Outfielder Hunter Pence is on the disabled list because of a strained oblique, the latest in a long list of health problems that has the Giants’ season on the brink. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Giants in trouble without Pence

And now, the outfield for your defending world champion Saaaaan Francisco Giants …

Gregor Blanco, Ryan Lollis, Justin Maxwell?

That was the trio that manager Bruce Bochy started Tuesday night in a much-needed 2-0 victory against the Cardinals in St. Louis. Ryan Vogelsong pitched six gritty innings and could move ahead of Matt Cain in the rotation as a result.

But if Hunter Pence is out for more than two weeks, none of that will matter much. Because without their inspirational leader and offensive force, the Champs are in trouble.

Before the game, Pence underwent an MRI of his left oblique, which he tweaked the previous night. The diagnosis was a moderate strain that landed him on the disabled list again. This type of injury is known to linger for a while, in which case Pence may not be himself until mid-September, if then.

Offense has carried the Giants for much of the season, but without Pence, Angel Pagan (tendinitis) and Joe Panik (back), that’s not likely to continue. And that assumes Nori Aoki (concussion) will return without complications later this week. Team depth will be compromised no matter how Bochy plays his hand.

The situation was so desperate that Madison Bumgarner was called on to pinch hit in the seventh inning. He delivered a two-out single and scored an insurance run on two walks and a hit batter, which may constitute a Giant rally until further notice.

So the time has come for Bumgarner and his supporting cast to carry the offense. For a rotation that lacks quality No. 2 and No. 3 starters, that’s a lot to ask at the moment.

FUTILE CHASE: The Giants took a pass on the Philadelphia Phillies’ Cole Hamels before the trade deadline, but if Panik’s back problem persists, operations chief Brian Sabean may have no choice but to up the ante for teammate Chase Utley in a waiver deal.

“As I told you before, it is very likely he’ll be here in Philadelphia through the end of the year, and then we’ll see what happens after that,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro said in a radio interview.

Utley would have to be traded before the Aug. 31 deadline to be eligible to play in the postseason. He has a full no-trade clause in his contract.

HOW ‘BOUT BUM?: Maybe Bumgarner can take a turn in the outfield on the days he’s not on the mound. OK, that’s not a good idea, even if his .500
slugging percentage does lead the team.

Bumgarner’s first career pinch-hit took place almost 11 years to the day that Kirk Rueter became the last Giants pitcher to achieve the feat. That was so long ago, Rueter did it against the team formerly known as the Montreal Expos.

NOT AGAIN: Wide receiver Jerome Simpson scored a suspension hat trick Tuesday, but the statement issued by 49ers management troubled Balls as much as the latest misstep itself.

“The probability of a suspension was known when we signed Jerome,” general manager Trent Baalke said.

Even if Simpson was punished for something he did before his arrival five months ago, why did the 49ers sign him in the first place?

“Since joining the 49ers, Jerome has proven to be a great teammate,” Baalke went on to say. “Although he will not be able to participate in the first six weeks of the season, Jerome has done everything asked of him, both on and off the field.”

Great teammates don’t get suspended even once, let alone three times.

More Baalke: “We are in full support of the NFL’s decision, and look forward to Jerome’s future contributions to our organization.”

Future contributions? The guy caught one touchdown pass the last four years. Until the 49ers raise the bar, they’ll continue to have too much baggage to take flight.

GOOD NEWS OF THE DAY:
The Levi’s Stadium experience just got cheaper for 49ers fans.

You read right, Bubba — less expensive.

Among the “enhancements designed to enrich the visitor experience” that will be in effect for the preseason home opener this weekend, a beer will cost only 10 bucks, down a quarter from last season. A bottle of water will set you back $5 compared to $5.75 a year ago. And empty water bottles can be brought inside the stadium and re-filled at water fountains at absolutely no charge.

Unfortunately, The Faithful still can’t buy a win.Brady HokeBrian SabeanBruce BochyCole HamelsHunter PenceJerome SimpsonJim HarbaughMadison BumgarnerNori AokiSan Francisco Giants

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