SAN FRANCISCO -- The Cubs had two on and two outs in the first inning Wednesday, and Nate Schierholtz battled the Giants' Tim Lincecum in a 10-pitch at-bat, which ended with the outfielder lining out to first baseman Buster Posey to end the threat.
"When that ball starts hitting the grass, that's when our team will take off," Chicago's John Baker said. "A lot of the games have been very close. It's real difficult -- what is the cliche? It's a game of inches. I think the Chicago Cubs are proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that baseball is a game of inches."
The Cubs could only get two balls to hit the grass at AT&T Park, collecting two hits off Lincecum and five other pitchers as the Giants posted a 5-0 shutout to clinch the series.
Chicago was blanked for the second straight game, the second time that's happened this season. The Yankees also did so April 16 in a day-night doubleheader in New York. It's the seventh time the Cubs have been shut out this season, third most in the National League. It was a somber clubhouse.
"It's a testament to us that when we get beat 5-0, we feel we've been blown out," Baker said. "That's what it feels like for me. A lot of our games have been 4-2, 4-3, 5-4, 1-0, 2-1. We've been in so many games this season, it's not like we're getting dominated all the time. Our pitching has stepped up and I'm hoping that as the weather turns in the Midwest, our bats will start to turn around and we can help guys like [Jeff] Samardzija and Edwin [Jackson] and [Travis Wood] and get them some wins when they pitch well."
Jackson took the loss Wednesday, striking out nine and giving up two runs on four hits over 5 1/3 innings. He watched as Lincecum threw five no-hit innings, but was then pulled after throwing 96 pitches because of a blister that developed on the top of his right middle finger in the third inning.
Both Jackson and Lincecum know something about no-hitters. Lincecum did so last July 13 against the Padres. Jackson notched his no-no on June 25, 2010, while pitching for the D-backs against the Rays.
But Lincecum needed 32 pitches to get through the first, including 10 to former teammate Schierholtz in the last at-bat of that inning.
"We had concerns there," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of his starter. "With that, it was time [after five innings]. I felt we might have got one more inning out of him. But he worked so hard out there that it was time. When you're close to 100 pitches after five innings, that's a lot of work."
Jackson threw 149 pitches in his no-hitter, but knows the decision to stay with a pitcher varies.
"I had that conversation with the manager," Jackson said about his no-no. "I felt I was getting stronger as the game went on. I was fortunate to stay in the game and complete the no-hitter. If you don't pull him, and you throw 149 pitches, and on the 150th pitch, you give up a hit, your manager feels it may be a wasted effort or the pitcher feels it may be a wasted effort.
"You don't get that opportunity all the time. When you get it, you might try to take advantage of it."
Lincecum did throw 148 pitches last July in his no-no against the Padres. He didn't need to do that Wednesday.
"Ultimately, he pitched well enough to get a win," Jackson said.
So did Jackson.
"Before we went into the game, he said, 'I'm not going to shake off the whole game,'" Baker said of his conversation with the right-hander. "I think that put him in a easy piece of mind. All he had to do was repeat the delivery and throw the ball and trust the fingers that were going down. He threw the ball great.
"When we have a guy go out there and throw the first five innings of the game like that, you wish you had something on the scoreboard to show for it. I think that's why this one hurts more than the other ones do."
The Cubs finally got a hit when Baker singled with one out in the seventh. Chicago holds the Major League record for consecutive games played of at least nine innings without being no-hit (7,714).
Despite the lack of offense, manager Rick Renteria liked the approaches by his hitters.
"We drove [Lincecum's] pitch count to almost 100 in five innings, so we were having good at-bats," Renteria said. "We actually hit quite a few balls hard but didn't find any holes. The last four inings, we weren't able to do anything. I thought we were able to put together good at-bats, just couldn't get any runs."
The Giants finally did in the sixth. Angel Pagan doubled to lead off that inning against Jackson, who then walked Hunter Pence. Posey flied out to center and Jackson was lifted for James Russell, who served up an RBI single to Pablo Sandoval, who was batting .156 against left-handers. Brian Schlitter took over for Russell, and one out later, Tyler Colvin hit an RBI double.
The Giants, who blanked the Cubs, 4-0, on Tuesday, padded their lead with two outs in the seventh when a run scored as Posey reached on an error by Mike Olt. Sandoval was intentionally walked, and Hector Sanchez followed with a two-run double to go ahead 5-0.
"I thought [Jackson] gave us a good chance to win the ballgame," Renteria said. "Tip your hat to them, they kept grinding and were able to get to us."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.