About two of every three games was a one-run contest, and they won a like ratio of those games. Taking about half of those remaining games was good enough to make a second-seed seem almost certain.
Moreover, the Giants traded away little—one good and one questionable Double-A pitching prospect—to fill a major lineup hole. With strong-hitting second baseman Freddy Sanchez possibly done for the year, Jeff Keppinger appeared to be a solid replacement.
But the offense continued to struggle and the team was about to embark on a three-week period with six consecutive series against playoff contenders. Seven of the 18 games were against their National League rival Philadelphia Phillies, and 12 of the 18 were at home.
They needed to make a statement, so they did not stand pat on a roster with holes. They added the single biggest trade target in the league, Carlos Beltran (or as John Miller calls him, Bell-TRON), just in time for the rubber match of the second of those six series and the first against the Phillies.
The Giants were looking good, having beaten the other two likely division winners on the senior circuit in consecutive series without him. They had a strong lineup in the second through sixth spots, even if Aubrey Huff is only on that list based on the belief he can recapture a little of the success of last season.
How serious are the Giants' struggles?
With their pitching, that seemed more than enough. Yet San Francisco added Orlando Cabrera to fill another hole at shortstop.
For most contenders, the 37-year-old shortstop would be a backup. In Cleveland, he played second base and was hitting just .244 with four home runs, 38 RBI and 35 runs. His OPS was under .600.
But for the Giants, he was an upgrade of more than a hit a week over the combination of Brandon Crawford and Mike Fontenot. His defense is still solid enough to prevent the Giants from giving up more runs in order to produce some of their own.
Since joining the 2010 World Champions, he is hitting just .222 and has a sub-.500 OPS thanks to no walks and just one double. He has a run and three RBI in seven games, making the early returns on his acquisition less than the Giants expected.
But it pales in comparison to the disappointments of the better two hitters. Beltran has just a .244 average with a .366 slugging percentage, three runs, two RBI and just one walk. After a slow start, Keppinger has hit a respectable .262 but has just a .593 OPS, with one RBI and five runs.
That is why only three teams in the league have a worse batting average and only one has scored fewer runs than San Francisco. After the first game since trading for Beltran, the Giants have lost eight of nine and were technically out of first place for a few hours Saturday.
And with the team being outscored in those eight losses 45-11, the pitching is failing along with the improved lineup. There have only been three games in the nine that Giants hurlers have allowed fewer than four runs, and the opposition is averaging over five per game in the last nine.
The Giants won last year with timely hitting and great pitching. They have the same pitching and at least on paper have a better lineup, even without Sanchez and Buster Posey. And the team did not find a high gear until late August in 2010.
But unless San Francisco can take at least one game at home against the Phillies and win the last two series of this run, this season's end may look more like the San Diego Padres of 2010 than their own.