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Shark's short start takes bite out of weary 'pen

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- It was only one defeat, and a respectable one at that. But the Giants' 4-3 loss Saturday night to the Athletics at AT&T Park was the kind of setback that will tax their pitching staff, and thus spoil their season, if they repeat it too often.

Starter Jeff Samardzija must prove capable of lasting longer into ballgames. He worked four innings against the A's, one inning short of his workload from his previous outing July 7 against St. Louis. The right-hander allowed the leadoff batter to reach base safely in each inning and never could find a proper rhythm.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- It was only one defeat, and a respectable one at that. But the Giants' 4-3 loss Saturday night to the Athletics at AT&T Park was the kind of setback that will tax their pitching staff, and thus spoil their season, if they repeat it too often.

Starter Jeff Samardzija must prove capable of lasting longer into ballgames. He worked four innings against the A's, one inning short of his workload from his previous outing July 7 against St. Louis. The right-hander allowed the leadoff batter to reach base safely in each inning and never could find a proper rhythm.

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"It's a process right now," said Samardzija, who has spent much of the season on the disabled list with shoulder trouble. "Didn't warm up quite the way we wanted to, but you go out there and do what you're going to do with what you got. I'm not making any excuse."

Video: OAK@SF: Samardzija strikes out Fowler in the 4th

Derek Holland again provided stellar relief, striking out five in two shutout innings. But the fact is that Holland's virtually a career-long starter. How long he can sustain his excellence out of the bullpen is anybody's guess.

It can be done, however. Saturday's decision went to Yusmeiro Petit, who thrived for the Giants in multiple roles during their 2014 World Series-winning season. Petit blanked his former teammates for 2 2/3 innings, striking out three.

Video: OAK@SF: Holland strikes out 5th consecutive batter

It's easy to excuse Tony Watson (2-3), whose lapses have been rare. Summoned in the seventh to protect a 3-2 lead, Watson yielded pinch-hitter Mark Canha's two-run homer that put the A's ahead for good. But the Giants must find a way to keep Watson and right-handers Sam Dyson and Reyes Moronta fresh. Each of them ranks among the National League's top 15 in appearances through Saturday. For any of them to maintain their current pace through the summer could be hazardous to their health.

Weaving rookie Ray Black and veteran Mark Melancon into the late-inning fabric would be one solution. Melancon has made four consecutive scoreless one-inning appearances, but hasn't yet pitched in back-to-back games. Black, whose fastball velocity routinely approaches triple digits, struck out the only two batters he faced.

"I'm comfortable putting him anywhere, similar to Reyes," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Black. "[It] just seems like he's getting a little more comfortable. I thought he had good poise out there. [There was] a lot of excitement in this ballgame and intensity out there. I thought he handled it well."

Video: OAK@SF: Black strikes out Chapman to escape the 7th

Adding a reliever through trade is another possibility. But it's a remote one, given the Giants' adherence to the projected Collective Bargaining Tax threshold.

Both teams opened their scoring in the second inning -- Oakland on Josh Phegley's sacrifice fly and San Francisco on Alen Hanson's single that followed Steven Duggar's double. One inning later, the A's inched ahead as Stephen Piscotty doubled, advanced to third on Samardzija's wild pitch and scored on Khris Davis' sacrifice fly. The Giants grabbed a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning as Gorkys Hernandez and Duggar doubled, followed by pinch-hitter Austin Slater's RBI single.

Video: OAK@SF: Duggar clubs an RBI double over Davis' head

SOUND SMART
With a victory Sunday, the Giants can extend their streak of unbeaten home series to 13. They've won 10 series and split two.

HE SAID IT
"It's over. At some point, you've got to let it go. I know it's frustrating when you don't agree with the call. The whole at-bat, he was frustrated with. Once he went out there and started arguing again, you're going to get thrown out. It can't happen in a game like this. He's a big part of this offense. Changes the game a little bit. Took a left-handed bat off the bench [when Pablo Sandoval entered the game]. I'll talk to him about it." -- Bochy, on first baseman Brandon Belt's fifth-inning ejection

Video: OAK@SF: Belt ejected after arguing between innings 

UP NEXT
The overall statistics that Andrew Suarez will take into Sunday's first-half and series finale are deceiving. Suarez, who'll start the 1:05 p.m. PT encounter for the Giants against the A's at AT&T Park, has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last six outings. His ERA in that stretch is an even 2.00. This will be quite a matchup of promising left-handers, since the A's will be starting Sean Manaea (8-6, 3.44 ERA). 

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, Jeff Samardzija