Lackluster road trip leads to challenging homestand for Giants
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MIAMI – After a frustrating five innings in a 6-5 loss to the Miami Marlins on Sunday, Giants right-hander Madison Bumgarner was asked whether coming home to face the Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates – teams that own two of the best three records in the major leagues – could be what the Giants need to elevate their game. 

“I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt,” Bumgarner said. “It’s always good to play the good teams and see where you stand.”

In one sense, the Giants know where they stand. They’re yo-yoing with the San Diego Padres for last place in the NL West, their 68 losses already match the number of games they dropped last season and once again, they came home from a multi-city road trip without a winning record.

They went 3-3 on this one. They haven’t had a winning record on a road trip all year, unless you count one-city stops at Dodger Stadium to open the season and at San Diego to close out the first half.

They’d have to go 26-13 just to finish at .500.

[INSTANT REPLAY: Giants blow chance to sweep Marlins]

But in another sense, the Giants still need to figure out where they stand. They hit well enough to be a playoff team in April and May. They pitched well enough to defend their title since the All-Star break. GM Brian Sabean must decide how much of this club he should overturn, how much he can chalk up to a one-year aberration and where his priorities should be to upgrade the roster.

The Giants came within a Denard Span catch in Washington and maybe one more clutch hit Sunday from going 5-1 on this trip. Instead, their own center fielder, Andres Torres, wasn’t able to catch Jeff Mathis’ drive in the eighth inning. And it short-hopped off him to take an unlucky bounce that allowed the Marlins’ go-ahead run to score from first base.

Bumgarner might have allowed himself to get frustrated when close pitches weren’t called strikes, manager Bruce Bochy said. The Giants, despite 13 hits, were 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11. Catcher Hector Sanchez had an incredibly rough afternoon, was called for catcher’s interference on one play and looked dazed and confused when he allowed a run to score on a wild pitch.

It was an uglyfinder game. And those won’t work against the Red Sox and Pirates.

It’s important the Giants play better on this seven-game homestand, no?

“We’d like to think every day is important,” Bochy said. “Today, I thought, was big to have a good road trip. We got two first place teams coming in and we’d better be at the top of our game.”

Said Hunter Pence: “I think every game is the biggest game of the year. I try to play high intensity and get the most out of myself and be ready for each game no matter where the teams stand.

“We’d definitely like to be playing better and have more wins. It just didn’t happen.”

Bochy managed a lot of bad, payroll-poor teams with the San Diego Padres. He spent a lot of time managing in the spoiler role.

No wonder he absolutely hates that word.

But there’s no other way to describe the Giants right now. They have to be the best spoilers they can be. They have to know where they stand in these final six weeks. Until you get up close and examine the dry rot, you don’t know how much you’ll need to knock down.