CHICAGO -- The Giants could not hold two leads in a 5-4 loss to the relentless Chicago Cubs on Thursday, and as he stood at his locker in a cramped visiting clubhouse, Hunter Pence did what you might expect him to do.
He ran a hand through his mossy hair and considered the words of a 2,500-year-old Chinese military philosopher.
"I think it was Sun Tzu who said, 'See victory where others see nothing,'" Pence said. "I remind myself of that mindset when things seem dire. I tell myself, `Where can I see victory right now?'"
Surely not from the flagpole at Wrigley Field, where the Cubs hoisted their white "W" banner yet again. It's a wonder it's not in tatters by now.
The Giants, now two games behind the Dodgers in the NL West, were left to lament their failure to dress up a lead that fell to their ankles with Addison Russell's two-run, broken-bat single in the seventh inning.
The Giants' last 18 batters went down in order. They ended the night with just three hits, none after the third inning.
"We just couldn't tack on. That was the difference," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's a one-run game, and you saw what happened. It'd be nice to tack on, but their 'pen did a nice job on us."
Pence provided the first of the Giants' two leads, hitting a two-run home run in the first inning, his second in 101 at-bats since returning from hamstring tendon surgery.
The Cubs took it right back while harassing Jeff Samardzija, who mostly executed pitches yet, incredibly, had to churn through 47 of them just to record the first three outs.
The Cubs completed their comeback in the seventh, when right-hander Cory Gearrin, the fourth reliever of the inning, hit his location with an inside sinker only for Russell to shovel it into left field.
Samardzija had to make sense of a night when he felt sharp, yet ran out of pitches by the fourth inning. Bochy had to make sense of a seventh inning that didn't work out despite winning so many matchups. And Gearrin had to live with losing the game on the pitch he wanted to throw.
"I made a good pitch and I broke his bat and it found a hole," Gearrin said. "It's frustrating. You want to get the result every time. But as a pitcher, you can only do so much."
Against baseball's best team, sometimes it's not enough.
Just one batter into Samardzija's night, every member of the Giants bullpen understood that they had to be ready to pitch.
Samardzija inherited a 2-0 lead, but leadoff man Dexter Fowler started the right-hander's evening with a 13-pitch walk. Samardzija had a long hike down a difficult road, and Fowler put a rock in his shoe.
Fowler advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Kris Bryant's well-placed single. It took 23 pitches before Samardzija recorded an out, when first baseman Brandon Belt made a diving stop of Anthony Rizzo's grounder and threw for a force play at second base.
It took 37 pitches before Samardzija recorded a second out, which came after Jason Heyward hit a soft single that tied the score. Then Chris Coghlan blooped a double over first base to put them ahead 3-2.
Samardzija intentionally walked No. 8 batter David Ross and struck out pitcher Mike Montgomery on his 47th pitch -- one more than his career high for an inning.
The most remarkable part was that Samardzija did not appear to miss Buster Posey's glove too many times. The Cubs merely did an uncanny job of laying off competitive balls and fouling off the rest.
"I thought I made good pitches and was ahead in the count," said Samardzija, who came up with the Cubs and was pitching at Wrigley Field for the first time as a visitor. "It's just unfortunate we had to burn so many pitches."
Samardzija got results that matched his stuff in the next three innings, when he retired nine of 10 batters. But the early damage to his pitch count -- he stood at 87 through four -- prevented him from taking the mound to try to qualify for a win.
The Giants led 4-3 after three innings because of some sloppy pitching and defense. They scored a run in the second inning on a hit batter, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly from Samardzija. They scored again in the third when Posey walked, moved up on Pence's single and scored on second baseman Ben Zobrist's throwing error.
They held the lead until the seventh, when Hunter Strickland absorbed a comebacker from Fowler off his backside and the right-hander's scooping throw arrived a moment too late. Strickland followed with a walk to Bryant, and when Fowler stole third, it made an escape even tougher for left-hander Will Smith.
Smith recorded a strikeout and a pop-up on lefty hitters Rizzo and Heyward. But Russell provided the highlight for the Cubs, and left Pence to review highlighted passages.
Bochy delivered the tough but necessary news, saying that right-hander Albert Suarez would take the ball Friday at Wrigley Field and would be the top choice to remain as the No.5 starter for the remainder of the season.
"As far as where everybody is, we feel we're better off going with Suarez," Bochy said. "Right now Suarez is the guy we want to use as our fifth starter."
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