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MIA@SF: Blanco goes 3-for-3 against the Marlins

SAN FRANCISCO -- Twenty-five games into the regular season is no time for a ballclub to yield to absolute despair. But the Giants had every reason Thursday to imagine that they're short on luck. Or skill.

Their day began with the news that third baseman Pablo Sandoval, their biggest power threat and run producer, would miss four to six weeks with a broken hamate bone in his left hand. Then the Giants played the Miami Marlins. Shortstop Brandon Crawford perpetuated San Francisco's season-long defensive woes by christening the game with a fielding error that led to an unearned run. That accompanied what has become a typical offensive performance by the Giants: poor situational hitting and an 0-for-5 effort with runners in scoring position.

The result: a third consecutive one-run loss to the Marlins, who triumphed, 3-2, and completed a series sweep. The Giants fell to 2-4 on their nine-game homestand while losing their sixth game in a row to the Marlins at AT&T Park.

Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong (0-2) pitched respectably, yielding two runs (one earned) and eight hits in seven innings. He had every reason to feel frustrated. Instead, Vogelsong maintained the sort of perspective that the rest of the Giants should share if they're to survive Sandoval's absence in particular and reverse their fortunes in general.

"It's hard to say this, but we've been here before," Vogelsong said, referring to Sandoval's right hamate bone fracture that cost him 41 games last season. "We have to find a way to win some games until we get him back."

The Giants went 25-16 during Sandoval's absence a year ago. But approaching that mark will be a challenge for the Giants if they don't improve their .197 batting average with runners in scoring position. At the very least, they must capitalize on the meager chances they receive -- which they failed to do in the seventh inning.

With one out, Miami clinging to a 2-1 lead and Giants on second and third base, the Marlins essentially conceded a run by playing their infield back. But Marlins right-hander Anibal Sanchez (2-0) retired pinch-hitter Nate Schierholtz on a first-pitch foul fly to left field, when even a simple ground ball would have sent in the tying run. Sanchez extinguished the rally permanently by coaxing pinch-hitter Ryan Theriot's groundout.

"With Pablo down, we don't have the power in the lineup and that's why it's going to be so important that these guys keep the line moving and give us productive outs," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It didn't happen today, and it hurt us."

Then again, the Giants were fortunate to score the one run they mustered in seven innings off Sanchez, who's 3-0 with a 0.87 ERA against them in four lifetime starts.

"Anibal was Anibal," Marlins catcher Brett Hayes said. "He was attacking the zone. He was very aggressive. All of his pitches were in the zone. He's just nasty. It's definitely fun to catch when he's on like that."

Sanchez, along with fellow starters Ricky Nolasco and Carlos Zambrano, limited San Francisco to five runs in the series. That's typical for the Giants, who have scored three runs or fewer in eight of 12 home games this year. Thus, the Giants were swept by a team that hit .223 (23-for-103) in the series overall and .138 (4-for-29) with runners in scoring position. The Marlins also left 30 runners on base.

It's easy to conceive how the Giants can improve offensively. Gregor Blanco, the leadoff man of the moment who went 3-for-3 and scored both runs Thursday, served as an example. Blanco performs as if each plate appearance were his last. Maybe other Giants should do the same.

"I think we have to raise the intensity level a little bit," said first baseman Brandon Belt, who singled in each of his final two at-bats. "If you saw the intensity the last couple of innings, we have to do that from start to finish."

Vogelsong expressed a similar sentiment.

"We just have to concentrate on playing better baseball on every pitch and let things go from there," he said. I don't think asking guys or having guys try to do more than they're capable of [is] the answer."

All the Giants want Crawford to do is make routine plays. He has proven more than capable of making spectacular ones. But he couldn't handle Jose Reyes' scorching grounder to begin the game. Three innings later, Crawford mishandled Hanley Ramirez's grounder for his sixth error of the season. Bochy maintained faith in Crawford -- "He's going to get better" -- and Crawford himself sounded resolute.

"All the errors have been a little bit different. There's not one key I'm focusing on," he said. "I've never really been through it before. I'm sure I'll get out of it."

The next couple of months will determine whether the same goes for the rest of the team.

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