Baseball / Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates' Neil Walker (18) scores a run against San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey (28) in the first inning on Monday, July 28, 2014, at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group/MCT)

Giants blanked by Pirates for fifth consecutive loss

SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Giants have leaned heavily on Madison Bumgarner in recent weeks, running him out to the mound for the final game of the first half and then the first game of the second half, and riding his eight strong innings last Wednesday in a game delayed 59 minutes by rain.

On Monday, the workload might have finally caught up with the 24-year-old left-hander.

Bumgarner lasted just four innings in a lifeless 5-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he nearly was knocked out in the first inning. The bats weren't any better in a fifth straight defeat, as Vance Worley needed just 100 pitches to throw his first career shutout. The Giants have totaled five runs in their past five games and have dropped 20 of their last 26 at home.

Bumgarner loaded the bases before getting an out, walking Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen and giving up a single to Jordy Mercer. His command was off from the start, and he missed high repeatedly. A deep sacrifice fly from Gaby Sanchez pushed a first run across, and Neil Walker followed with a liner up the middle that scored a second run.

Bumgarner appeared to have McCutchen picked off, but his throw to second was low and hit the reigning MVP in the leg before skipping into right field. McCutchen went to third and scored when Russell Martin singled on Bumgarner's 30th pitch. That sequence brought Dave Righetti out for a mound meeting and had long reliever Yusmeiro Petit hurrying to get warmed up.

Bumgarner gave up another run before getting out of the nightmare inning. He had allowed just six earned runs in the first inning all season but was charged with four Monday, his highest first-inning total since July 30, 2011. The 42 pitches he threw were his career-high for an inning.

Petit warmed up in three of the first four innings and finally took over in the top of the fifth. Bumgarner threw 90 pitches in four innings, giving up six hits and five earned runs. He had given up just five runs total in his three previous starts, winning them all.

Bumgarner's struggles put AT&T Park in a funk early, and the lineup did nothing to stir the sellout crowd. Worley, a Sacramento native, was perfect until Pablo Sandoval hit a single to lead off the bottom of the fifth. Mercer and Walker immediately turned a spectacular double play on Michael Morse.

Gregor Blanco led off the sixth with a single, but -- with the Giants down five -- was caught stealing. Joe Panik drew a one-out walk in the seventh, but Buster Posey hit into a double play. Worley faced the minimum through seven innings.

The struggling lineup could soon get a couple of huge boosts. Angel Pagan (back inflammation) is scheduled to go through a full workout Tuesday in Scottsdale, Ariz., and might then be cleared to start a rehab assignment. Brandon Belt passed his concussion test and should resume baseball work in the next couple days. Belt has missed nine games but hopes to return on the upcoming road trip.

"I feel good," he said. "I'm back to normal."

The process will be a bit slower for Hector Sanchez, who is also on the seven-day concussion D.L. Sanchez said he missed three weeks with a concussion in 2010, but this one isn't as bad. Still, the Giants will be extra cautious with a catcher who has taken an endless stream of foul tips this season.

"With the risk involved with a foul tip, it does take a little longer," Bochy said. "We certainly will look at it that way before putting him back behind the plate."

With Sanchez sidelined, Andrew Susac likely will catch Tim Lincecum on Wednesday.

(c)2014 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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