ST. LOUIS -- An offensive surge had been the driving force behind the Giants’ six-game winning streak, but that stretch came to an end following a listless showing from their bats Saturday afternoon.
After outscoring opponents, 49-20, over their previous six games, the Giants were shut out for only the second time this season, dropping a 4-0 contest to the Cardinals to even this three-game series at Busch Stadium.
San Francisco tallied eight hits and put at least one runner on base in all but one inning, but it couldn’t capitalize on enough scoring opportunities against St. Louis right-hander Dakota Hudson, who fired five scoreless innings. The Giants threatened in the seventh, when they loaded the bases with one out, but Cardinals flamethrower Ryan Helsley managed to escape the jam by inducing an inning-ending double play on a ground ball from Brandon Belt.
A defensive miscue compounded issues for the Giants, as center fielder Austin Slater lost a routine flyball in the sun, allowing St. Louis to add a pair of insurance runs with two outs in the seventh.
Here are three takeaways from Saturday afternoon’s loss:
1. Junis solid
Jakob Junis delivered another strong performance while filling in for the injured Anthony DeSclafani in the Giants’ rotation, giving up two runs on six hits over 5 2/3 innings in his second start of the year. The 29-year-old right-hander has emerged as a key depth piece early this season, logging a 1.74 ERA over 20 2/3 innings in four appearances for San Francisco.
The Cardinals opened the scoring on Brendan Donovan’s RBI double in the second inning, but Junis went on to retire 10 in a row before surrendering a solo shot to Tommy Edman that put the Giants in a 2-0 hole in the fifth.
“Pretty solid,” Junis said. “I would have really liked that home run that went out to stay in, but all in all, after facing the same team two starts in a row, it’s all I can [ask] for.”
All three of Junis’ strikeouts came on his slider, which he threw 57% of the time Saturday, up from 39.9% in 2021. Junis said he leaned more on that pitch because he didn’t have much of his feel for his changeup.
“It wasn’t really an effective offering for me today, which is tough because I would have loved to take some of the load off the slider and thrown more of those today,” Junis said. “It just really wasn’t in the cards.”
2. Walton debuts
The Giants made a significant move to alleviate their roster crunch Saturday morning, trading utility man Mauricio Dubón to the Astros in exchange for switch-hitting catcher Michael Papierski. To replace Dubón on the 26-man roster, the Giants activated infielder Donovan Walton, who was acquired from the Mariners last week.
Walton, a left-handed hitter who can play multiple positions, started at second base and batted eighth in his Giants debut Saturday, doubling down the left-field line in the seventh to collect his first hit with his new organization.
Walton’s first stint with the Giants could be brief, as the club is expecting to get second baseman Tommy La Stella back from the injured list in the near future. Still, the fact that the Giants were willing to part with a notable pitching prospect -- right-hander Prelander Berroa -- to land Walton indicates that they believe the 27-year-old has the potential to contribute to their infield mix this year.
“Donnie is a versatile piece for us in our organization,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “In particular, I think he fits our offensive profile very well. Great contact skills, a guy that works counts and draws walks and I think embodies the spirit of what we care about in our offensive philosophy, which is looking for pitches to drive that are in those zones and being patient on pitches that we can’t drive.”
3. Bart’s day
Rookie catcher Joey Bart entered Saturday mired in a 4-for-42 (.095) slump over his past 14 games, but he showed some progress at the plate, going 1-for-2 with a walk. Bart led off the fifth with a single and advanced to third with two outs, but he didn’t break for home when Joc Pederson took off for second and got caught in a rundown, killing the rally.
“It’s just something that comes with experience,” Kapler said. “Joey’s a heads-up baserunner, a guy that makes really good decisions. We just have to continue to talk about how to execute that play. It’s not an easy play to read. Yadi [Molina] is obviously an experienced catcher and made a good throw down to second base, so even if Joey does take off, there’s a chance that he’s going to be thrown out at home plate.”
Bart’s offensive struggles prompted the Giants to start veteran Curt Casali behind the plate in three of the previous five games, but Kapler said he still expects Bart to get plenty of catching opportunities moving forward.
“Despite the fact that it’s been a rocky offensive start, he’s been a quality defensive catcher for us,” Kapler said. “We also believe there’s a plus-offensive player in there. The only way to get to that is by continuing to give him those opportunities and those looks.”