SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants' 5-3 loss Friday night to the San Diego Padres was wholly forgettable, but not to Eric Hacker.Having made all but five of his 166 professional appearances in the Minor Leagues, Hacker finally received his first Major League start. He didn't dazzle, but nor did he disappoint. Filling a one-time-only vacancy in the rotation created by last Sunday's rainout and Monday's subsequent doubleheader at New York, Hacker surrendered three runs and eight hits while striking out seven in six innings. By definition, that's a quality start. "It was very rewarding," Hacker said. "The experience was great. Playing before these fans is awesome. I'm really kind of lost for words, to be honest with you. I'm very thankful for the opportunity. It's a long time coming." Unfortunately for Hacker, quality was mostly lacking from the rest of the Giants' performance. They again floundered offensively with runners in scoring position, going 1-for-9 in those situations. In the Giants' last 12 games, they're hitting .165 (18-for-109) with runners in scoring position.
"We're kind of sputtering right now offensively," manager Bruce Bochy said.Left-hander Jeremy Affeldt surrendered a pair of seventh-inning runs, precisely when keeping the score closer might have tested the last-place Padres' nerves.
"The bullpen's not consistent enough to win these close ballgames," Bochy said.Citing the Giants' assets as well as their faults, Bochy summed up his club by stating, "That's why we're .500 [10-10]." At least the Giants learned that if circumstances force them to summon another starter, they can rely on Hacker, who turned pro after the Yankees selected him in the 23rd round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft. Since then, he has toiled in four organizations, compiling a 63-44 record almost exclusively as a starter. Yet none of his employers saw fit to give him the ball to start a big league game until Friday. His previous big league outings were all in relief. Moreover, Hacker might not receive another chance from the Giants for a while. He was optioned back to Triple-A Fresno after the game as the Giants recalled right-hander Steve Edlefsen to maintain their seven-man bullpen complement. Hacker, who won all four of his starts while fashioning a 2.19 ERA with Fresno, believed that he proved himself to the Giants.
"They know what I bring to the table," he said.He brought steadiness initially, retiring eight Padres in a row after yielding Nick Hundley's first-inning RBI double. But San Diego, which entered the game with a National League-worst .213 batting average, broke a 1-1 tie in the fourth inning with a pair of runs generated by consecutive one-out singles from Hundley, Yonder Alonso, Orlando Hudson and Cameron Maybin. Padres manager Bud Black implied that his hitters adjusted to Hacker's delivery.
"He was a little deliberate. It was a little bit of a timing issue," Black said. "But our guys became a quick study. We saw a slow breaking ball and he had enough of a fastball. We put some pressure on him."Hacker viewed matters differently.
"I think I was up a little bit," he said, referring to the elevation of his pitches. "I just tried to pitch to contact, tried to be aggressive in the zone, and a couple of balls fell their way."Meanwhile, the Giants were mostly stymied by Padres left-hander Cory Luebke (3-1), who won his third start in a row. Angel Pagan, who has hit safely in 12 consecutive games, delivered his fourth career leadoff homer, and Buster Posey guided a fifth-inning, opposite-field double that right fielder Will Venable nearly caught at the barrier. But those were Leubke's only significant lapses. "We didn't take advantage of the opportunities at the right time," said Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, whose third-inning single lengthened his season-opening hitting streak to a Major League-high 20 games. Posey christened the Giants' eighth against Andrew Cashner by clobbering his fourth homer, matching the total he reached during his truncated 45-game season last year. Posey lifted his batting average to .371 and his slugging percentage to .629, prompting Bochy to say, "He's doing what we know he's capable of doing." Bochy doubtlessly looks forward to the day when he can distribute that praise more freely.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.