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Slumping Giants' offense searching for confidence, trust

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Wilmer Flores hitting in Miami

There's not a lot of charm to the Ballpark Formerly Known as Marlins Park right now, not after they removed the quirky home run sculpture, shuttered the nightclub in left field, and got rid of the fish tank behind the plate. 

But the ballpark does still have a crisp, massive scoreboard hanging above the second deck in right-center. It's a great template to display stats, which is unfortunate for the 2021 Giants. 

The Giants headed to the East Coast with an 8-4 record, but a lineup full of batting averages chilling on the interstate. Those low numbers didn't rise during a 4-1 loss to the Marlins

They managed just five hits against soft-tossing lefty Daniel Castano and four Marlins relievers, lowering the team batting average to .203. Every hitter will slump over the course of a season, but it's particularly tough mentally when it happens in April. There's no hiding from the struggles when you look up and see .146 (Crawford), .154 (Belt and Flores), .167 (Ruf), .172 (Dickerson), .186 (Yastrzemski) or .194 (Slater) on the scoreboard. There's also a tendency to try and force your way out of the slump, which just makes things worse. 

"That's a natural thing that hitters do. It's always been that way, it likely always will be," manager Gabe Kapler said. "We just have to find a way to instill confidence, particularly taking the small things -- a high-quality at-bat, a line drive, a barrel, even if it's just offering at pitches these guys can drive and taking the pitches they can't even if it doesn't result in a hit -- we have to instill confidence every time that happens. 

 

"We have to find a way to consistently send that message. Consistency builds trust. And then also be real about this: We're not stringing enough high quality at-bats together on a nightly basis to score enough runs to win tonight's baseball game."

The lack of consistency has been a bit jarring after last season's breakthroughs. The Giants have had plenty of players have good nights, but it's rare that more than two or three look comfortable on any given night. Mike Yastrzemski had struggled most of the season but started to come around at the end of the homestand, and he had a double and triple in the middle of Friday's loss. The hitters behind him brought him home the first time but not the second. 

After averaging 4.98 runs per game in the shortened season, the Giants are at 3.23 through 13 games. That has put a ton of pressure on the pitchers, and on this night it was Anthony DeSclafani who took a tough no-decision after allowing one run over six innings. Wandy Peralta, who had pitched well over the first couple of weeks, gave up a three-run homer to Starling Marte in the eighth that was the difference.

"He's hitting at the top of the lineup in the two-hole for a reason," Kapler said of Marte. "The guy can really swing the bat."

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The Giants aren't right now, and it's putting a damper on what could have been an even better start to the season. Kapler said he has "a lot of confidence long term." Right now, though, it's mostly hard to watch. 

"I think it's fair to say that in small stretches, most offenses will struggle," Kapler said. "That's not to say that it's not frustrating. It is ... At the same time, I don't think it's any time to panic about the way the offense is performing. I personally have a ton of confidence in every hitter that we put out there in the lineup today, the ones that have been going out there day in and day out, as well as the guys coming off the bench. I think our roster is full of capable offensive players."

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