SF Giants swept by last-place Nationals, limp away from capital

Beaten up by injuries, battered by travel, the Giants limped away from the nation’s capital Sunday with their tail between their legs.

For all the progress gained with five straight wins out out of the All-Star break, they have given it all back over the past five games against two of MLB’s bottom dwellers.

Facing the Washington Nationals, a team 23½ games back of their division, San Francisco was swept in a series of three games for the first time this season, culminating in a 6-1 loss Sunday afternoon that wasn’t even its most meager effort of the weekend. It was Washington’s first sweep since 2021.

Stretching their losing streak to five games, the Giants (54-46) haven’t gotten a hit with runners in scoring position since Wednesday and have been outscored 29-8 over the past five games. They’ve fallen four games back of the Dodgers and only remain tied with the D-backs because Arizona has lost four straight.

“We know we’re a better offense than we’re showing right now,” manager Gabe Kapler told reporters in Washington (via NBC Sports Bay Area). “All good teams, all good offenses go through challenging times. This is another one. We’ve gone through several this year and come out on the other side. … I have nothing but confidence in this group.”

As every other part of their offense has gone silent, the Giants have almost solely relied on the long ball, and the same was true Sunday. Joc Pederson provided their lone run with a pinch-hit solo shot that barely cleared the left-field wall in the seventh inning; all but two of the Giants’ eight runs over the losing streak have come via homers — four of them without anyone on base.

The offensive lapse comes at a time when they’re missing Thairo Estrada, their most valuable position player, and Brandon Crawford, one of their best situational hitters (.353 average w/ RISP), as well as another middle-of-the-order bat in Mitch Haniger. The absences have clearly taken a toll, with the bottom three hitters in the Giants’ order going a combined 2-for-39 (.051) since the start of the losing streak, which just happened to coincide with Crawford’s left knee flaring up.

The Giants had their chances Sunday, no better than in the fourth inning with runners on second and third and no outs after leadoff hits from Patrick Bailey and Luis Matos, but once again weren’t able to capitalize. It has been 43 innings and 22 at-bats since the Giants got a hit with runners in scoring position, including an 0-for-17 effort this series; Washington went 14-for-32 (.438).

The beginning of the end in the fourth was Mike Yastrzemski swinging through a high fastball for strike three; after an 0-for-4 effort Sunday, Yastrzemski’s batting average for the month of July fell to .087. As a team, the Giants’ .207 batting average this month has been the worst in the majors, while only the Pirates have a worse OPS (.630).

As Kapler noted afterward, the Giants have been experiencing some bad luck; their .245 batting average on balls in play this month also ranks last in the majors.

“I actually feel bad for Yaz,” Kapler said. “He’s hitting the ball hard right at people, hitting the ball softer and they’re making some nice plays. There’s a couple of guys who have hit into some tough luck. More importantly, all teams go through those stretches and you have to find a way to scratch across runs even when luck’s not on your side.”

The Giants have not been capable of that. The only time they have led since Wednesday came in the first inning of Friday’s 5-3 loss; they immediately gave it back in the bottom of the first. On Sunday, they were once again in a hole, 2-0, by the end of the first inning.

The opener has been an effective tool for the Giants this season, but it backfired Sunday. They fell to 11-4 in games without a traditional starter.

Despite voicing an intent to establish a more consistent five-man rotation in the second half, they opted to bring Anthony DeSclafani out of the bullpen for the first time in a Giants uniform, only his 11th relief appearance in 180 career games. It wasn’t exactly the soft landing they intended.

DeSclafani was forced to enter with runners on the corners and only one out after lefty Scott Alexander struggled in his second time opening this season. Immediately pitching out of the stretch, the typically pinpoint right-hander walked the first batter he faced and surrendered a two-RBI single to the Dominic Smith before getting out of the inning.

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