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Taking on water

Another series loss and the Giants appear to be sinking.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at San Francisco Giants Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

12 hours after putting up 7 runs on 8 hits in the last three innings of yesterday’s 7-0 win, the San Francisco Giants returned to Oracle Park for their rubber match against the Tampa Bay Rays feeling like the wind had to be in their favor. A months long doldrums of minor breezes and luffing sails, Tuesday’s outburst just had to signal a change in the team’s weather.

It didn’t, and you know it’s a tough day when the most exciting thing on the field happened at your expense.

What we were reminded of in today’s 6-1 loss is that it probably had nothing to do with the atmospheric conditions at all, but the Giants’ patchwork vessel.

Power-sapped and injury-prone veterans overburdening unseasoned rookies—its less a vessel and more inner tube with a pool noodle mast and a beach towel as a sail. Something rag-tag and make-shift you’d see floating down the American River that handles calm fine but gets absolutely wrecked in whitewater.

They’re a team that feels incapable of harnessing their own power and maintaining momentum. Three key wins against the division rival Arizona Diamondbacks was followed up with two winnable losses in Oakland. A win to open the series in Anaheim stumbled into a 4 game losing streak. The burst of energy after Patrick Bailey’s walk-off against Texas dissipated overnight facing Tyler Glasnow on Sunday. A great team victory of 7 runs combined with a 3-hit shutout to even the series against Tampa ended with this dud.

The Giants certainly had opportunities against starter Aaron Civale and four relievers with runners reaching base in 7 of 9 innings. They worked 3 walks and collected 8 hits but grounded into four double-plays to stunt any potential rally. Their only hit with runners in scoring position—Johan Camargo’s single in the 7th—wasn’t struck decisively enough to bring in a run.

It loaded the bases though, and LaMonte Wade Jr. sneaked a 1-out walk to bring in San Francisco’s first run before pinch-hitter Austin Slater grounded into a rally-killing double-play. A forgone conclusion given the team’s .554 OPS (48 OPS+). They only have 5 total extra-base hits in that most-ripe of scoring opportunities.

Slater hasn’t secured a hit since July 29th and is 0-for-18 in that stretch—still, he remains one of the best pinch-hitters in the game so the decision to swap him for Meckler and choose him over the hot-hitting Heliot Ramos (who had a pinch hit double on Friday) makes sense.

The logic is sound, but the magic is gone and that’s got Gabe Kapler in a little bit of a pissy mood. Right now, the coaching staff are mashing all the same buttons with little-to-no effect, and Kapler is about to throw the Wii remote across the room because Kirby isn’t doing the down-B attack like its supposed to.

Opting for Slater over Ramos will be more ammo in the stockade for those anti-Kapler, anti-data match-up pundits—play the hand you got, not the hand you had yesterday!—but really its just another example of how pervasive a team-wide slump is. Choosing between experience/slumpin’ and little-experience/vibin’ can be a tough decision with both options, given the aforementioned team-stats in that situation, probably ending with you swinging-and-missing.

I suppose it was evident the day would be a little off when Wilmer Flores missed an RBI double in the 1st inning by a seam’s width. Run recalled, Joc Pederon returned to 2nd, and Flores proceeded to dribble one back to the pitcher’s mound.

Meanwhile, the Rays knocked in 6 runs on 14 hits and 1 walk while only whiffing 6 times. They scratched a run in the 1st off Ryan Walker and 5 runs off Ross Stripling.

Brandon Lowe put up a stink against Walker, eventually spitting on a backdoor slider to take first base, reaching second on a fielding error by J.D. Davis and scoring on a flare by Isaac Paredes.

The defense was the game’s bright spot and kept San Francisco afloat in the early innings. Blake Sabol threw out Randy Arozarena trying to steal third, Meckler saved a run with a sliding catch in center, and Ramos threw out Jose Siri trying to stretch a single into a double.

Ross Stripling took the mound in the 2nd and kept Tampa at bay until Josh Lowe led off the 4th with a solo home run. The other Lowe launched a 2-run shot in the 5th and Luke Raley’s squirrely inside-the-park home run in the 6th short-circuited even the Statcast robots.

Stripling hasn’t walked a batter since July 2nd but over those 8 appearances, he’s given up 10 home runs, now 19 on the season.

We knew that August was going to be a serious test of San Francisco’s postseason chops, and so far, they’ve been overwhelmed with the challenge, evident by series losses to Oakland, Anaheim, Texas and now Tampa Bay.

Up around the next bend, it doesn’t get easier.