SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants needed Jake Peavy to be perfect on Sunday, because the Giants themselves are so, so far from that these days.

And Peavy wasn't perfect; he isn't going to be perfect or a savior.

The best Peavy could do Sunday was to keep the Giants close in a game they repeatedly tried to give away.

End result: The Giants botched a series of plays, particularly in a very sloppy fifth inning, and ended up giving this critical game away to the Dodgers, anyway.

"I can get much better, and I expect to be much better," Peavy said after he threw six credible innings in the Giants' 4-3 loss to the Dodgers at AT&T Park.

"Got to pick the boys up there in the fifth. Got to make some better pitches."

But that's not who Peavy is anymore.

He used to be an ace, years ago; now he's a get-to-the-seventh-inning-with-a-chance guy, and that's what he did Sunday.

The Giants didn't play defense well enough and didn't score enough to cash in a starting performance like that, and they haven't for a while now.

So the Dodgers swept this three-game series and vaulted over the Giants to take a 11/2-game lead in the N.L. West.

So the Giants didn't get a sudden jump-start from their recent trade to acquire Peavy -- just in time for this game.

So all the Giants' other issues are still in red-alert crisis stage.

For instance, new second baseman Dan Uggla committed two errors, including one horrendous ground ball through the wickets in the fourth inning that led to the Dodgers' first run.


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Oh, and Uggla also went 0 for 3 with a no-chance strikeout in the bottom of the ninth against L.A. closer Kenley Jansen.

After the game, Giants manager Bruce Bochy stuck up for Uggla generally, but when pressed, allowed that Joe Panik will probably start at second base Monday against Pittsburgh.

There was more. ... In that fateful fifth inning, catcher Buster Posey couldn't corral two Peavy strikeout pitches in the dirt.

The first one put Dee Gordon on base after he beat Posey's throw; the second one scored Gordon when Posey threw to first to get Adrian Gonzalez without checking Gordon at third, and Gordon beat first baseman Adam Duvall's throw home.

"Yeah, it's going to take some time for me and Buster to get to know each other," Peavy said. "He's tremendous behind the plate, we all know how good he is.

"The more we're out there together, I'm sure we'll get a better feel. But at the end of the day, worked well enough together ... just not quite good enough."

The good news for the Giants: Peavy looked comfortable throwing in a Giants uniform against the Giants' bitter rivals, and his stuff wasn't bad.

He came into the game known as a Dodger killer, and while he didn't kill them on Sunday, he certainly didn't look intimidated, either.

If Peavy pitches like this for the rest of the season -- 10 more scheduled starts -- he will give the Giants exactly what they hoped for from him, whether or not Matt Cain can come back this season.

The bad news for the Giants: If they play like this behind Peavy, and score like this, they are still going to lose a lot of his games.

They are going to lose a lot of games if they play like this behind any starter, actually.

"I thought he did a good job," Bochy said of Peavy. "We made him work hard today.

"It's a tough game for us -- made some mistakes, gave them too many outs, and it came back to haunt us.

"But Jake did throw well. He had to battle through some tough innings and kept his poise and overall did a real nice job, I thought."

Peavy didn't bury the Giants on Sunday, and a lot of pitchers might have while the Giants were busily burying themselves.

But he didn't save them, either. That was out of his reach, and if things keep going this way, it will be out of everybody's reach by the end of September.

Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com.