Giants need to rediscover their 1-2 punch
Blanco, Panik combine to go 0-for-8 in Monday's Game 3 loss to Nats
SAN FRANCISCO -- The challenge of scoring runs against the Nationals has been one that every team they faced this season found daunting, what with their staff leading the Majors in ERA and pretty much every other category.
The Giants knew that going into the National League Division Series, and they had to know that it was their own stellar run prevention that put them on the cusp of clinching the series. Then the Nats and starter Doug Fister shut them down in a 4-1 loss in Game 3 on Monday, and their lack of offensive production became a little more of an issue.
Somehow, someway, the Giants have to figure out how to get the line moving and get some runs on the board against the Nationals before their command on the series slips away. They've scored but six runs in the first three games.
"The whole series, we haven't been able to hit the way we know how to hit," said Gregor Blanco, the club's leadoff man, who's off to a 1-for-14 start to the series.
The Giants can score. They ranked fifth in the NL in runs scored during the regular season. But then they didn't have to face the Nats all the time.
Not that anyone expected the Giants to unload on the Nationals with a barrage of baseballs being strewn all over the field, but they have yet to get something going to pull away from the pesky Nats.
"We're not going to get frustrated," said Blanco. "As long as we win, it doesn't matter if we get one hit and we win 1-0 -- as long as we win, it's all good. We've got good pitching, good defense and timely hitting, and we've just got to go out and do it [on Tuesday]."
That starts at the top of the order, a spot from which Blanco and Joe Panik went 0-for-8 on Monday, pretty much making moot a combined 6-for-15 performance by heart-of-the-order hitters Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt.
This obviously isn't the top of the order the Giants went into Spring Training hoping they'd have in October. They hoped it would consist of veterans Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro, the 1-2 punch that had delivered so often in the run to the 2012 World Series title. But both were lost to injury, and Blanco and Panik (2-for-15 in this series) became vital cogs to San Francisco's run into the postseason -- Blanco a known quantity since 2012, Panik a rookie bursting onto the scene.
With Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez on the mound in Game 4, there's the possibility of some lineup shifting for the Giants, considering they went with five left-handed hitters and a switch-hitter in Game 3. Manager Bruce Bochy said that options will be discussed, including, perhaps, moving Pence up in the order. But Bochy also made it clear that San Francisco's lack of production isn't just about the top of the order, or any one player.
"Well, I think there's a few guys [struggling to get hits]," Bochy said. "You're facing good pitching. They are not throwing out a lot of hits. [Blanco's] our guy, and he's the guy we're going to stick with."
This is the offense that the Giants brought with them to the postseason, and it's an offense that played a big role in getting them here. They're facing the game's best staff, and under the tightest conditions.
All San Francisco's offense really needs to do is rediscover what made it tick, particularly down the stretch, and put it to use against some very strong pitching.
"We've got to stay within ourselves and not try to do too much," Panik said. "It's one of those things where you run into a good pitcher who's on and mixing his pitches, in and out. Our offense was swinging it well before the last couple of games. [Tuesday's] a new day."
And a new challenge against a Nats staff that has been making it tough on hitters all year long.