SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants were five games over .500 and tied for first place the day Angel Pagan legged out an inside-the-park home run to beat the Rockies in the 10th inning on May 25. Pagan hasn't played since. The Giants, meanwhile, spent one more day tied for first, and it has been a steady decline from that point to their current state of 12 games under .500 and 14 behind the Dodgers in the West.
Pagan has been rehabbing in Arizona since undergoing surgery to repair a tendon in his hamstring, and Giants manager Bruce Bochy said this morning Pagan could be ready to rejoin the Giants in September.
"He's doing well, he's running bases," Bochy said. "He's getting close."
But Bochy stressed the Giants aren't going to rush Pagan's return. There's no point, with the Giants all but out of the playoff hunt -- and after getting a sense this summer of just how valuable Pagan is atop the Giants' lineup.
When Pagan went down, he was batting .263 with three homers and 24 RBIs out of the leadoff spot in 45 games. Those aren't eye-popping numbers, but Bochy acknowledged that something went missing with Pagan's absence. Gregor Blanco filled in admirably for a couple weeks, but fell off precipitously of late and Andres Torres wasn't much more effective batting first. Marco Scutaro is 3-for-24 in the leadoff spot.
All in all, the Giants' leadoff batters have combined to hit .116 (10-for-86) with eight runs scored in 22 games since the All-Star Break.
"I think it shows you how important that leadoff guy is," Bochy said. "Not to make any excuses, but I do think we miss (Pagan) more than we even thought, his presence plus his ability to come through in the clutch.
"Before he went down, I think he had the most go ahead RBIs. It did force some guys to play a little bit more, takes them out of their role a little bit. So I think it affected us even more than we thought."
Though the Giants will be careful with Pagan when he eventually does begin a rehab stint Bochy said he would prefer to have Pagan play in the majors again this season.
"This is a major surgery and I'd like for him to go into the winter feeling comfortable and good about the surgery, and just go into the next season knowing that that knee is fine," Bochy said. "That takes away any doubts that could creep in when you have surgery like that.
"But on the other hand, he's not going to play unless we think he's 100 percent. He is a guy that will take the full rehab."
Regardless of the date, when Pagan does return it will serve as a reminder of how much has changed since in the time he's been gone.
* Here's the Giants' lineup for today's series finale against Baltimore:
And the Orioles against Cain:
* Belt stays in the third spot. He's hitting .464 in August and has seemed to adapt almost seamlessly to the changes he made in the batter's box at the end of last month, which Bochy said involved both tweaking his swing and where Belt stands in the box.
"I think more importantly he's comfortable with it," Bochy said. "Sometimes it takes a while when you make a change, but he's adapted so well with it, I think now it's just part of him where he doesn't feel like he's making a change up there."
* Tony Abreu (bursitis) is headed to Triple-A Fresno to begin a rehab assignment, Bochy said.
* From the pre-game notes: Hunter Pence's two-run double in the sixth inning yesterday marked his first RBIs this season that gave the Giants a lead in the sixth inning or later. Last year, Pence drove in a go-ahead run in the sixth or later nine times, which was tied for the third-most in the majors -- and that was after joining the team at midseason. Yet another example of what the Giants have missed in 2013.
* The Giants will try to make it a winning homestand behind Matt Cain today, who has a 2.00 ERA in four starts since the All-Star Break. He hasn't allowed more than two runs in any of those starts and hasn't given up a home run in any of his past seven.
Game on, Chris Davis.
-- Matt Kawahara