SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants are grasping for something, anything, that can get their stalled motor restarted, and it would seem a stretch to think that one returning player could serve as a master mechanic right now.
But Brandon Belt, who has watched the highs and lows of this strange Giants team since May 10 while sidelined with a broken thumb, hopes he can provide some sort of spark of ignition that helps get his floundering team back on point.
"I want to come out and be productive right away," Belt said Thursday after the Giants' latest ignominious defeat, a lifeless 7-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals that completed a 2-8 homestand.
Belt will be activated when the team travels to San Diego to start a three-game series Friday. The first baseman was a huge part of the team's 42-21 start, and while the club's subsequent catastrophic collapse the past three-plus weeks would seem too burdensome a weight for Belt to take on his shoulders alone, any motivated new face will be a welcome one right now.
From manager Bruce Bochy's perspective, everybody in the Giants' clubhouse needs to put on a freshly motivated new face, from himself on down.
"There comes a time when you say enough is enough, and that's where we're at," Bochy said after his team concluded a homestand hitting .192 with just two home runs, one stolen base and a .140 average with runners in scoring position.
Things are so strained that Bochy altered his postgame routine, postponing his usual postgame news conference to meet with general manager Brian Sabean as well as a handful of players. Once he did meet the media, Bochy was blunt about all the nasty numbers of late -- 17 losses in their last 22 games, including a galling 14 of 17 at home -- but didn't anticipate major personnel changes beyond Belt, just a wholesale change in resolve.
"We have a lot of baseball left, we have time to get this right," he said. "But now it's up to all of us to try and get out of this thing and just believe it's going to turn. This is our group. They know that, we've told them that."
But how do you generate faith with all systems seemingly failing?
"You try everything," Bochy said. "We've shaken up the lineup. We've met. You stay positive, but hopefully we all kick ourselves in the tail here, too. That's part of it, to get mad at what's happened and do something about it. You can't wait for someone else to do it. You have to do it yourself ... including myself, everybody."
The Giants were hoping to salvage a series win from the Cardinals, but the day got off to a bad start when starter Madison Bumgarner (9-6) gave up a two-run, first-inning homer to Jhonny Peralta. It didn't improve much from there.
The Giants got a run back in the third on Bumgarner's RBI single, but St. Louis scored three runs in the fourth, two on a single by Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez (2-3) past a drawn-in infield, which signaled another loss to come. San Francisco cemented it with 11 straight outs to finish the game.
Watching it all from the sidelines, Belt is mystified as to how things could go so well and then so wrong. He's felt helpless.
"On both sides of the spectrum," he said. "When they were winning and looking like they were having so much fun, I wanted to be out there then. And now, it's hard to sit back and watch the team that you play for not do so hot. You want to get out there and do what you can. So hopefully I can go out there and help 'em out."
The Giants could use some sturdy pitching, too. Bumgarner against Martinez -- making just his fifth major league start -- would have seemed to favor the Giants, but it didn't turn out that way.
Bumgarner might have damaged his chances of the making the National League All-Star team with a second straight defeat in which he allowed five runs (four earned). The left-hander pitched five innings and allowed six hits, three walks and struck out six.
Follow Carl Steward on Twitter at twitter.com/stewardsfolly.
Giants (Matt Cain 1-6) at San Diego (Eric Stults 2-11), 3:40 p.m. CSNBA