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Cabrera puts the Giants on the scoreboard

SAN FRANCISCO -- When the Giants signed right-hander Henry Sosa as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2004, they might have expected him to win his first Major League game in AT&T Park. But they probably didn't anticipate that it would come at their expense.

Then again, it's safe to assume the Giants didn't predict a number of things about this season -- like owning the Majors' lowest-scoring offense, with only 447 runs in 131 games, or trailing the D-backs by three games in the National League West in late August.

That offense once again struggled to get anything going Thursday night against Sosa, the former Giants farmhand who was traded in last month's Jeff Keppinger deal. Sosa allowed only one run in six innings, beating Ryan Vogelsong and the Giants, 3-1, in AT&T Park.

"He ended up pitching a nice game there for them," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We just didn't keep the line moving. That's what's hurting us right now. We just need somebody to get a hit. We've been talking about this for a while."

Bochy has run out plenty of different lineups, moved players up and down the order and continued to encourage his hitters. But, from the way he spoke after Thursday's loss, the time for tinkering is just about over. At this point, the Giants have to find a way to score.

"We're trying things. Why not do a lot of things? We're trying different things," Bochy said. "We've had different leadoff hitters. You mix things up, which we have. We've had injuries. We've had different lineups. You have to ask: What else can we do different? These guys are going to have to go out there and swing the bats. We had a good lineup out there."

Sosa wasn't untouchable, giving up four hits and three walks while striking out three batters, but Vogelsong wasn't the shutdown pitcher he has been at home for much of the season, either. Vogelsong was probably good enough to win, though, throwing a season-high 117 pitches in 7 1/3 innings and allowing three runs on six hits and four walks with four strikeouts.

"The way he went after hitters was very impressive," Astros manager Brad Mills said of Sosa. "The first couple of times out, maybe he was just trying to get his feet wet and kind of feeling for it a little bit, but tonight he wasn't feeling for it. We saw the arm everybody had seen at Double-A and had heard about, and he went after the guys with all of his pitches. It was very impressive."

San Francisco's woes with runners in scoring position are well-documented at this point; the Giants entered the game batting a Major League-worst .219 in those situations. But they had few opportunities to improve on that on Thursday, finishing just 0-for-3 as they scuffled through the night and often squandered their few opportunities on the basepaths.

The Giants had eight baserunners on the night. Two were caught stealing, and a first-inning double play by Carlos Beltran made short work of two more.

"That's basically how it's been since I've been here. We haven't been able to put things together," Beltran said. "It's not that we're not trying. We're giving our best. It's just not working right now for us.

"We're not playing good baseball. We just need to find a way to turn things around. It's not fun."

The young Astros, meanwhile, used their athleticism -- and Eli Whiteside's trouble throwing out runners at second -- to their advantage. Entering Thursday night's game, opponents had been successful in 31 of 41 stole-base attempts off Whiteside. Houston got on the board right away against Vogelsong when Jordan Schafer led off the game with a ground-ball single to first base, stole second and scored on a one-out double by J.D. Martinez.

"I think it was pretty evident that I was struggling to make pitches. I was trying to get the ball where I wanted it without rushing myself. A lot of that was my fault," Vogelsong said, perhaps unfairly taking the blame for the Astros' season-high four steals. "I wasn't really giving Eli a chance to throw guys out."

The Astros pushed their lead to two runs in the top of the third when Martinez drove in Schafer for the second time, knocking a sacrifice fly to deep center field.

The Giants got one back in the bottom of the inning, though certainly not by pounding the ball or swiping bases. Whiteside singled to right field and moved to second on Vogelsong's sacrifice bunt. With Orlando Cabrera at the plate, Sosa balked and allowed Whiteside to move to third. Cabrera then grounded out to shortstop Clint Barmes, driving in Whiteside to cut the Astros' lead in half.

But Schafer continued his excellent night in the seventh, slamming a solo home run into the right-field arcade off Vogelsong to give the Astros a 3-1 lead.

From there, the Giants went down quietly, finishing another lean night at the plate.

But they will continue to remain positive, hoping their disappointing efforts will turn into consistent production -- the only way they can hope to overtake the D-backs and have a chance to defend their World Series title.

"There's no more options. You have to stay positive even when things go bad. It's easy to stay positive when things are going good," Beltran said. "We're coming here every single day, working hard, going to the cage. Guys are trying. We're all trying. We've been able to have good pitching outings by our starting guys. It's all about the offense being able to score runs."

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