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Giants fall to Cardinals, 6-0, in flat, lifeless loss

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The Giants had a spring training lineup going against one of the better teams in baseball, and the results were predictable.

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants gave up six runs on Saturday. There were ill-advised walks, pitches in the middle of the plate, and generally bad decisions. The starter gave up a few runs, and the relievers that came in weren't much better. When that happens -- to any team -- it's probably not going to end with a win. Out of the last 300 games in which the Giants allowed six runs or more, they've won just 46. If you're looking for the story of the game, there it is. The Giants gave up a lot of runs. That's almost always a bad idea.

Still, this game didn't bug me as much as it could have, and there's a simple reason why: Over half the starting lineup has been attacked by orcs and dragged down into the shadow-world. If you use FanGraphs' WAR, the Giants have five position players in the National League's top 15. The Cubs and Diamondbacks have two each, but the Giants have five. Of those five players, three weren't in the starting lineup on Saturday. One of the two players able to start is nursing a sore ankle. And this list doesn't even include Hunter Pence, talented baseball player.

The only way the Giants can be an excellent baseball team is if their excellent baseball players get to play at the same time. When they don't, well, they're going to lose 6-0 more often than they'll win 6-0, and there's no use getting mad about it. The Cardinals had one of their better pitchers on the mound, and the Giants had a .288 on-base percentage hitting cleanup. They had a hitter with 18 career home runs (in 2,577 plate appearances) hitting fifth. Behind those two were slap hitters and a slumping backup catcher.

And the Giants lost. Because of course they did with this lineup. They can't win consistently without Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, and Joe Panik. Imagine a preseason trade where all of those players are traded for an injured pitcher who wouldn't return until 2016. You would have had opinions on the chances of the 2015 Giants. There might have been a few curse words. And yet, here the Giants are, without all those players, and with the same sketchy pitching that was going to keep them from winning 100 games no matter what else happened. It's not a recipe for success. They don't have the minor-league depth.

The Giants are doomed until they get healthy. We knew that already. The only hope is that they don't run out of time.

Back to that WAR ranking up there, with the Giants represented so well. That's not just their hitting, remember. That's their defense and baserunning. So when the team is missing Posey, Crawford, and Panik, they're not just missing the bats, but the defensive contributions, too. It's the little things, like Posey framing a pitch to steal a strike, or calling the right pitch at the right time. It's Panik handling a hotshot to his left with two runners in scoring position and two outs. All of those things are what make the Giants' core among the most valuable in the game. It's why they looked miserable today.

Ryan Vogelsong is a fifth starter's fifth starter. He succeeds on guile, moxie, and legal maneuvering. But he needs every last advantage. He needs Panik's range, Crawford's instincts, and the ability of both to turn impossible double plays. He needs Pence's familiarity with the right-field wall, and he needs Posey's framing and pitcher-whispering. He needs all of it. All of the advantages, just keep 'em coming. Without them, he's not just less effective, he's a liability. With them, he should keep the Giants in the game, with an outside chance to impress.

Does this read like whining? It shouldn't. It's not about stomping your feet and holding your breath because it just isn't fair. It's about looking at the Giants' roster and thinking, "Uh, okay, maybe they can steal a game here and there." A roster and lineup comprised of the healthy players on the 40-man roster right now just isn't very good. It takes a game like this to remember that. It's beyond disappointing, considering that with perfect health, this should be one of the better lineups the Giants have assembled in 15 years. But there's no button to push, no government official to pay off. As Aristotle said, "It is what it is."

As such, the Giants lost to the team with the best record in baseball on Saturday. It wasn't particularly close. If these two lineups, with the same starting pitchers, met up in a simulated 162-game season, the Giants would lose about 100 games.

Were you surprised? You should not be surprised. Some extra-positive happy thoughts directed toward Sunday's game are about your only option, here. Even with the Final Destination lineup, the Giants still have a chance to take the series. Considering the odds, that would be glorious and very much appreciated.