Giants left searching for A-game in rough series vs. Dodgers

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Giants couldn't find their stride at Dodger Stadium originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Gabe Kapler was not ready to make any big statements after a rough 48 hours in Los Angeles. For him, it was simple. There was one thing to take away from the 3-1 loss to the Dodgers on Tuesday night that followed Monday's 3-2 loss. 

"It means we have to play better baseball against the best teams, and we have that in us," Kapler said. "We've seen it in the past. Last time we came here we were able to do that. We've got more games against the Dodgers and we have to play better against them."

The Giants dropped both games in the quick series, but they'll soon get another shot. Many of them, actually. They play four at Dodger Stadium on the first road trip of the second half, and then the Dodgers come to Oracle Park five days later for a three-game series. The rivalry is about to heat up, but for two games at Dodger Stadium, these teams weren't fully on equal footing. 

The Giants went 0-for-19 with runners in scoring position, failing repeatedly in big spots, including three times in the ninth inning Tuesday with the tying run on first base against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. Their best two pitchers -- Anthony DeSclafani and Kevin Gausman -- were edged by the Dodgers' duo of Trevor Bauer and Walker Buehler. 

Gausman had one of his worst starts of the year, allowing three runs in the first three innings and lasting just five innings. He walked five for the first time since 2017, and as he slowly walked off the mound after his final frame, he had a feeling that he escaped something much worse. 

"To be honest I got away with a lot tonight and should have given up way more than three runs," he said. "The command wasn't there tonight. It was a grind for sure."

Gausman has mowed lineups down this season with a big fastball and unhittable splitter, but the Dodgers were able to lay off the latter pitch, particularly early. Two walks and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases in the first and Chris Taylor poked a two-run double into right. Max Muncy's seventh homer in eight starts against the Giants was the other run. Gausman said he just didn't have a good feel for his go-to pitch.

"It just wasn't the same tonight," he said. "A lot of uncompetitive pitches, uncompetitive splits out of my hand."

The mini-sweep gave the Giants their second three-game losing streak of the season, and both have heavily revolved around the Dodgers, who swept the Giants in a three-game series May 21-23. The Giants are 3-6 against the reigning World Series champions, but the games have been competitive, and that's not the only silver lining to take away from this one. 

The bullpen was spectacular over two nights, throwing six perfect innings. Long term, that could end up being a major reason why the Giants stay in the race. They have quietly rebuilt the group over the past month, and right now it looks like a strength. 

RELATED: What we learned as Giants swept in short series by Dodgers

There's another positive to take on the flight to Arizona, too. Even with the two losses, the Giants maintained a 1 1/2 game edge over the Dodgers in the NL West. They'll try to pad that lead this weekend with a four-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the worst team in baseball. 

Kapler watched his team struggle in big spots for two nights but he doesn't expect that to continue. 

"You have to bring your A-game every time out when you play these good teams and we didn't do that on the offensive side," he said. "We've seen that in short stretches in the past and we've been able to clean it up right away. We expect we'll be able to do that going forward."

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