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CIN@SF: Bochy on the Giants' recent struggles

SAN FRANCISCO -- While answering a reporter's question after Sunday's game, Tim Hudson looked up from his corner locker stall and scanned across the Giants clubhouse. Two-thirds of the way across the room, the Giants' main cause for optimism zipped his jeans and tossed on a neon polo shirt.

"Having that guy in center field is going to make a world of difference for us," Hudson said. "We just got to get him healthy."

Hudson was glancing at Angel Pagan. Pagan wasn't asked any questions following the Giants' 4-0 loss to the Reds; the hopeful solution to the struggling team's problems exited quietly. His teammates and manager yearn for an emphatic return to the top of the lineup Tuesday from their catalyst, who's been sidelined with a lower back strain since June 14.

The Giants lost Pagan to a torn hamstring last June and never recovered. This year's woefulness in his absence has been deja vu, and that continued Sunday.

The Giants' offense was almost as imaginary as the famed characters who were celebrated as part of Sunday's Pixar Day at AT&T Park. Their three-hit performance against Homer Bailey was just the latest disappointing performance in what's been a shockingly dismal June. Bailey, who pitched his second career no-hitter vs. the Giants last season, threatened to repeat the feat Sunday until Buster Posey rapped a single with two outs in the seventh.

After a three-game sweep of the Mets on June 8, the Giants sat atop the Major Leagues with a 42-21 record and held a 9 1/2-game lead on the Dodgers in the National League West. That evening, manager Bruce Bochy said he had "nothing to complain about." Three lengthy weeks later, a 4-15 record since has the veteran manager clinging to his team's formerly dominant ways after being dealt a four-game sweep by the Reds. Oh, and the Dodgers spanked the Cardinals, so the two rivals are tied atop the division.

"It's really unbelievable," Bochy said. "If you look at what's happened the last two weeks, you'd think we were 15 games back -- that's why we have to look at the big picture of where we're at, and not what's happened.

"We had that magic going early. We can't let these two weeks, whatever it's been, define who we are. We got to keep remembering how good we were and it can happen again. This offense will come around. We'll get a full deck here pretty soon, and that's going to help."

For the second consecutive game, the Giants wasted a wonderful bounce-back outing from their starter. Hudson's sinker once again sank as he induced 15 ground-ball outs and struck out six in eight-plus innings of two-run ball.

The Giants have scored 12 runs in their last seven games. Two-out hits -- once plentiful for the Giants -- have become a rare species. They struggle to reach base, but they've struggled even more to capitalize once on base, having gone 5-for-39 with runners in scoring position through this homestand's first seven games.

Entering Sunday, they were third in the NL with 77 home runs, but had hit just eight in their last 20 games and seven in their last 17 home games. Team leader Michael Morse (13 homers) hasn't homered since June 5 at Cincinnati and hasn't blasted one at AT&T Park since May 15. The power outage has helped expedite the timetable for Brandon Belt's return. The first baseman hit nine home runs in 35 games before breaking his left thumb May 9.

"We got them at the right time, I think. That's a really good team. It's still a playoff team in my opinion," Cincinnati left fielder Skip Schumaker said. "They're far from over over there. They have too good of a team. I'm just happy to get out of here while they were struggling a little bit."

Prior to this weekend, the Giants had never been swept in a four-game series at AT&T Park and hadn't been dealt a sweep of at least four games in San Francisco since the Pirates broke out the brooms in a September 1996 five-game set. Their latest four losses dropped them to 2-12 in their last 14 home games.

"We ran into as hot of a team as there is in baseball, and we're really as cold as any team in baseball with the bats," Bochy said. "We've got to be thankful that we're still in a good position and be grateful for the start we had."

Said Hudson: "Somebody needs to pay. We need to beat the brakes off somebody one day, maybe that'll get us going."

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