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Giants' lineup comes up empty again, wastes Gausman's night

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Gabe Kapler talking to Giants

The Pittsburgh Pirates love to celebrate wins with the phrase "Raise the Jolly Roger," a reference to the skull and crossbones flag that used to fly over pirate ships. The Giants tried to delay the raising after the 11th inning Friday, arguing that there might be a reason to take the winning run off the board.

They were unsuccessful, a theme of the night for half the roster. The pitching staff was excellent, striking out 17 behind a dominant Kevin Gausman, but the lineup once again had a quiet night, notching just four hits in a 3-2 loss to the Pirates

It was a disappointing night for Gabe Kapler and his players. It's also one we probably should have seen more of to this point. 

The Giants have struggled all season to find last season's success at the plate, but they have managed to get into and stay in first place because of a starting staff has been one of the best in the big leagues. On Friday, the lack of thump caught up to them.

Brandon Crawford hit a solo homer, but other than that there was only a bloop by Austin Slater, a single by Brandon Belt, and a single by Gausman, who was the victim of the lack of production. He struck out a career-high 12 and pitched into the ninth, but got no support. 

Kapler has remained confident in his hitters and said he had a good feeling before Friday's game. The lineup -- with both Brandons returning after missing Thursday's game -- was one of his better groups on paper of the last couple of weeks.

 

"You're going to have games like this, you're going to have stretches like this," he said. "We've had stretches where we've scored a bunch of runs and I trust that those stretches are coming again for us, but tonight we just didn't get the job done."

The lack of production was there throughout but was particularly glaring in extra innings, when each team got a free runner on second. The Giants failed to bring theirs home in the 10th, putting Tyler Rogers in a tough spot. He recorded a pair of strikeouts with the winning run on third and the Giants scored in the top of the 11th, but they failed to add on despite having two runners on base with one out. Mike Tauchman and Mike Yastrzemski both grounded out. 

Caleb Baragar, who hadn't allowed an earned run in 30 appearances dating back to last August 12, got a chance for his first save. He gave up a triple, tying the game, and Kapler elected to load the bases intentionally to push Baragar down toward the bottom of the lineup. Gregory Polanco scuttled that strategy, hitting a deep sacrifice fly to center that won the game. 

Kapler briefly came out to argue, and the Pirates had to wait a couple of minutes to celebrate as umpires met in a group. Kapler said the bench had seen Polanco pass the runner tagging up at first and wanted to double-check that there was no reason to take the run off the board.

"We just wanted to ensure that there wasn't any rule that would work in our favor if we looked at it," Kapler said. "(Home plate umpire Tom Hallion) assured me that they had thought about it from every angle and that the run scores ... we just wanted to make sure we covered every base."

The effort fell short, officially wasting one of the best starts of Gausman's career. He became the first Giant since Madison Bumgarner in 2016 to strike out at least a dozen batters and had a 91-pitch shutout going until two soft singles ended his night. The bullpen had some of the best escapes of the season, and Steven Duggar might have had the catch of the year, but it wasn't enough on a night when the offense struggled against some young Pirates pitchers.

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After breaking through last year, the Giants rank 17th in the big leagues in runs and have seen their OPS drop from .785 in 2020 to .707. Crawford said the group remains confident, though. 

"I think we feel pretty good in the clubhouse," he said. "Obviously not as good after a loss like that, but we feel pretty good. We haven't let any of our losses this year pile on and we plan to come out here and play well tomorrow."