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SF@PHI: Schierholtz slugs his second homer of the day

PHILADELPHIA -- Sunday's 4-3, 12-inning loss to the Philadelphia Phillies concluded the Giants' two-city trip. But it didn't define their journey.

Manager Bruce Bochy made sure his players knew that he appreciated the 4-2 record they compiled on their sojourn by delivering a short yet sincere postgame address.

"We've got a few guys struggling with the bat, but we found a way to win two series," Bochy said. "It was a good job by everybody. I told them that after the game."

San Francisco's third extra-inning contest of the trip ended when Jimmy Rollins drilled a one-out single off Brad Penny to score Carlos Ruiz and break a 3-3 tie, denying the Giants their first three-game series sweep at Citizens Bank Park since Aug. 13-15, 2004.

With one out in the 12th, Penny (0-1) walked Ruiz and yielded Laynce Nix's single. That put Phillies on the corners. Rollins wasted no time, driving Penny's first pitch into right-center field.

"It was a pretty good trip. Close to a great trip," Bochy said.

San Francisco's pitching enabled Bochy to feel that way. The Giants compiled a 2.78 ERA on the trip, contrasting with the 4.85 road ERA -- third-worst in the Majors -- that they sported before their journey started.

"That's an area we talked about trying to [improve], and we answered that test," Bochy said.

Left-hander Barry Zito prompted the upgrade. He opened the trip with seven shutout innings in Atlanta last Tuesday, then finished it Sunday with seven more capable innings. Except for John Mayberry Jr., who homered twice, Zito tamed the Phillies while allowing three runs and five hits.

"My focus was a little off in the first inning," said Zito, who issued his lone walk of the game in that frame before Chase Utley hit an RBI triple. "Then I was able to make the adjustment and start throwing strikes."

As Bochy indicated, offense remains an issue for the Giants. They entered Sunday hitting a respectable .274 with runners in scoring position since the All-Star break, but went 0-for-9 in those situations Sunday. San Francisco wouldn't have forced extra innings without Nate Schierholtz's two home runs off Phillies starter Joe Blanton.

Though Schierholtz recently complained about his relative lack of playing time to the San Francisco Chronicle, he refused to repeat that sentiment after his second multihomer game of the year.

"It's about the team, not me," he said.

Several hitters thrived during the trip, including Buster Posey (.480), Melky Cabrera (.400) and Brandon Crawford (.300). But Angel Pagan (.200) and Pablo Sandoval (.200) were subdued.

No Giant struggled as much as Brandon Belt, who batted .050 (1-for-20) on the trip. Dropped to eighth in the batting order, Belt went 0-for-5 and struck out three times. He endured his final strikeout immediately after Crawford doubled to open the 12th, a hit the Giants ultimately wasted.

"It's more mental than anything, probably," Belt said of his slump, which has dropped his average to .231. "It's one of those things that's tough to come out of and you have to keep battling, keep playing. It's the kind of thing that I've been through before."

Though the National League West-leading Giants can't relax, given their 1 1/2-game lead over second-place Los Angeles, they can take comfort in their decidedly favorable schedule.

They'll play 36 of their final 67 games at home, where they're 29-16. Monday, they'll begin a friendly 23-game stretch that includes 16 dates at AT&T Park.

The Giants' remaining travel shouldn't be overly taxing. With this trip, they've finished visiting the East Coast. A three-game Labor Day weekend series in Chicago represents their farthest journey east. Among the warm-weather cities they must visit, two have ballparks with retractable roofs: Houston and Phoenix, so the Giants should be able to keep relatively cool there.

By comparison, the Dodgers play only 32 of their remaining 66 games at home. Moreover, their obligations include a challenging 10-game trip to Miami, Pittsburgh and Atlanta from Aug. 10-19, as well as visits to Washington and Cincinnati.

"If we come out on top on this homestand and hit August running, it'll be a positive thing for this team," left-hander Jeremy Affeldt said.

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