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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Weak bats undermining strong-armed Giants' title defense


Watching the Giants office has been difficult for Bruce Bochy and Co. this season. (AP)  
Watching the Giants office has been difficult for Bruce Bochy and Co. this season. (AP)  

SAN DIEGO -- They tried "Fear the Beard" again. But really, you know how too much of a good thing so often turns out.

Fear the Sequel.

The 2011 Giants (Aubrey) Huff'd and puffed did their darnedest to make their follow-up just as thrilling, touching and cinematic as their classic 2010 World Series run. Yet as the season melts away, The Franchise has become the franchise. Barely even suitable for cable, let alone prime time.

"Different factors, different team, different year, different kinds of pressures," Tim Lincecum says. "Those are the main things.

"We haven't sustained any winning streak to feed off of."

What has been going on inside of Brian Wilson's beard has not been pretty. Not only has he been on ice since straining his right elbow in mid-August, now October is close to freezing out the Giants.

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To their credit, they took it as far as they could this summer. And as Arizona verges on running away and hiding in the NL West, maybe what we should be doing is appreciating these 2011 Giants for what they were (overachievers) than for what they almost certainly will not be (repeat World Series champs).

Seriously, the fact that this collection of non-bats led the NL West for 81 days this summer -- and was in first place as late as Aug. 9 -- quite simply is a remarkable achievement. No way should a lineup that ranks 16th in the NL in runs scored -- and 29th in the majors -- have sustained a first-place standing that long.

That's not all: The Giants also rank dead last in the NL in batting average, hits and on-base percentage. They're 15th in total bases and slugging percentage. Yikes.

"We're like, 'What's going on?' "says outfielder Andres Torres, who is hitting .223 this summer after hitting .268 last (and whose on-base percentage has dipped to .309 from .343). "It feels different. It feels different when you're not winning."

Maybe Lincecum isn't in the middle of the Cy Young conversation and Jonathan Sanchez has been hurt for much of the year and Barry Zito's biggest contribution remains coining Pablo Sandoval's "Kung Fu Panda" moniker, but San Francisco's rotation in 2011 remains exactly where it was in 2010: Second in the NL (3.26 ERA this year, 3.54 last).

It's a shame to waste all of that brilliant pitching.

"I feel bad because I know I can help my team do better," Torres continues. "I can do my job better."

Torres isn't the Lone Ranger. It's not like Pat Burrell (.234, seven home runs, 21 RBI), Huff (.241, 12, 55) or even Cody Ross (.238, 12, 47) have torn it up. Freddy Sanchez, as usual, is hurt. The Giants last week reached a breaking point with Miguel Tejada and Aaron Rowand and released them.

Take your pick as to the exact moment the Giants flatlined: May 25, when Buster Posey was mowed down at the plate and lost for the season? Mid-August, when they limped through a 4-6 trip to Florida, Atlanta and Houston?

Last weekend, when, in a home series the Giants had to have, Arizona drilled them in two of three?

"We've been in a good spot, then we have a little down period, then a good spot then another little down period," starter Matt Cain says. "We had such a bad down period last month."

The Giants went 11-18 in August, their only losing month this season.

Truthfully, offer any theories you wish, but that's when the extended absence of Posey finally exposed them.

"Once we lost him, I thought the guys bounced back fairly well," manager Bruce Bochy says. "We held our own. Our catchers were not going to hit for the numbers Buster did. That's what we were missing.

"[Then] as a group, we started struggling. You have innings where you hope somewhere else, some guys pick it up. And that didn't happen.

"I think it caught up with us."

Obviously, losing a talent like Posey at any point in the season is crushing. But had the Giants lost him, say, on Aug. 30, though, maybe they could have patch-worked things together short-term. Losing him on May 25, though ... there were still way too many open-highway miles to cover ahead of them.

Now, each time a Giant crosses the plate it's an event, like a birthday party or a Beyonce sighting.

"We've had starts, all of us, where it's 2-1, and it seemed like we always won those games last year," starter Matt Cain says. "This year, we're losing them. Or giving them away. Maybe you don't get that line drive out you got last year."

Reality is, after losing Posey, even the Giants themselves felt like imposters atop the NL West.

"We were looking at it as we were fortunate to be in first place when we lost him and Freddy, not that we were expecting it," Lincecum says.

Now here the Diamondbacks are, three weeks from snatching the NL West crown.

The Giants know they've got three more cracks at the Snakes, in Arizona, on the season's final weekend. But they also know, as things stand now, without a few runs, they won't even be close enough to make it matter.

"It's still not out of the question to make the playoffs," Ross says. "Look at the Phillies in '07. They beat the Mets when they were seven down with 17 to go."

Sounds like more of a prayer than a plan.


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