LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly could only sigh and shake his head when talking about the latest disappointing loss from a homestand chock full of them.
But this one was perhaps the most painful as the Dodgers came just a couple of inches from landing the knockout hit that's evaded them for much of the past week.
Nate Schierholtz's diving catch in right field robbed Jamey Carroll of a potential game-winning hit with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth and allowed the Giants to hold on for a 3-1 win Thursday night at Dodger Stadium.
The loss dropped the Dodgers to a season-worst five games under .500 at 20-25.
"That was a frustrating one," Mattingly said. "Jamey has a great at-bat there and guys keep trying to put something up. That ball is frustrating."
After Madison Bumgarner blanked the Dodgers for 8 2/3 innings, Jerry Sands followed Rod Barajas' bloop single with a double off the wall in center field for the Dodgers' first run of the game. Brian Wilson came out of the bullpen and promptly walked the next two batters to load the bases for Carroll.
On a 2-2 count, Carroll lined a fastball to shallow right field, but Schierholtz was in perfect position to make the play.
"I was pretty far in for the situation," said Schierholtz, who took a couple of more steps in after Wilson got two strikes. "If he hits one over my head or down the line, the game's probably over.
"It was risky. But I was confident I was going to make the play. So I went for it. It wasn't anything I thought about."
While Schierholtz celebrated his gamble, Mattingly was left thinking about more what-ifs and more what-could-have-beens for yet another time this season.
"They play him pretty cheap in the outfield and he stung that ball pretty good," Mattingly said. "If that ball gets toward the line at all, that ball's getting by and we win the game. That being said, it didn't happen, so really it just turns to frustration at that point."
While Thursday's final play drew the brunt of the Dodgers' anguish, that sentiment could easily have been extended to any of the previous eight innings when the Dodgers left six men on base and looked incapable of producing the slightest bit of offense against Bumgarner, who earned his first win of the season.
Considering who was in the lineup, small numbers aren't a total shock. With Casey Blake, Rafael Furcal and Marcus Thames on the disabled list, the Dodgers started three players (Sands, Russell Mitchell and Juan Castro) who began the year with Triple-A Albuquerque. And until Sands' hit in the ninth, the Dodgers performed like one would expect them to considering who was in the lineup.
"It would be nice to be able to get our people back," Mattingly said. "But we don't have them right now."
Compounding the issue is Andre Ethier's emerging cold streak. Ethier went 0-for-4 Thursday night to conclude a homestand in which he hit 1-for-25. But given all the issues affecting the Dodgers, Ethier's slump seemed to be on the bottom end of Mattingly's list.
"We've got bigger issues than Andre, honestly," Mattingly said.
Lights-out in his last start against Arizona, Chad Billingsley didn't pitch with the same dominant efficiency against the Giants. He walked a season-high four batters and hit another two.
"Didn't have quite the command as I'd like," Billingsley said.
But Billingsley managed to grind his way through six innings, allowing only three runs.
San Francisco shortstop Mike Fontenot gave the Giants a 1-0 lead in the second when he doubled home Buster Posey with two outs. In the third, Bumgarner led off the inning with a double and later scored on Freddy Sanchez's sacrifice fly to put the Giants up two.
Billingsley struck out Fontenot to end the fifth after the Giants loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batter, yet he couldn't pull off another escape act in the sixth. With Miguel Tejada at third and two outs, Sanchez added an insurance run with an RBI single.
The Dodgers caught an unlucky break in the bottom of the third when Carroll was called out at second after Castro chopped a ball back to Bumgarner. Bumgarner turned and threw to Fontenot to start a double play, but Fontenot fumbled the ball away when trying to flip the ball from his glove to his free hand. It appeared he never had possession of the ball throughout the play, but second-base umpire Jerry Layne ruled Carroll out at second, costing the Dodgers runners at first and second with one out.
The Dodgers stranded Mitchell, starting at first in place of James Loney, at third in the bottom of the fifth after Mitchell led off the inning with an infield single. The hit was Mitchell's first of the season.
David Ely is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.