PHILADELPHIA -- The most dramatic trip of the season couldn't have ended any other way but in extra innings, but this time the Giants weren't the ones blasting celebratory music in the clubhouse.
The Giants fell 4-3 to the Philadelphia Phillies in the 12th inning Sunday, tacking a tough loss onto the end of a six-game trip that already included four wins, two of them in extra innings. The Giants wasted a strong outing from Barry Zito and two homers from Nate Schierholtz, who earlier in the trip publicly expressed displeasure over his lack of playing time.
It was enough to possibly put a damper on the strong start to the second half, so manager Bruce Bochy made sure to deliver a message to his first-place team.
"Really it was a pretty good trip, close to a great trip," Bochy said. "We've got a few guys struggling with the bats, but we found a way to win two series. It's a good job by everybody, and I told them that after the game."
Bochy wanted his players to board the flight home with heads held high, and with good reason. The Giants took two of three from the Atlanta Braves and did the same against the Phillies, but just as in Atlanta, they failed to close out the sweep.
Zito gave up just five hits over seven innings but twice was taken deep by John Mayberry Jr. The former Stanford star tied the game with a fourth-inning homer and gave the Phillies the lead in the seventh.
"The changeup to Mayberry in the third
The Giants were able to match Mayberry with their own unlikely outburst. Schierholtz homered to lead off the game and hit another in the eighth; it was the second two-homer game of the season for Schierholtz, who lost his right-field job to Gregor Blanco shortly after the first one.
That frustration boiled over last week, when Schierholtz suggested that he might not have a future with the organization. Asked if he regretted taking his thoughts public, Schierholtz said, "No, not at all, to be honest. It's part of the business, I guess."
Schierholtz was never unhappy with the team he played for, just his role on that team.
"I've just been doing my best to prepare in case the opportunity comes to start," he said. "I try to put the team first and do my job and get on base. We've got a great group of guys that can go a long way. That's all that's on their minds and on my mind."
To get where they want to go, the Giants needed to start pitching better on the road. They accomplished that on the six-game trip, giving up just 18 runs. The final one, Jimmy Rollins' single off Brad Penny, brought home Carlos Ruiz for the winning run. It was a rare misstep for a bullpen that has a 1.80 ERA since the All-Star break.
Zito has been just as strong, throwing 14 innings in two starts on the trip and allowing just eight hits and three earned runs.
"To be the guy who is able to put up good starts and keep the team in the game two times, that was good," Zito said. "We want to keep the pressure off of (the offense) and let them know they only need to score three or four -- sometimes one or two runs -- and we'll come out with the win."
The Giants didn't hit the four-run mark Sunday, but as they return for a 10-game homestand, they feel better about an offense that's riding hot streaks by Melky Cabrera and Buster Posey. They also know they have a golden opportunity to widen their lead in the division, which was cut back to 1½ games after the Los Angeles Dodgers got an extra-innings win against the New York Mets.
"Definitely, we can gain some momentum," Zito said. "It'll be good this week to be able to gain some ground if we play well."
He might not get much more time to struggle. Bochy exchanged texts with general manager Brian Sabean after the game in an attempt to figure out how to get production out of the first base position. The Giants had hoped that Aubrey Huff could return Monday, but he developed tendinitis in his sprained right knee and left his minor league rehab assignment. Brett Pill remains in Triple-A Fresno, and the Giants have discussed the possibility of giving Pablo Sandoval more time at first base and putting Joaquin Arias at third.
Belt, hitting .231 with four homers, said the struggles are weighing on him.
"It's just mental -- it's tough to come out of," he said. "I've been here before. It's not fun."
Belt struck out three times Sunday, including in the 12th inning, immediately after a leadoff double from Brandon Crawford.
"You probably start guessing too much at balls instead of seeing them and hitting them," Belt said. "I'm pretty much just trying to get my mind right."
San Diego (Clayton Richard 7-10) at Giants (Ryan Vogelsong 7-4), 7:15 p.m. NBC Bay Area
Scan: Use your smartphone to access a photo gallery from Wednesday's game, or visit