San Francisco Giants' Brandon Belt, left, loses his helmet after being tagged out at second base by St. Louis Cardinals' Kolten Wong, right, on a steal-attempt in the fourth inning on Saturday. (Ben Margot/AP)

San Francisco Giants' Brandon Belt, left, loses his helmet after being tagged out at second base by St. Louis Cardinals' Kolten Wong, right, on a steal-attempt in the fourth inning on Saturday. (Ben Margot/AP)

Hopeful Pence lightens up Giants’ gloom

Other than another sellout crowd, there were few signs of life at AT&T Park on Saturday. When the home team is shut out as the Giants were, that’s bound to happen.

The only sliver of daylight in the 6-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals came afterward, when Hunter Pence dragged a bag with him to his corner of the clubhouse. There he spoke with cautious optimism about the oblique injury that left him on the 15-day disabled list.

“I don’t know what’s next,” Pence said. “I just do what they tell me. But it is getting better, I know that much.”

Only 34 games remain in the regular season, and the Giants need Pence and need him badly. Since their offensive catalyst and emotional leader went down, they have a 4-5 record on an average of 3.7 runs per game. And nine of the runs were scored in one game.

Pence is eligible to return Tuesday, but that probably won’t happen. He has done light exercises but no baseball-related activities.

Because oblique injuries are known to linger a while, a setback would probably finish his season and quite possibly that of his team as well.

“I’ve never had this injury before, so I don’t know what to expect,” said Pence, who added hopefully, “But it is better.”

Buster Posey (sore elbow) and Brandon Crawford (strained oblique) also were out of action, although Posey was available in a pinch-hit role. Posey is scheduled to start the series finale today, while Crawford isn’t expected to return until Monday in Los Angeles at the earliest.

“Of course, those are two of your core players, your 4-5-hole hitters,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Sure, you’d like to have those guys in there, but you can’t let these things that you can’t control effect you.”

Ryan Vogelsong became the latest starter to make an early departure. He didn’t allow a run until a high pitch count caught up to him in the fifth inning.

“The Cardinals are a tough team,” said Vogelsong, who lasted 4 2/3 innings ad took the loss. “When you’re facing a team like this with the starters they have and the bullpen they have, you’ve got to be pretty close to perfect to beat them. I was just OK today, not perfect.”

Now the Giants will turn to rookie Chris Heston today to get more than a split on the six-game homestand.

GiantsHunter PenceMLBRyan VogelsongSan Francisco GiantsSt. Louis Cardinals

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