ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Angel Pagan's last at-bat before hamstring surgery was a thrilling inside-the-park home run that ended a game. Without their leadoff hitter, the Giants have struggled at the beginnings of games, and manager Bruce Bochy said Sunday that it's time to make a change.
After a 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, Bochy announced that the Giants will have a new leadoff hitter in place for Monday's homestand opener against the Milwaukee Brewers. Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence are the candidates to replace the struggling duo of Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres.
"We're not getting any production from our leadoff hitters," Bochy said. "We're going to have to change this up here a little bit."
Blanco and Torres combined to go 0 for 5 on Sunday and are hitting .125 with five runs since the All-Star break.
Both Scutaro and Pence said they are comfortable hitting first if asked. Pence has made 32 career starts as a leadoff hitter and said he spent plenty of time hitting first in college and the minor leagues.
"It's fun to lead off and have a chance to spark something," said Pence who has hit primarily fifth this season. "It'd be fun to be in front of Scutaro, Pablo (Sandoval) and (Buster) Posey and maybe generate some spark. I'm kind of an aggressive swinger, and you can maybe set a little bit of a tone."
The tone has been missing since Pagan's departure, as the Giants have dropped into last place in the National League West, 12 games out of first. Scutaro would set a decidedly different tone from Pence but is more familiar with hitting first. All 680 of his plate appearances in 2009 came as the Toronto Blue Jays' leadoff hitter.
"I still have my approach no matter where I hit," he said. "I stay with it."
Bochy felt the Giants could no longer stay with the Blanco-Torres duo after a second straight one-run loss, but the bigger problem Sunday came from the pitching staff. The Giants walked the first batter of an inning three times, and all three runners scored.
Making his first start for the Giants, Guillermo Moscoso walked Ben Zobrist to lead off the game and gave up a two-run homer to Wil Myers three batters later. Sam Fuld, hitting ninth and batting .195, drew a leadoff walk in the fifth with the Rays trailing 3-2. He stole second and scored on Evan Longoria's two-out single. Yunel Escobar was walked to open the sixth and scored the go-ahead run on Fuld's two-out single.
Six Rays hitters opened an inning with a walk during the three-game series, and five of them scored.
"The walks got us," Bochy said. "It's kind of been an issue, and we haven't gotten away with it all year. You look at this game, and it comes down to execution. They got big two-out hits, that's the difference in the game."
The Giants didn't get them. Posey drove in a run in the first, and Brandon Crawford's triple brought two home in the fourth, putting the Giants on top. But Guillermo Quiroz and Blanco failed to get Crawford home from third. Posey and Pence later were stranded in separate innings after hitting two-out doubles.
The loss dropped the Giants to 3-3 on a trip that had the potential to be much better.
"We played well and competed, and that's all you can ask," Crawford said. "Our pitching did pretty well, and we played pretty solid defense, but we just didn't get quite enough clutch hits."
"I know he's itching to go," Bochy said. "We'll see where he's at after this start. He needs to get the pitch count up there. And it's hard to say this, but I'd like to see him pitch with more men on base, more traffic."
In Vogelsong's nine starts before he went on the disabled list with a fractured hand, opposing hitters were batting .419 with runners in scoring position. Bochy reiterated that he thinks Vogelsong's participation in the World Baseball Classic might have caused some of the early struggles.
"The question with the WBC is going to come up," Bochy said. "He did crank it up early, and whether that took a toll or not, you don't know. I don't know if anybody can answer that."
Vogelsong has thrown 11 innings in two starts for the Flying Squirrels, giving up 10 hits and one run while striking out eight.
Milwaukee (Tyler Thornburg 1-0) at Giants (Chad Gaudin 5-2), 7:15 p.m., CSNBA