½ games with seven to play. The Giants also fell into a tie with the Pittsburgh Pirates for the top wild card spot, with the Milwaukee Brewers 4 ½ games back.
It’s becoming a near certainty that the Giants and Pirates will meet in the wild card knockout game. There’s only the matter of which bridge will be the backdrop: Pittsburgh’s yellow steel or the gray arches over the span to the East Bay. The team with the best record plays host to the game, and the Pirates hold the tiebreaker.
One other piece of updated math: The Giants need to win at least two of three in their series at Dodger Stadium, which begins Monday, to avoid having their archrivals clinch the division in front of them.
The Giants’ most pressing problem, though, is an offense that has scored 14 runs in eight games. Ian Kennedy became San Diego’s first pitcher to record 200 strikeouts since current Giant Jake Peavy did it in his 2007 Cy Young award-winning season.
Starting pitching report
Ryan Vogelsong has a 3.96 ERA in close to 180 innings, so he’s providing the kind of mid-rotation production the Giants hoped to get when they re-signed him.
But his season would look a whole lot better if he had managed to fare better against the NL West. He is 1-6 with a 5.53 ERA against inter-division opponents, and while two rip jobs at Coors Field skew those numbers, it’s hard to argue with just one win in 13 starts.
Vogelsong (8-12) did not pitch poorly against the Padres, taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning and helping himself by spearing a line drive at his ankles. But Seth Smith hit a leadoff double in the fifth, Rene Rivera singled to put runners at the corners and Alexi Amarista hit a sacrifice fly to give the Padres a 1-0 lead.
The end came quickly for Vogelsong in the sixth, following a pair of singles and then a hard ground ball that hugged the third base line. Sandoval made a difficult, backhand stop and looked back the runner at third base. He did everything right but the throw to first, which was wide for his third error in four games.
With Vogelsong at 100 pitches, Giants manager Bruce Bochy decided to turn Yasmani Grandal around and have him bat from the right side. Vogelsong walked off the mound trailing 1-0 with the bases loaded.
Javier Lopez could not contain Vogelsong’s inning. Grandal lofted a sacrifice fly to medium left field, and although Dominguez’s arm strength was as advertised, his accuracy left much to be desired. Andrew Susac received the throw 8 feet up the first base line as Solarte scored. With a base open, Lopez pitched carefully to Smith before losing him on a 3-2 pitch.
George Kontos entered and Sandoval saved an extra-base hit with a diving stop at third base on Rene Rivera’s grounder down the line. This time Sandoval’s throw was on target to first base as another run scored. Then Cameron Maybin lined a two-run single to cap the four-run rally.
Dominguez’s homer in the seventh made it a 5-2 deficit but the Padres tallied three runs on Jean Machi in the bottom of the inning to put the game away.
Brett Bochy, who grew up watching his father manage games in San Diego, was summoned in the eighth and pitched around a one-out walk while recording three outs.
At the plate
Bruce Bochy was in need of outfield production with Angel Pagan and Michael Morse injured and Juan Perez 0 for 11 on the trip. He pulled a mild surprise by giving Dominguez made his first major league start, and the affable six-year farmhand joined a rare group of big leaguers by drawing an intentional walk before he had collected his first career hit.
The Padres put Dominguez on base after Brandon Crawford hit a two-out double in the fifth inning. But Vogelsong extended the inning when he placed a single up the middle. He would’ve driven in a run, too, if not for Amarista’s diving stop to keep the ball on the infield.
Gregor Blanco flied out to strand the bases loaded. It was the Giants’ only sustained rally against Kennedy (12-13), whom the Padres pilfered away from the Arizona Diamondbacks last year.
Dominguez collected that first big league hit in the seventh inning after Crawford hit a two-out single. He took a 3-0 pitch and then pounded a 94 mph fastball that struck the brick facing of the Western Metal Supply Co. building beyond the left field stands.
Machi didn’t help his cause with an errant pickoff throw in the seventh.
The Padres announced 32,480 paid. For all the fan support the Giants get at Petco Park, they went 3-6 here this season and scored 20 runs in nine games.
The Giants begin a three-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday at Dodger Stadium. Jake Peavy (6-4, 2.16 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound against Dodgers right-hander Dan Haren (13-11, 4.14). First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. PDT. It’ll be Madison Bumgarner (18-9, 2.91) vs. right-hander Zack Greinke (15-8, 2.76) on Tuesday and Tim Hudson (9-12, 3.52) vs. left-hander Clayton Kershaw (20-3, 1.80) on Wednesday.