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The Giants finalize weekend of bad play with convincing loss to Nationals

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After returning from the All-Star Break with a sweep in Pittsburgh and two-win day against Cincinnati, the San Francisco Giants dropped the last two against the Reds and continued their fall with a 3-game sweep against the cellar-dwelling Washington Nationals.

Sunday’s 6-1 loss sealed the Giants 1-5 season record against D.C. 6 games that will rank high (along with their series in Detroit and Kansas City) on the list of potential ass-biters if/when the division or wild card races come down to the wire.

The sweep was Washington’s first in more than two years, out scoring San Francisco 21 to 5 over the weekend, and 18 to 2 since Joc Pederson’s 2-run homer in the 3rd inning of Friday’s game.

Throw a rock at San Francisco’s roster and you’ll hit something broken, worn down, scuffling. Dealer’s choice whether you want to be more frustrated by the pitching or offense in this missed-opportunity of a series.

The starting pitching put the Giants hitters in early holes—Alex Wood gave up 5 on Friday, Webb 6 on Saturday, and today, with two outs and runners on the corners in the 1st, Anthony DeSclafani replaced opener Scott Alexander to face right-handed Stone Garrett, walked him, then gave up a 2-run single to Dominic Smith, who has the sting and peskiness of a horsefly.

Both of those runs were charged to Alexander. Disco would go on to give up 4 more of his own on 8 hits over the next four innings. San Francisco’s first run didn’t come until the 7th: a inconsequential solo shot by Joc Pederson.

In July, DeSclafani now has a 10.61 ERA, allowing 6 home runs over 9.1 IP and 3 appearances. Wood’s month ERA over 14.1 IP is 6.28 with an equally distasteful 6.28 BB/9 rate, and Sean Manaea’s ERA over 13.2 IP is 6.59. The only bulk arm that is maybe pitching better this month than his season’s average is Ross Stripling.

If Dom Smith was as annoying as a horsefly, Lane Thomas was a mosquito bite on the Giants’ forehead. The outfielder went 3-for-4 with 2 runs and an RBI and 4 stolen bases. He took one off Alexander in the 1st and three more off DeSclafani over the next three innings while taunting the feared arm of Patrick Bailey. He also robbed Bailey of extra bases before throwing out Wilmer Flores at first.

Early deficits always hurt, but they felt insurmountable, even against a below-average pitching corps, with how the offense has been performing lately.

Again, the Giants had early opportunities to jolt some like into their bats but failed to do so. With two runners on in the 1st against LHP starter MacKenzie Gore, Patrick Bailey grounded into a double play to end the inning. A rally killed on defense sparked a rally on offense for the Nats.

The Giants would roll into 2 more double plays on the day, good for 6 total in the series. They went hitless in 6 at-bats with runners in scoring position and logged an 0-fer in 17 over these three games—a situation they previously excelled in during their hot stretch in June.

Over the last 30 days, the Giants’ offensive stats have fallen precipitously. In the month of July (note: following stats do not include today’s game), they posted a 74 wRC+, good for third worst in the Majors and almost half of the Dodgers’ 135 mark. If you’re jonesing for more numerical proof, their .630 OPS is only slightly better than Pittsburgh’s. Their isolated power (ISO) of .135 is 4th lowest in MLB. The team’s .245 batting average of balls in play is the lowest in baseball—which means that they’re not hitting, and when they do make good contact, they’ve had tougher luck.

Only four hitters have an above average wRC+ this month: Wilmer Flores, Blake Sabol, Austin Slater, and Luis Matos, and only Flores and Matos have more than 50 plate appearances.

Mike Yastrzemki, forced into more uncomfortable at-bats against left-handed pitching, has 9 walks but only 4 hits in 42 ABs. Casey Schmitt, similarly cornered from the right-side with Brandon Crawford and Thairo Estrada out, is 4 for 41 with 4 walks. Patrick Bailey is 6-for-48 with only 1 BB. The aforementioned three along with J.D. Davis, Joc Pederson, Austin Slater and Brett Wisely have spent July on the batting average interstate.

Flores (4 HRs in Cincy) and Joc Pederson (2 HRs & 2 2B in D.C.) have been the only bright spots in this last week of games, and the two rarely hit in the same line-up due to their mirroring extreme splits against opposite-hand pitching.

If we want to try and squeeze water from a stone here: a streak this bad won’t last forever, a regression like this will see a float back to the mean. We’ve already seen signs this weekend of players like Pederson and Davis poking their heads out of the weeds.

More wringing: the slumps of both offense and arms came with plenty of time before the trade deadline to expose the team’s needs. As Bryan Murphy asked: are you a Bellinger or Stroman? Bat or arm? Infielder or starter? San Francisco has reinforcements in Sacramento on both fronts ready to form another second youth wave if need be, but Farhan Zaidi will certainly look to make gains with proven big league talent and have been linked to players like Tim Anderson and Justin Verlander. (After how he played today, maybe we should look into Lane Thomas??)

What a fun coincidence that this 5 game losing streak bleeds into the Giants one-day Detroit pit stop to make-up their postponed April 16th game against the Tigers.

That dropped Sunday game ultimately came in the heart of San Francisco’s only other 5-game losing streak (April 12th - 19th) in which they lost one to LA, two to Detroit (before the series finale was ppd) then two more in Miami. Four of those games were decided by 1 or 2 runs and defined by late-inning bullpen hiccups—not really the specific struggles of this current team, but some of the early season’s drastic and temperamental swings in performance clearly linger on.

This make-up game in Detroit has been a monkey on the Giants’ back. The sourness of the long rain-less rain delay may have transferred into the first two games in Miami, and now it’s being tacked onto a brutal stretch of a brutal road trip in the thick of the summer’s dog days. Still, the team still has an opportunity to salvage a winning record out of the sweet-and-sour trip before a 2-game series against Oakland.

A favorable stretch of games…on paper, at least.