MIAMI -- The Giants lost their 68th game of the season Sunday, matching their total from all of the 2012 regular season.

Even this race to the bottom has included a few positive steps, but they are always followed by another step backward. The Giants felt they played well this past week, but Sunday's 6-5 loss to the Miami Marlins dropped them back to 3-3 on the trip through Washington and Miami.

"It was OK," manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's just an OK trip. It could have been a good trip."

Bochy said the same thing after the last eastern trip, a 3-3 run through Philadelphia and Tampa Bay. When the Giants take off for Denver, Phoenix and San Diego at the end of this month, they will still be searching for their first winning multiple-city trip. They have had just two winning trips of any length, taking the series-opening series in Los Angeles and a four-game series in San Diego just before the All-Star break.

The Giants' 24-37 road record is fourth worst in the National League.

With the first-place Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates coming into AT&T Park this week, the Giants had hoped to gather some momentum, and they were set up perfectly Sunday. Ace Madison Bumgarner was on the mound and was given a 2-0 lead thanks to Hunter Pence's first homer since July 13.

The blast traveled an estimated 459 feet and came two days after Pence offered that he was starting to get frustrated by his long home run drought. Not that anybody noticed any changes in Pence's vicious approach at the plate.

"It's hard to tell with him," Bochy said, smiling. "He's all-out when he's up there."


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After talking about the homerless streak Friday, Pence switched gears. "The main thing is not going out and hitting home runs," he said. "It's winning ballgames, playing good baseball and progressing."

On that last point, it's hard to tell if the Giants are moving forward. Catcher Hector Sanchez was Exhibit A on Sunday, reaching base four times in his second start of the series but also slogging through a sloppy day behind the plate. Sanchez was called for catcher's interference in the fourth inning, contributing to a Marlins rally that put the home team up 3-2. In the fifth, Sanchez lost track of a wild pitch, allowing a runner to score from second.

The 23-year-old admitted afterward that he wore down physically Sunday.

"It's tough, especially in this weather," he said. "I've had a lot of these days. But you wake up the next day and feel like you're 16 years old again."

To make sure that feeling is longer lasting next season, Sanchez said he already has lined up a personal trainer in Venezuela. He plans to spend the offseason getting in better shape. The Giants still believe in their young backup catcher's talent.

"What's critical for Hector is to keep himself in playing shape," Bochy said. "He's got to get stronger and keep the weight off. All these things are important for this kid. Sometimes we forget how young he is, so it's time for him to get in a routine and make sure he keeps himself in great shape."

Sanchez wasn't the only one kicking himself after the loss. The Giants left 11 runners on base and couldn't hold onto the lead after jumping back on top in the seventh. Brandon Crawford hit a solo homer and Pablo Sandoval raced home from first on Sanchez's double. But the Marlins scored in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game.

With the go-ahead run on first in the eighth inning, Jeff Mathis hit a low liner to center. The ball skipped off a diving Andres Torres and back into left field, allowing Ed Lucas to race home for a lead the Marlins wouldn't give up.

"The ball was bouncing everywhere today," Bochy said. "We gave up too many runs and missed too many opportunities, and it caught up to us. We let this one get away. That's the way I look at it."

The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for a team that has not won four straight since the first week of May. That stretch included a three-game sweep of the Dodgers. The Giants have not swept an opponent since. Twice in the second half they have handed the ball to Bumgarner with a sweep on the line, but both games ended in defeat.

The left-hander lasted just five innings Sunday, giving up four earned runs on five hits and four walks.

"It just seemed like every pitch I threw was a hair off in the wrong direction," he said. "I just struggled making pitches today."

  • Center fielder Angel Pagan will soon join Triple-A Fresno, Bochy said. Pagan has been rehabbing with the Giants' rookie league team in Scottsdale, Ariz.

    For more on the Giants, see Alex Pavlovic's Giants Extra blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/Giants. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/AlexPavlovic.

    Monday's gamE
    Boston (Jon Lester 10-7) at Giants (Tim Lincecum 6-12), 7:15 p.m. NBCBA