"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
The San Francisco Giants recognize where Charles Dickens was coming from in his famous novel "A Tale of Two Cities," as the first half of their season has had its share of light and darkness.
All ballclubs experience the thrill of victory and agony of defeat, and thankfully baseball has a 162-game schedule. If a club struggles through April and May, it doesn't necessarily signify a death knell to the season because there are four more months of action remaining.
The Giants are currently embroiled in a June swoon, but are still one of the best teams in baseball even if they have a 4-15 record since June 9 and their lead atop the NL West has dwindled down to mere percentage points ahead of the charging Los Angeles Dodgers.
Los Angeles can overthrow the idle Giants as division leaders with a win over Cleveland on Monday. The Giants get back to work Tuesday in the opener of a tough three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals.
San Francisco sustained a summer funk last season from June 20-July 30, when the club compiled an unsatisfying 9-25 record. The Giants missed the playoffs with a 76-86 mark and 2014 is supposed to be the year to shine if history has any bearing. The club has alternated World Series titles in the past four years and this is an even number season.
Trends aside, the Giants have to get going to be able to head into the upcoming All-Star break on a positive note. That means a four-game weekend sweep at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds has to be forgotten rather quickly.
"Fortunately, it's baseball. As good as we were (before), I don't think anybody saw us going through our struggles as much as we have," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I will say in this series we ran into four starters that were as dominant as four starters I've ever seen."
Bochy was talking about Mike Leake, Johnny Cueto, Alfredo Simon and Homer Bailey, who carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning of Sunday's 4-0 win for Cincinnati, which outscored the powerless Giants, 20-6, in the series.
But Bochy stayed mentally sound in his Sunday press conference, saying, "We gotta stay positive, be thankful for our good start (42-21). As bad as things are, we should consider ourselves fortunate to be where we're at."
The Giants have the second-best record in the National League behind the Milwaukee Brewers and will use Monday's day of rest to regroup.
"We got a day off, see if we can regroup and get back on a roll," Bochy said in reference to Monday's off day. "I wish I had a good reason why these things happen, but I don't. Tough to go through things like this; believe me they're (players) not happy with it and I know they're fighting. They might be pressing a little bit and when you're pressing against some really good pitching it just compounds the problem."
Not hitting or producing runs compounds the problem, too.
"We're really as cold as any team in baseball with the bats," Bochy added. "That's what you have to deal with in this game and you also have to handle these types of things. Right now we gotta keep putting this behind us and be thankful that we're still in a good position, and be grateful for the start that we had."
The Giants are 1-6 on a 10-game homestand and have lost 12 of the past 14 games at AT&T Park. Home runs have been at a minimum, as San Francisco owns just eight homers in the previous 21 games and seven in the last 18 at home. The Giants are 33-14 when going deep and 13-22 when failing to do so.
Michael Morse has played through a renaissance season with a team-high 13 home runs and 44 RBI, but hasn't rounded the bases since June 5. And what about Kung-Fu Panda, aka Pablo Sandoval? He has one home run since May 30.
Starting pitchers Matt Cain (1-6) and Tim Hudson (7-5) haven't been much help lately. Hudson at least started the season 7-2 and has now lost three straight starts, while Cain hasn't tasted victory since May 15, going 0-3 in six starts since. Cain was pegged to be the ace of the staff and the Giants are just 4-9 when he takes the mound.
Bochy is ready to make some pitching changes and it's the bullpen that will have a different look. Closer Sergio Romo has 22 saves and two in his last three appearances after losing straight outings on June 13 and 14. However, Bochy said Romo will no longer be the full-time closer and will share duties with Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla.
"I think it's time we tweak it a little bit," Bochy said. "He (Romo) has done a great job. It's fair to say he's having his struggles. We think we can help him late in the ballgame. He'll still be part of the mix, so we're going to back him off a little bit and do it by committee."
Romo was apparently fine with the decision, but you know that's not true. Who wants to be demoted or have other teammates try and step into the role you earned? Romo did that with Brian Wilson a few years ago and now he has to deal with the manager's wishes.
"It is what it is," Romo said after Sunday's loss. "I'm going to get a chance, and when I get a chance, I'm going to be ready to rock."
Romo blew his fifth save chance of the season in Saturday's 7-3 setback and had that many in 65 games last year. He has allowed six home runs this season, matching the most he's allowed in a season in his career (2010). Opponents are also batting .455 off Romo over his last five games.
Blowing three of the last five save opportunities warrants a change and perhaps a few more could be coming for the Giants.
"As a group, we've hit a bump in the road," Bochy said. "As individuals, a lot of us had hiccups, so this is not a fun time for a manager to tell a closer you're going to change things a little bit, but sometimes you got to change things."