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Key error comes back to haunt Giants in loss

Sandoval's seventh-inning homer makes it close, but San Francisco can't close gap
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

LOS ANGELES -- A game such as the Giants' 70th of the year, which happened to be their 3-2 defeat Friday at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers, typically wouldn't prompt an analysis of where the club stands.

But now's a fair time to assess the Giants, due to the schedule's peculiarities, certain personnel changes, and the startling fact that they already have played virtually half of their road schedule. They're 15-25 away from home with 92 games remaining overall.

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LOS ANGELES -- A game such as the Giants' 70th of the year, which happened to be their 3-2 defeat Friday at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers, typically wouldn't prompt an analysis of where the club stands.

But now's a fair time to assess the Giants, due to the schedule's peculiarities, certain personnel changes, and the startling fact that they already have played virtually half of their road schedule. They're 15-25 away from home with 92 games remaining overall.

View Full Game Coverage

These factors actually provide some hope for the Giants (34-36). But they still must address, if not correct, the flaws that have marred their performance so far.

Injuries befall every team in every sport. The Giants have been unluckier than most. They have endured much of the season without three-fifths of their starting rotation and an infield featuring only one regular who has escaped the disabled list, shortstop Brandon Crawford.

"Our biggest issue has been trying to stay healthy," manager Bruce Bochy said.

Fortunately for the Giants, they expect to welcome back first baseman Brandon Belt on Saturday.

"We don't have anything official, but yeah, he'll be activated," Bochy said.

Infielder Pablo Sandoval said that before Belt was sidelined, "He was one of the best hitters in the lineup."

San Francisco needs more assertive efforts from its starters, which should happen once Madison Bumgarner regains his form and Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija return. They need more than the five adequate innings they received Friday from Derek Holland, who allowed all of Los Angeles' runs, including homers from Enrique Hernandez in the first inning and Matt Kemp in the fourth.

Video: SF@LAD: Holland strands a pair at the corners

Bochy praised Holland's ability to keep the team close in ballgames, as he did Friday. "I think he has been really consistent in doing that," Bochy said.

Holland would have none of that, however. "I'm frustrated that I didn't go deeper into the game," the left-hander said. "I gotta do better than that."

Overall, the Giants, weary from their 16-inning triumph and the accompanying cross-country flight Thursday, barely resembled the team that won six of their previous 10 games against Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers demonstrated how they have won 20 of their last 26 games. Ross Stripling won his sixth consecutive start, working 6 1/3 resolute innings. Refusing to create the possibility that the Dodgers might beat themselves, Stripling walked none. Los Angeles collected six hits, a total that won't win many games. But the Dodgers made them count.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Center fielder Austin Jackson committed an embarrassing-looking three-base error in the fourth inning when he had an easy shot at catching Yasmani Grandal's fourth-inning line drive but simply couldn't hold onto the ball.

Video: SF@LAD: Puig smokes an RBI double to right-center

"He catches that ball 99 out of 100 times," Bochy said. Grandal proceeded to score on Yasiel Puig's double.

SOUND SMART
Sandoval might be heating up at the plate. His two-run homer in the seventh inning kept the game competitive. It also gave him at least one hit in 13 of San Francisco's last 16 games since May 27. He's hitting .354 in that span with three homers and 11 RBIs.

UP NEXT
If Bumgarner is going to return to form, Dodger Stadium is one of the likeliest places where it can occur. The Giants ace owns a 9-6 record with a 2.31 ERA in 18 games (17 starts) at Chavez Ravine, to go with an impressive 0.951 WHIP. He'll be opposed by Dodgers lefty Alex Wood in the 5:15 p.m. PT start.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants