SAN FRANCISCO -- So now it's back to the road for the Giants, and perhaps not a moment too soon, even if they'd only been home for four games.
An impressive 10-3 in their last 13 games away from China Basin, the Giants are an inexplicable 6-12 in their last 18 games at AT&T Park after a 7-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Sunday.
A plane ticket bound for Houston and Chicago might have never looked so good to Bruce Bochy and his club, particularly since the Giants are a combined 9-1 against the two worst teams in the National League this year.
But what's happened to the AT&T mojo? Things started promisingly against the Braves with wins Thursday and Friday, but the last two days -- both on national TV, no less -- the Giants looked like a team not terribly ready for a big stage.
They could have left town with a tail wind, what with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks having already lost before the Giants took the field for a 5 p.m. start. And while a four-game split with the Braves is nothing to be ashamed about, it was certainly set up for a better outcome after the Giants won the first two.
The Giants have won just one of the last five series in a park that has traditionally been friendly confines.
"Maybe at times we feel like we press a little bit more just because of the atmosphere here," said Tim Lincecum. "We know we're going to sell out, we want to show them we came here for a reason and give them
It certainly looked like Lincecum might be pressing Sunday. He delivered yet another fitful, frustrating performance, requiring 90 pitches just to get through five innings before being lifted for a pinch-hitter down 3-0.
Moreover, he was thoroughly outpitched by veteran Atlanta right-hander Tim Hudson, who limited San Francisco to just five hits over seven innings in coasting to his 194th career victory.
Lincecum (7-14) needed 32 pitches just to get through the first inning, during which the Braves staked Hudson to a 2-0 lead. That added to Lincecum's horrid first-inning log this season in which he has allowed 25 runs in 27 starts.
Worse yet, nobody seems to know how to fix this, including the pitcher himself. He said he had no hint of what was to come warming up, but when he got to the real mound, he suddenly couldn't find the plate.
"I felt good in the bullpen," he said. "Sometimes that rhythm doesn't necessarily translate over into the game-time atmosphere, but you try to do your best to have an idea what you're working with. But today, nothing was consistent in that first inning."
The Braves gave Hudson (13-4) more cushion in the fourth when Juan Francisco crushed a home run halfway up the bleachers in center field, his ninth of the season. Atlanta added two more against the Giants bullpen when Paul Janish ripped a two-run triple in the sixth for a 5-0 lead.
Hudson pitched seven innings and allowed five hits with one walk and struck out three. In stark contrast to Lincecum, he just threw seven pitches in the first inning and threw a first-pitch strike to the first nine hitters he faced.
"Pretty stellar," said Lincecum. "Good late movement on his sinker, and he was hitting all of his spots."
A pitcher with a record of 133-3 when given a three-run lead (with 26 no-decisions), Hudson had only one rough inning, the seventh, when Buster Posey and Hunter Pence opened with singles and Gregor Blanco drew a one-out walk to load the bases. Brandon Crawford hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Posey, but pinch-hitter Brandon Belt grounded out to end threat.
Atlanta put it fully out of reach in the top of the ninth when Jason Heyward launched his 24th home run onto the right-field pavilion -- his sixth homer and 12th RBI in 10 career games at AT&T -- and Freddie Freeman followed with a long homer to center, his 18th. Both blasts were struck against struggling reliever Clay Hensley.
Bochy admitted the club has played significantly better away from home of late but maintained the Giants had best be wary despite the way they've handled the hapless Astros and Cubs this season.
"It's important we play our best ball, it doesn't matter who we're playing," he said. "We've been pretty good on the road, and hopefully we can continue that, but we have to pitch and start swinging the bats better."
That doesn't seem to be a problem on the road. The club is hitting a robust .271 with 58 home runs compared with just .258 with 20 homers at AT&T. In this series, the Braves hit seven home runs, the Giants none.
So are they better off away from home at this point?
"I don't really think it has anything to do with it," said Crawford. "We won the first two games by picking up runs. We just didn't get the next two. That's just the way it is sometimes, whether we're on the road or at home."
Giants (Matt Cain 13-5) at Houston (Bud Norris 5-11), 5:05 p.m. CSNBA
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N.L. West Standings
Giants 71 57 .555 --
L.A. Dodgers 69 59 .539 2