CHICAGO -- Brandon Crawford led off from second base as he watched Eduardo Nez make hard contact in three acts.
First came the lineout into the glove of Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. Then came Nez's bat, which whacked the ground with such force it's a wonder he didn't strike oil. Finally, off came the helmet, for a test of its own shock resistance.
Could Crawford relate, after lining out twice in the Giants' 2-1 loss at Wrigley Field?
"Yeah," the Giants' stoic shortstop said. "I just tried to hide it a little better today. I mean, may have had to get a new helmet. May have."
As Crawford softly spoke at his locker, a nearby trash can contained the remnants of one of his bats with a No. 35 decal on the handle. The concrete corridors at Wrigley Field afford greater privacy. Despite being 103 years old, they are as sturdy as ever.
The Giants' psyche is less solid. For the second consecutive day, they registered three hits in a one-run loss to baseball's best team.
It took Hunter Pence's home run to break up Jon Lester's no-hit bid with two outs in the seventh inning. What's more, Pence's shot snapped the Giants' unconscionable 0-for-40 run at the plate that began following Pence's single in the third inning of Thursday night's loss.
Over the two games, they failed to register a hit in 12 consecutive innings -- something that hadn't happened to them since June 26-27, 1980, when the Dodgers' Jerry Reuss no-hit them at Candlestick Park.
The Giants had a hard time squaring up those results when they ... well, squared so many up. They made a litany of leather-seeking lineouts against Lester, and all that hard contact was as productive as taking maple to concrete.
"You need a little luck in this game," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "You don't look for it, but it's nice to get. Some balls we did hit well were right at them. The most important thing is having good at-bats."
Bochy alluded to Lester's renowned yips on pickoff throws, saying, "If we get someone on, you can do some things to put on a little pressure. But we couldn't get a ball to fall."
The Giants fell to a major league-worst 15-29 since the All-Star break, and this is how far they have fallen: they made a victory out of not getting embarrassed.
Lester was cruising with his no-hitter in the truest sense. He had thrown just 66 pitches through six innings, and for the Cubs, the game held all the markers for a historic afternoon.
For the Giants (72-62), they simply felt marked by the beast. Crawford used the whole field, scorching a lineout to first base in the second inning and then drilling a liner to third that Bryant left his spikes to snag in the fifth.
In Nez's first at-bat, he lined a comebacker that Lester, who wouldn't win a Gold Glove if it were a participation trophy, somehow smothered.
When center fielder Dexter Fowler made a diving catch of pinch hitter Kelby Tomlinson's sinking line drive in the sixth inning, the sellout crowd stood and cheered.
But Lester left a 1-2 fastball over the plate to Pence, who hit his second home run in as many days.
Before Pence's home run, the Cubs had retired 40 of the last 41 Giants batters they faced. Buster Posey's walk in the first inning against Lester was the Giants' only baserunner; the Cubs had retired the final 20 batters in Thursday's game.
Suddenly, the Giants' ambitions went from avoiding embarrassment to knocking off the league's best team.
Then, because it always seems to happen this way, Crawford was rewarded for much softer contact. He slipped a ground ball under the glove of second baseman Ben Zobrist and hustled for a double when he saw the Cubs outfielders, perhaps stiff from inactivity, were slow to react.
"I thought the momentum had changed," Crawford said in a deadpan. "Then we went back to hitting line drives."
With the tying run in scoring position, the Giants' accursed luck returned soon enough. Nez hit his hard lineout to third base, then spiked his bat and helmet in a show of anger.
The Giants chose Albert Suarez over Matt Cain to be their No.5 starter down the stretch, even though the former came to spring camp as a minor league free agent and the latter is owed more than $30 million.
Suarez did a creditable job with flu-ridden backup catcher Trevor Brown, working four tidy innings out of five and minimizing the damage the one time the Cubs made a mess of things.
The Cubs set up their two-run rally in the third inning when Javier Baez picked an outside pitch out of the dirt and guided an opposite-way double down the first base line. David Ross followed with a double into the left field corner, advanced on Lester's sacrifice and scored on Fowler's floating single to center.
"It's a tough lineup they have, and our (pitchers) did a good job," Bochy said. "Two runs, you take your chances there."
The Giants could not score three.