CHICAGO — If the Giants fall short of the National League playoffs in — all together now — another dreaded odd-numbered year, they’ll remember a lost weekend at Wrigley Field as the beginning of their undoing.
Failing to fortify their starting rotation at the trade deadline continues to a major issue, with Matt Cain again struggling in what has been an unsuccessful return from elbow surgery. He didn’t survive the fifth inning Saturday, setting season highs with five walks and two hit batters in an 8-6 loss to the surging Chicago Cubs, who lead the Giants in the race for the NL’s second wild-card berth by 2 1/2 games with their third straight win in the series.
Cain has allowed at least four runs in four of his last five starts.
“I’m making too many mistakes in situations where I can get myself out of it, and I’ve got to eliminate those,” Cain said.
Kris Bryant belted a long home run. Addison Russell had his second career three-hit day. Kyle Schwarber collected two more hits, and Jorge Soler extended his hitting streak to eight games for the Cubs.
These talented rookies look quite comfortable in the heat of an August playoff race.
“We have a lot of confidence,” Bryant said. “I think our bats are turning it around a little bit. Our pitchers start doing what they did all year, and I mean, I think it’s looking pretty bright.”
Bryant’s big day powered Chicago to its ninth win in 10 games. He also walked and scored on Miguel Montero’s tiebreaking single in the fifth. Bryant’s two-run shot off Cain (2-3) in the third was the rookie’s first homer since July 27. The All-Star slugger also drove in Chicago’s first run when he beat out a potential double-play grounder in the first.
The 23-year-old Bryant entered with a .162 batting average in 21 games since the All-Star break. “He is one of better young baseball players I’ve had. Period,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.
Brandon Belt hit a two-run homer for the Giants, who have dropped five of seven. Hunter Pence had two hits and scored twice.
Angel Pagan and Nori Aoki each had a run-scoring single in San Francisco’s three-run ninth before Justin Grimm came in with a runner on first and got Matt Duffy to ground out to shortstop for his third save.
“They did a good job coming back at the end — even early in the game,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “But it comes down to pitching. Right now, our starters are struggling and it makes it tough on the pen.”
The Cubs (61-48) moved 13 games over .500 for the first time since they finished the 2008 season with a 97-64 record. The victory also clinched their first series win at home against the Giants since taking two of three in June 2011.
Giants catcher Andrew Susac (strained right thumb) is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Sacramento on Tuesday. Pitcher Mike Leake (strained left hamstring) is expected to throw off a mound Tuesday. Bochy said the club wants to be cautious with the injury, which occurred during routine conditioning during the Giants’ recent series at Atlanta. Bochy said he plans to rest Pagan on Sunday. Pagan is dealing with soreness in his knees and played the first three games of the series.