Giants pitchers rocked by Nationals with powerful Dodgers up next

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Giants pitchers rocked by Nats with powerful Dodgers up next originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO -- When they returned home from a four-city trip that included a sweep at Nationals Park, the Giants knew they would play this weekend's series without LaMonte Wade Jr., Evan Longoria and Tommy La Stella. They ended up without Mike Yastrzemski, too, as the leadoff hitter remains in quarantine, waiting for two negative PCR tests that can get him back onto the active roster. Before Friday's game, Brandon Belt went down to COVID-19, too.

It was a tough situation, but none of that is the main reason why they dropped two of three to the Washington Nationals over the weekend.

The pitching staff gave up 12 more hits in an 11-5 loss on Sunday, running the total for the three-game series up to 45 hits in 27 innings. It was one of the worst-pitched weekends in Oracle Park's history, and it was particularly stunning given how sturdy the staff was through April.

Certainly, some of the damage was done against call-ups and pitchers who were trying to soak up innings in blowouts. But Alex Cobb gave up four hits and five runs -- just one of them earned -- while recording just two outs in his return from the IL, and Jake McGee allowed three runs in the eighth shortly after a five-run rally had cut the deficit to three. Those bumped the Nationals up to 28 runs over three games.

"I think it's a combination of things," manager Gabe Kapler said. "First, the Nationals swung the bats well, put the ball on the barrel often. And then there was some good fortune -- and that's not taking away anything from the Nationals or anybody else, it's just, it happens, right? Hard groundballs go through the infield, we had (Juan) Soto on the ground a couple of times and some of those were able to sneak through, and others up and down their lineup. It's just part of the game. Sometimes those balls land on the grass and sometimes they land in gloves for double-play balls and easy converted outs.

"First, we have to own that we can play better baseball than we did this series and we can definitely play better baseball than we did in this game, and then we can also acknowledge the way that happened. That's through high-quality at-bats from the Nationals but also through some balls on the ground that we weren't able to convert into outs."

The killer on Sunday was a ball on the ground that wasn't converted into two outs. With two on in the first, Nelson Cruz hit a chopper to third that got under Jason Vosler's glove and rolled down the line. Had Vosler scooped it cleanly, it would have been an easy play to step on third and make the throw across to first. Instead, the Nationals took the lead, and Cobb -- after some issues with his command and a couple more bad breaks -- was knocked out when his first-inning pitch count reached 40.

"He deserved better," Kapler said.

Cobb's return from a groin strain looked bad in the box score, but it was more of a mixed bag. He hit 96 mph and said he never dealt with any issues with the groin, but he started to fatigue halfway through the long inning. Two of the four hits he allowed were hit under 70 mph, but Cobb also issued three walks and threw just 22 of 40 pitches for strikes. A balk was mixed in, too.

"It seemed to be a combination of bad luck, really bad pitches, and not just executing that one pitch you need to get out of the inning," Cobb said. "There were plenty of opportunities just to make one pitch and not let that unravel the way that did, and I just didn't do it."

Sam Long entered and struck out Soto with the bases loaded, but the bullpen would end up allowing six more runs. There's never a good time to give up 45 hits over three games, but this weekend's meltdown seems particularly poorly timed. After a day off, the Giants will visit Dodger Stadium.

The two-game series with the Dodgers is the first between the teams since last year's memorable postseason matchup. Before Sunday's game, Kapler was reticent when asked about what's to come, preferring instead to focus on the Nationals. They proved to be more than the Giants could handle, but the Dodgers are a different animal.

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"Generally we just have to play better baseball," Kapler said. "We're going to need to make more pitches on the mound, make more plays on defense, and drive the baseball a little bit more than we are and keep the line moving a little bit more than we are. Obviously that's a really good baseball team down there and they're going to be ready."