SAN FRANCISCO - A few minutes after a quiet loss at AT&T Park, manager Bruce Bochy was asked whether his team could go on a run now that the top three starters in the rotation are together for the first time.
That idea, one the Giants have clung to for much of the first half, misses a key point. This team is not 46-45 because of starting pitching woes. The injuries opened opportunities for Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez, and the two have exceeded any expectations the front office could have had, not just for rookies, but for starters in general.
This team is not a game above .500 because of starting pitching. It is a game above .500 because of maddening inconsistency, and that has shown throughout a skid that has undone the good work accomplished during a sweep of the Diamondbacks last weekend.
This time, the culprit is the offense. It often is, but this skid is particularly ugly. The Giants lost 3-2 on Saturday. They have scored just 10 runs in their last six games, losing five of them. It doesn't matter what your rotation consists of when you're swinging it like that.
"We've got some guys that aren't in a zone right now, so to speak," Bochy said. "We'll come out of this. You guys have seen how we can put runs on the board."
That's what makes all this so baffling. This group scored nine runs last Sunday to complete a sweep but has barely matched that total in the six days since. The Giants failed to take advantage of Coors Field or a couple of young Cardinals starters, and on Saturday that left them facing a tough test. Carlos Martinez is one of the best in the game, and the Giants got just one run off him.
On the other side, Jeff Samardzija gave up three over five innings in his first start since May 29. The line didn't really matter. What did was that Samardzija felt no irritation in his shoulder, which has bugged him all year. He said his first stint in the big leagues this season was about trying to "will" himself through the soreness. This time, everything was normal.
"The mistakes aren't because of the arm," he said. "They're just because of execution of pitches."
In an odd way, that's encouraging for both player and team. Samardzija's fastball was up a tick from his first go-around this year, but it's clear he's still battling rust. He said he's confident it will get better by the start, and Bochy agrees.
"I thought he was pretty good the first game back," he said.
The Giants will be better with Samardzija and Johnny Cueto back. At the very least, they have bumped others into lesser roles, and Derek Holland looks like a potentially valuable piece as a left-handed reliever. The pitching staff is fine, but it hasn't mattered during this slump.
The lineup couldn't get to Martinez, which left an even tougher task: Trying to come back against Jordan Hicks, the rookie who rests above 100 mph. Brandon Belt did smack triple digits back up the middle to cut the deficit to one, but that was all. Hicks maxed out at 102.7 mph in the eighth, bringing some juice to a ballpark that's been lacking.
"That's pretty impressive, isn't it?" Bochy said. "You see (Aroldis) Chapman, but it looks like (Hicks) is taking it up just a notch. That's a big arm. That's as big an arm as I've seen."