SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants fans have long used "Caining" to describe nights when Matt Cain would shine but take the loss because of a lack of run support. Chicago Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija had taken that lack of luck a step further in his first 10 starts, but he finally got in the win column Monday -- at the expense of the Giants.
Long relievers Yusmeiro Petit and David Huff were roughed up and Samardzija got through seven as the Giants fell 8-4 on a sunny day at AT&T Park. Samardzija snapped a 16-start winless streak, but little of that run had to do with the way he was pitching. He had 11 quality starts during the streak and took a 1.46 ERA to the mound Monday before striking out 10 in seven innings.
"What can you say? He's tough," catcher Hector Sanchez said. "He's got gasoline in his arm."
Thanks to a resurgent Pablo Sandoval, Samardzija gave up four runs for just the second time this season. But Petit, starting in place of Cain (hamstring strain), matched that in five innings. Huff gave up four more in 11/3 innings.
"We did score off a tough pitcher," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We couldn't hold them, though. It was an off day for the staff."
Coming off a sweep of the Minnesota Twins, the Giants looked sharp early. Sandoval continued his May tear, driving in the day's first run with a first-inning single and then crushing a low slider into the arcade section in the fourth inning. The homer was the fifth in eight games for Sandoval, who has an RBI in six straight, the longest Giants streak since Hunter Pence drove in a run in seven straight games last September.
The Cubs got an early solo homer from former Giant Nate Schierholtz and took the lead when the bottom of the lineup rallied in the top of the fifth. Samardzija is a good hitter for a pitcher, and he drove in the tying run with a two-out, opposite-field double.
"That kind of broke our back there," Bochy said. "If (Petit) gets out of that inning, we can regroup. I'm not sure if the pitch count caught up with him. He started elevating the ball."
Petit blamed himself for falling behind 2-0 to a pitcher. He had to throw a fastball, and Samardzija, a former star wide receiver at Notre Dame, jumped on it. He scored a batter later on Emilio Bonifacio's triple. Four singles tacked on two more Cubs runs in the sixth, and the Cubs extended their lead with two more runs in the seventh. The Giants (32-19) never mounted a comeback.
"It was an off day for us," Bochy said.
"I thought he looked good," Bochy said. "He felt a lot freer. He was getting his normal bat speed. I think he felt a lot more comfortable today and looked a lot more comfortable."
Sanchez is nicknamed "El Iman" after the Spanish word for "magnet," and he wore a shirt Monday that had a drawing of a magnet on the back. He has always been able to laugh about his strange tendency to take foul tips off different body parts, but after Monday's game Sanchez acknowledged that the situation is getting serious.
"We have to think about it," Sanchez said. "Almost all my hits are in the head."
Sanchez said he had two concussions in the minors but hasn't been diagnosed with one in his three big league seasons. He was tested after Monday's loss and also took a concussion test after a foul tip in Los Angeles earlier this month. He recently spoke to Posey, who suggested "getting smaller" behind the plate when there were no runners on base.
"I tried to do that," Sanchez said. "But I guess the ball followed me. It's something that's happened to me all my career."
Chicago Cubs (Jake Arrieta 1-0) at Giants (Tim Hudson 4-2), 7:15 p.m. CSNBA