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Giants opt out of playing offense in Game 1

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That’s certainly one choice.

San Francisco Giants v Washington Nationals - Game One
Who needs offense when you can just play defense? Well, the Giants, apparently.
Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

I’m not mad at the San Francisco Giants. They’re their own team, and they can make whatever choices they want.

It’s just that the choice to not play offense is a slightly bizarre one. What’s the end game here? Is it fun? Doesn’t seem to be. Is it effective? Not if you have the goals that I always imagined a professional baseball team has.

Is it easy? Well ... maybe that’s it.

The Giants are halfway through a four-game series with the Washington Nationals, and it’s becoming abundantly apparent that their bag of offense got lost at the airport. After a one-run performance on Friday (which they won!), the Giants got shut out in the first seven-inning affair of Saturday’s doubleheader.

Not scoring happens. It happens a lot. Usually when it happens it feels like a little bit of bad luck is involved. It often requires poor sequencing, where the team can get a hit when it doesn’t matter, and can’t get a hit when it does. Or it requires bad luck, where hard-hit balls repeatedly set their heat-seeking missile settings to opposing gloves.

In the Giants case it’s just been a solid scoop of no offense. A generous scoop.

The Giants actually had more hits in Saturday’s short shutout loss (5) than in Friday’s win (4). But none of them were extra-base hits, and they struck out 10 times, just as on Friday, while walking no times, just as on Friday.

And so, after two games, here’s where the Giants offense stands: 16 innings, 9 hits, 8 singles, 0 walks, 20 strikeouts, 1 run.

20 strikeouts. 0 walks.

20 strikeouts. 0 walks.

TWENTY strikeouts. ZERO walks.

Like I said, there’s no poor luck here. The Giants are a team that prides themselves on making pitchers work, drawing free passes, and being patient. Yet two games in, the team has struck out in 35.7% of their plate appearances, and Washington’s pitchers are averaging fewer than 15 pitches per inning.

They only threatened once all game, when back-to-back one-out singles by Wilmer Flores and Mike Tauchman put runners at the corners, but Jason Vosler hit into a double play.

This is bad offense.

Offense so bad that not even Kevin Gausman could save them, though he did account for 20% of the team’s hits.

Gausman had one of his more pedestrian games of the season. A leadoff homer to Kyle Schwarber — just the sixth home run Gausman has allowed this year — set the tone, and while the soon-to-be first-time All-Star settled into the game, he was far from great. With the team trailing 2-0 and only single-digit outs remaining — thanks, silly doubleheader rules — Gausman was lifted for a pinch hitter in the fifth inning, ending his day early with a mediocre line: 4 innings, 3 hits, 2 walks, 2 runs, 4 strikeouts.

I think the Giants were smart to use Gausman today, but the danger of using your ace in a seven-inning National League game is you run the risk of only getting four innings out of them, which is exactly what happened.

Not like the outcome would have been any different. José Álvarez was strong for two innings, but unless you’re Madison Bumgarner, there’s only so much you can do when your hitters aren’t doing anything for you.

And so the Giants lost 2-0, and Gausman picked up his first loss of the season, in his 13th game.

He’s still good, and so are they. Hopefully we see that in Game 2.