Programming note: Diamondbacks-Giants coverage starts Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. with Giants Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
DETROIT – The Giants did not win their final game at Comerica Park on Sunday, as they did just prior to popping corks and cruising down Market Street in 2012.
But despite a 6-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers, they still took two of three from a legitimate World Series contender. And now the Giants will try to forge their own road back.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Giants lose 6-1, fail to sweep Tigers]
It begins on Tuesday. It runs straight through the NL West.
Six against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Seven against the San Diego Padres. And yes, six more against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who remain in first place with a three-game lead.
“Well, we’ve got to win the games we’re supposed to win,” said Tim Hudson, who watched a flat curveball fly off Miguel Cabrera’s bat for a two-run home run in the third inning.
You are supposed to beat sub-.500 teams. You are supposed to beat the team you’re chasing. That’s precisely what the Giants have left on the schedule.
Matt Cain is out for the season, Michael Morse has a bad hip, Brandon Belt’s return is not imminent, Tim Lincecum is finding himself in mop-up duty and Yusmeiro Petit is in the rotation. In many ways, they are not at full strength.
But they have a full measure of experience in these situations. Two years ago, they even found a way to turn Melky Cabrera's shocking suspension into positive momentum.
“It should be an advantage to these guys,” said Bochy, whose 2012 club won six elimination games to advance to the World Series. “They’ve shown what they can do with their backs against the wall. It’s about staying focused out there, playing the game right and the experience having done that is invaluable, I think.”
Experience is a comfort, but it only goes so far in the box score. Their runaway offense stopped in a shower of sparks Sunday, held in check by spot starter Kyle Lobstein and four members of Detroit’s shaky bullpen. They’ll need to ensure it’s a one-game lull as the depleted Diamondbacks bring left-hander Wade Miley, right-hander Josh Collmenter and right-hander Randall Delgado to AT&T Park for a three-game series that begins on Tuesday.
There can’t be any looking ahead to the Dodgers, who will arrive for a three-game weekend series.
“I think we’re playing pretty decent of late, and the guys coming into town are the guys we’ve got to play good against,” said Hudson, who gave up three runs in six innings and exceeded 100 pitches for the first time in seven starts.
Hudson has played for seven playoff teams. He’s never advanced beyond the Division Series. The 39-year-old has made a gradual descent from fantastic prior to the All-Star break to merely serviceable in the second half.
In his first 17 starts, he had a 2.53 ERA, yielded six home runs, struck out 4.6 batters per walk and hitters had a .277 average on balls in play.
In his last 11 starts, he has a 4.15 ERA, yielded eight home runs, struck out 2.5 batters per walk and hitters had a .313 average on balls in play.
But other than one curveball to Cabrera, who was 6 for 12 with three homers in the series, it was a mostly clean outing. And he’s ready to provide the Giants with more of them.
“I feel fine physically,” Hudson said. “I’m as good right now as I have been in a couple months. There’s times you feel banged up but right now the little aches and pains are subsiding at a good time of year. We’ll need everybody at full strength these last couple weeks.”
Maybe they don’t have to hit .340, as they did in 10 games prior to Sunday. But nothing relaxes a team in a pennant race more than big innings and sustained rallies. And although the focus remains on catching the Dodgers, the Giants are still out in front of the NL wild card standings, separated by three and a half games from the Pirates and four games ahead of the Brewers and Braves.
Who knows? Maybe the Giants haven’t made their last visit to Detroit this year. Maybe they’ll need to pack knit caps for 38-degree weather again. After all, who could have predicted what would happen at this time in 2010 or ’12?
“Oh yeah, it should be fun,” Bochy said. “That’s what you play for. Now you’re looking at executing and playing good baseball. These guys have been through it. The only thing you can do is give it your all, leave it all out on the field and see what happens.”