SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants encountered momentum's most immovable roadblock Monday: The opposing starting pitcher, in this case Chicago Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija.
Overdue for a victory, Samardzija made doubly sure that he would triumph. At once the Major Leagues' stingiest and unluckiest pitcher, Samardzija limited the Giants to six hits in seven-plus innings and contributed an RBI double in a three-run fifth inning as the Cubs prevailed, 8-4.
"It's just one game," Giants left-hander Javier Lopez said. "I don't think guys are super worried about it."
Nevertheless, the Cubs emphatically ended the four-game winning streak that carried San Francisco to a Major League-best 32-18 mark heading into Monday's game. Entering Memorial Day with the NL's worst record, Chicago outhit the Giants, 13-6, to help Samardzija secure his first victory of the season. The right-hander wasn't untouchable, allowing four runs (three earned) to match season highs. But after enduring unprecedented futility by posting a Major League-low 1.46 ERA without a win in his previous 10 starts, Samardzija deserved a little bit of a break.
So the Cubs gave it to him in the form of offensive support he had lacked all season. Having averaged 2.25 runs per game for him, they took a 4-3 lead through five innings against San Francisco starter Yusmeiro Petit, who yielded ex-Giant Nate Schierholtz's third-inning home run before crumbling in the fifth. Luis Valbuena and Welington Castillo singled to begin the uprising, which accelerated with Darwin Barney's sacrifice fly, Samardzija's double and Emilio Bonifacio's triple.
Batting .130, Samardzija victimized Petit by jumping on a 2-0 fastball. "That kind of broke our back right there," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
"I knew he could swing well," Petit said of Samardzija, who still fed the Cubs ace a fat fastball.
"We've kind of grown accustomed to seeing that stuff with our guys," Lopez said. Referring to the rampant trade rumors surrounding Samardzija, he added, "If they decide to move him, they're going to have plenty of suitors."
The Giants, who have thrived by maintaining pressure on opponents regardless of the situation or inning, endured their own treatment as the Cubs scored twice in the sixth and seventh innings. "One of the things our staff does really well is attack the zone," said Lopez, who pitched a perfect eighth inning. "That's a good thing, but if you're not hitting the locations the way you want, this is the result."
Consecutive two-out hits by Castillo, Schierholtz and Barney fueled Chicago's sixth-inning rally before two errors abetted the seventh-inning outburst. Such shabby defense has been unusual for the Giants during their ascent to first place.
"It seems like poor defense goes hand-in-hand with a pitcher that's struggling a little bit," Bochy said. "There were a couple of balls we couldn't handle and that's part of having three straight innings where we couldn't get the big out right away."
That sufficiently backed Samardzija, who struck out 10 and walked none. He struggled only against Pablo Sandoval, who maintained his recent surge by going 2-for-4 and driving in three runs, extending his streak of games with at least one RBI to six. Sandoval lashed a run-scoring single in the first inning and drilled a two-run homer in the fourth, briefly sending the Giants ahead both times.
Sandoval has five home runs in eight games, compared to two in his first 42. He's batting .377 (23-for-61) while hitting safely in 15 of his last 16 games, lifting his batting average from .171 to .239.
But Samardzija adjusted against hitters not named Sandoval.
"I felt, in the first inning, they saw I had a good fastball," he said. "I was running it up there 95, 96 [mph] and I had a good idea they were going to start sitting on my fastball. My slider was great today. Big pitch for me -- backdoor to lefties and down and away to righties. Once I got them seeing the fastball, and maybe getting them jumpy on it, then I was able to get outs with the slider. It's part of pitching. You see what you have that day and go off of it."
Health, an ever-present Giants concern, remained an issue. Bochy said that Michael Morse fouled a ball off his calf and must be watched closely. Backup catcher Hector Sanchez remained a magnet for foul tips, taking one off his mask and another off his shoulder.
"I have to laugh so I don't cry," said the 24-year-old, who admitted that sustaining a concussion concerns him.
Bochy also was concerned, explaining why left-hander David Huff not only relieved Petit but also pinch-hit in the fifth. The possibility of replacing both Sanchez and Morse prompted Bochy to avoid depleting his already thin bench.