OAKLAND, Calif. -- Before the first game of the Bay Bridge Series, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy reminisced about a time not long ago when the Bay Area's two teams were widely considered the best in their respective leagues.
"They're firing on all cylinders," Bochy said. "We blew a gasket, unfortunately, and backed off a little bit."
The free fall continued Monday night. The Giants fell to the Oakland A's 5-0 at O.co Coliseum, suffering their fourth shutout in eight games. They've dropped 19 of 26 overall and currently look incapable of keeping pace with an A's team that had an identical 43-28 record as recently as June 17.
"It's honestly (a little stunning) with the talent we have on this team," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "We're just not playing well right now. We've got to figure out something to pick this up, because we're better than this."
Bochy continues to preach that the Giants need to "get back to who we were," but it's becoming harder and harder to remember what that looks like. A team that was so solid defensively for the season's first two months allowed two unearned runs Monday on throwing errors. A bullpen that was one of the National League's best early on can no longer keep games close.
More than anything, a lineup that was absolutely relentless in April and May now goes down quietly far more often than not. The Giants scattered just five hits against Jesse Chavez and the A's bullpen. They've scored eight runs total in eight losses over the past 11 games.
"I don't think you ever like your approach when you get shut out," Bochy said. "And we've been shut out too many times. You look at the last couple of weeks and feel like lately we've had better at-bats. But their kid threw well. They have a great staff, great bullpen -- and we had a couple chances there. We just couldn't get that spark tonight to push us across."
Against a patient lineup, Ryan Vogelsong did his best to keep the Giants in the game, grinding through one jam after another. He never had a clean inning but limited the damage early. Vogelsong stranded a runner in each of the first four innings and wriggled out of a two-on, no-outs situation in the third.
The A's finally got on the board in the fifth after a close call on a hit-by-pitch. Craig Gentry appeared to get grazed on the top of his right hand, a ruling that stood after a Giants challenge. Gentry stole second, went to third on Coco Crisp's bunt single and scored on a ground out by John Jaso.
Vogelsong hit Josh Donaldson to lead off the sixth and was removed after giving up a one-out single to Jed Lowrie. Right-hander Juan Gutierrez entered from the bullpen and immediately surrendered a two-run double to Alberto Callaspo.
"That's what gets your team going -- a big hit," Bochy said. "They got one with runners on first and third."
Callaspo's knock was the kind the Giants grew so accustomed to early on. Those rallies have disappeared over the past month.
"We were a team that kept the line moving," Bochy said. "We've got some guys cold right now with the bats, and it's hard to keep the line moving when that happens."
-- Marco Scutaro took a big step in his bid to return to the big leagues, starting at second base for the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies. He struck out twice but picked up an RBI single in his third and final at-bat.
Scutaro has missed the entire season with a lower back strain, but he told Bochy that he felt ready to return to the big leagues after making six short appearances for the Giants' rookie league team in Arizona. Bochy insisted that Scutaro go to Fresno for more at-bats and to make sure he can get through a full nine-inning game.
The Giants expect Scutaro to return in a part-time role after a few games in Fresno.
"We'd take that, as weak as our bench is," general manager Brian Sabean told the San Jose Mercury News. "We'll take the starts he can give us but more so his bat off the bench. That's the greater hope right now. I don't think anybody expects him back as a regular starter."
-- Pablo Sandoval missed a second straight game with a bruised left elbow but told Bochy he expects to be able to play Tuesday night.
-- According to MLB.com, the Giants agreed to a $2.65 million deal with Vanderbilt right-hander Tyler Beede, their first-round pick in last month's draft.
(c)2014 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)
Visit the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) at www.mercurynews.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services