Matt Cain and the San Francisco Giants couldn’t have picked a worse time to be facing the San Diego Padres.
Eric Stults pitched seven strong innings to win for the first time in nearly two months and handed the scuffling Giants their third shutout in five games in the Padres’ 2-0 win on Friday.
Cain (1-7) and the Giants could be excused if they thought they had a chance to break out of their recent funk against Stults, who was winless in his last nine starts.
But Stults (3-11) held San Francisco to four hits with six strikeouts and two walks as he snapped a six-start losing streak. The Giants lost for the 18th time in 23 games as they continue their freefall in the NL West.
It was San Diego’s second straight shutout following Tyson Ross’ three-hit gem in Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Cincinnati, its third in four games and fourth in 10.
“We’re in a funky spot,” said Cain. “You don’t want to keep saying it because it’s been a tough time that we’ve been going through. But we have to find a way to do it. We have to do something.”
The Giants’ 5-18 record since June 9 is the worst in the majors as they have fallen out of first place in the NL West.
“It’s tough,” catcher Buster Posey said. “It stinks, plain and simple. We’ve got to do a better job offensively when we get a start like that. We’ve got to be able to score. There are really no excuses.”
Stults (3-11) was victorious for the first time since a 9-3 victory over Miami on May 10.
Cain pitched well but had little to show for it as he lost his fourth consecutive decision and is winless in seven starts. He allowed two runs on seven hits in 6 1-3 innings. Cain struck out six to become the fourth San Francisco pitcher to reach the 1,500-strikeout mark.
Alexi Amarista led off the third inning with his second homer that barely cleared the right-field fence. Seth Smith doubled with one out and scored on Chase Headley’s single for a 2-0 lead. Headley went 4 for 4.
“There are a couple of pitches I’d like to have back that ended up costing us the game,” Cain said. “I’m definitely not trying to hang a changeup to Amarista there. I didn’t do the job, didn’t get it done.”
The Padres won their season-high fifth straight game as they faced the Giants for the first time since they were no-hit by Tim Lincecum on June 25 in San Francisco. Lincecum is scheduled to start on Sunday.
Although Stults had lost eight of his nine starts during his winless streak, he had pitched well in his last two. He continued that trend against San Francisco as he allowed just one runner to reach third base. Joaquin Benoit pitched a perfect eight inning and Huston Street got the final three outs for his 23rd save in as many chances to secure the four-hitter.
“It’s nice but any W is nice in this game,” Stults said. “I can’t say enough about how our team is playing right now. We’ve been playing a lot better baseball in think the last 10-12 games. I think we are heading in the right direction as a team. Hopefully, we have made a turn here.”
Giants first baseman Brandon Belt was 0 for 4 in his return to the Giants lineup after missing 50 games with a broken thumb.
Notes: The last time the Padres won five straight was last season when they had a seven-game streak in June. … The Giants have scored two or fewer runs in eight of their last 11 games. … Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry and Lincecum are the other San Francisco pitchers with 1,500 strikeouts. Cain is the eighth pitcher in Giants franchise to reach the mark . … Giants RHP Tim Hudson (7-5, 2.59 ERA) will face Padres RHP Odrisamer Despaigne (2-0, 0.66) on Saturday.
Updated July 4, 2014