SAN FRANCISCO -- Marco Scutaro's return to the lineup had AT&T Park buzzing Saturday. Scutaro's name was drowned out by cheers during pregame introductions, and half the sellout crowd rose when he sprinted out on the field, tapped second base with one foot and then took his position for the first time since September. Nearly every fan stood and cheered before Scutaro's first plate appearance, a six-pitch walk.
"It was a nice moment," Scutaro said later.
The rest of the day was another dud for the Giants lineup.
The Giants fell 2-0 to the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks. The shutout was their fifth in 13 games and continued a rather stunning streak behind Ryan Vogelsong: The right-hander is the first Giants starter since Lynn McGlothen in 1977 to get zero runs of support in four consecutive starts.
Vogelsong has a 2.92 ERA over his past four starts and has lost them all. He took the high road.
"It happens," Vogelsong said with a hoarse voice caused by a nasty cold. "It's kind of crazy it just keeps happening to me, but that's stuff you go through during a season. Like anything else -- injuries or not playing well -- you keep fighting and come out the other side."
The Giants have now spent more than a month looking for that other side. They thought Brandon Belt's return would jolt the lineup, but Belt got off to a slow start after returning from a broken thumb. He showed positive signs Saturday, reaching base three times, but the five hitters ahead of Belt combined for just one hit and one walk.
Really, that's been the problem throughout this stretch. For all the talk radio scorn directed at backups such as Gregor Blanco (who singled Saturday but was picked off first base), Joaquin Arias (1 for 3 in a rare start) and Hector Sanchez (lined out in a pinch-hit appearance), the Giants are scuffling mostly because their stars are.
Asked what the problem is, left fielder Michael Morse shrugged.
"I don't know -- it's baseball," he said. "We didn't get any runs. We've just got to keep playing hard."
Morse said the players aren't frustrated.
"The only people frustrated are you guys," he said, looking at reporters. "We're trying to play our best, man. We've got 25 guys in here coming in every day to play to win. There's no stopping that. That's what we do."
The lineup will get a chance to take a collective breath starting Sunday evening. After Sunday's game, the Giants will spread out for the All-Star break, heading to their hometowns or the beach or a favored fishing spot. While they looked Saturday like a group with one foot on the plane, manager Bruce Bochy doesn't want to see any Giants seeking a mental break.
"I hope they want to play and fight their way out of this," he said. "A break doesn't always fix things. The best way to fix things is to go out and play."
No Giant will benefit from the lineup's return to form more than Vogelsong. He held the Diamondbacks to six hits and two runs over 61/3 but fell to 5-7 on the season. The Giants' best rally came after Vogelsong had departed. Two reached with one out in the seventh, but the Giants failed to score.
"It's got to be a little frustrating," Bochy said of Vogelsong. "He threw so well today. What a great job he did. That's a quality start, with great stuff, and he's hitting his spots. We just couldn't get him support."
The shutout was the 10th of the season for a lineup that is now nearly whole. Only leadoff hitter Angel Pagan remains on the disabled list, and the Giants might not have him back for several weeks. They'll have to find their way out of this slump without Pagan, and Scutaro hopes to be a part of the solution. He was 0 for 3 Saturday but drew a walk and never appeared restricted. One of the lone highlights of the day was Scutaro's glove-flip to first for an out in the second inning.
"He looked fine for the first game back," Bochy said. "It looked like he saw the ball well. He got a walk. You can't expect too much the first game back, but I thought he looked fine."
Scutaro said his back tightened up late in the game, but he expected that to happen.
"It was good," he said. "It was nice to be back."
Scutaro won't know until Sunday morning if he can start a second straight game, and the Giants expect that to be the case going forward. Bochy will check with Scutaro every day, and when he can play he will. That means he now joins a slumping group trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel.
"Everyone knows that as a team it's almost impossible to play the way we've been playing for six months," Scutaro said. "You stay strong and stay together as a team. You keep fighting. It's a marathon, not a sprint."