SAN FRANCISCO -- The championship flag was whipping in the wind Wednesday night, a reminder that the Giants did in fact beat these Cincinnati Reds three straight times last October en route to a title.
But during seven meetings this season, that magical run seemed as far away as the full moon shining behind the orange flag Wednesday night.
The Reds capped the season series with an 8-3 win, putting one last thumping on a Giants club that finished the night a season-high 71/2 games out of first place. The Giants dropped six of seven meetings with the Reds this season and were outscored 45-14.
The Reds had 15 doubles and 22 extra-base hits in four games, setting records for an opponent in a series at AT&T Park. They totaled 55 hits, the most by an opponent in a series in San Francisco since the Dodgers recorded 60 hits over four games at Candlestick Park in 1977.
"They pretty much had their way with us," manager Bruce Bochy said.
Throughout the season series, the struggles started with the starting rotation. Right-hander Chad Gaudin entered the night with a 2.23 ERA in seven starts, but like Tim Lincecum and Eric Surkamp before him this week, Gaudin wasn't even able to reach the fifth inning.
Gaudin gave up a run in the first on a double, ground out and sacrifice fly. After getting two quick outs in the third, he gave up a single to Joey Votto. The first baseman came all the way around to score when Hunter Pence and Gregor Blanco couldn't handle Brandon Phillips' single to right. Jay Bruce followed with an RBI double, and Devin Mesoraco hit an RBI single two batters later.
Opposing pitcher Mike Leake picked up the first of his three hits while leading off the fourth. After back-to-back walks, the Reds tacked on two more runs on a ground out and sacrifice fly. Trailing 6-1, Gaudin walked Bruce before he was finally pulled.
Gaudin had walked just nine batters in his seven previous starts but gave up five free passes on Wednesday. He was charged with six earned runs in 32/3 innings.
"I didn't command my fastball, and I didn't get ahead of hitters," Gaudin said. "They're good hitters. They have a solid lineup, and you have to get ahead and make them hit your pitch."
The Reds hit all kinds of pitches this week. Gaudin, Lincecum, Surkamp and Barry Zito combined to throw just 142/3 innings against the Reds as the Giants dropped three of the four games in this series.
In seven games against the Reds this season, the Giants' starters recorded just one out after the fifth inning. They totaled just 262/3 innings, giving up 53 hits and 35 earned runs.
As the Reds put together rally after rally, the Giants wasted their best opportunities to score. Pence tied a career-high with five hits, and his second drove in a run in the third, but Jeff Francoeur hit into an inning-ending double play with two runners on.
The Giants loaded the bases in the fourth ahead of Pablo Sandoval, but the third baseman popped up on the first pitch. They loaded them up again in the seventh but didn't score. Even Buster Posey fell victim to the runners in scoring position blues; he pinch-hit with one out but hit a check-swing grounder to first that turned into a force out at the plate.
The lineup had 12 hits against Leake but managed just one run. In the eighth, the Giants finally broke through on a two-run double by Sandoval that cut the deficit to 8-3. But after Pence singled, Brandon Belt struck out looking and Francoeur grounded out to end yet another promising inning.
The Giants left 15 runners on base, their highest total in a nine-inning game since 2008.
"The line just stopped moving," Bochy said. "We swung it well, but we just couldn't get a timely hit."
Chicago Cubs (Edwin Jackson 6-11) at Giants (Matt Cain 6-6), 7:15 p.m. CSNBA