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What we learned as Giants drop first series of second half

NBC Sports

The bad news for the Giants? They lost their first series of the second half. The good news? They're done with Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Kwang Hyun Kim and the pesky St. Louis Cardinals. 

The Giants lost 2-1 on Sunday at Busch Stadium, dropping a series to the Cardinals for the second time in two weeks. They were hitless in seven plate appearances with a runner in scoring position and failed to capitalize on some late opportunities. 

They had a particularly rough sequence in the sixth, when they put runners on first and third with no outs. LaMonte Wade Jr. pinch hit against hard-throwing righty Ryan Helsley and struck out, and Wilmer Flores' fly to center was too shallow to bring the runner home. The Cardinals walked Brandon Crawford to load the bases for Mike Tauchman, who swung through 100 mph to end the inning. 

An inning later, the Cardinals handed a lead to their hard-throwing bullpen. Matt Carpenter hit a leadoff double off former teammate John Brebbia and the Cardinals scratched a run across when Harrison Bader rolled a check-swing grounder to first. 

The Giants have threatened every time they've seen All-Star closer Alex Reyes this season, and once again they put pressure on him in the ninth. Once again, they fell short. 

Alex Dickerson and Steven Duggar drew pinch-hit walks with one out in the ninth but Austin Slater and Donovan Solano flied out. It won't get any easier for a struggling lineup. The Giants are off to Dodger Stadium for four games: 

 

Big Man To Big Mac

The Giants didn't have much success against journeyman left-hander Wade LeBlanc, but Darin Ruf got to him in the fourth to tie the game. Ruf crushed a 107 mph homer into the third deck at Busch Stadium, known as Big Mac Land. 

Ruf came into the game with a 1.116 OPS against lefties, making him an automatic start in those matchups. He took advantage again Sunday, getting to double-digit homers for the first time since he hit 12 for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2015. 

Ruf did, it should be noted, regularly get well into double digits when he played in South Korea before the Giants brought him back to MLB. He had three consecutive 20-homer seasons for the Samsung Lions, hitting 33 in 2018. The Giants correctly bet that the power would translate. 

A Milestone For Johnny

Johnny Cueto allowed one run on two hits in five innings, and in the middle of his outing he hit a big milestone for a starting pitcher. Cueto crossed the 2,000 inning mark as a big leaguer, becoming the seventh pitcher born in the Dominican Republic to accomplish the feat. 

Former Giant Juan Marichal is the all-time leader for innings among Dominican-born pitchers with 3,5071 1/3, just ahead of Bartolo Colon (3,416 2/3). The rest of the top six: Pedro Martinez (2,871 1/3), Ervin Santana (2,461), Pedro Astacio (2,196 2/3) and Joaquin Andujar (2,153). 

Barrels Is Back

Coming off a Silver Slugger Award, Solano had a slow first half, batting .262 with a .678 OPS and three homers. He looks much more like his 2020 self through three second half games. 

Solano has three consecutive multi-hit games. He had not even had consecutive multi-hit games since the first four of the season, when he totaled nine hits in what looked to be a step up from 2020. The Giants got Mike Yastrzemski and Solano going in this series, and manager Gabe Kapler adjusted his lineup because of it. Solano hit second and Yastrzemski was third on Sunday.

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