Mauricio Dubón endured a frustrating April, but May is off to a better start.
Dubón launched his first home run of the season as the Giants lost their second consecutive game to the Padres, 6-2, on Saturday night at Petco Park.
San Francisco fell to 16-11 after dropping back-to-back games for only the second time this year, though it remained atop the National League West following the Dodgers’ 6-5 loss to the Brewers. The Giants’ first losing streak of the season came on April 16-17 against the Marlins.
Anthony DeSclafani surrendered a three-run home run to Manny Machado in the first, but he settled in and didn’t allow a hit over his final four innings. DeSclafani departed after throwing 76 pitches over six innings and now has a 2.00 ERA over his first six starts with the Giants.
The Giants couldn’t climb out of the early hole, finishing the night with only five hits against left-hander Blake Snell and four Padres relievers. While they’ve loaded the bases four times in the first two games of this series, the Giants have gone only 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position and racked up 28 strikeouts.
“The last couple of nights are an indication that we have a better brand of offensive baseball in us,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I trust that we’ll get there because we have players that are talented enough and prepared enough to make that happen.”
Dubón, who started at shortstop in place of the injured Brandon Crawford, put the Giants on the board after crushing a 2-1 fastball from Snell out to left field for a leadoff home run in the fifth. Dubón immediately knew it was gone, punctuating the 389-foot shot with a bat drop before beginning his trip around the bases.
“When I hit it, I knew it was gone right away,” said Dubón, who entered Saturday batting only .188 over 22 games. “It’s baseball. It’s crazy, you want to get your spirits up when you’ve been hitting the ball hard and having good at-bats, but it’s tough to see .100 when you’re hitting. Like I said, it’s baseball, and it’s going to even up.”
DeSclafani extended the rally by reaching on an error by Padres second baseman Jake Cronenworth and later scored on an RBI single by Darin Ruf to cut San Diego’s lead to 3-2. A single by Buster Posey and a walk by Evan Longoria loaded the bases with two outs for the Giants, but Snell then blew a 96 mph fastball past Brandon Belt to end the inning.
The Padres eventually broke the game open by scoring three runs in the eighth off rookie reliever Camilo Doval.
Dubón was projected to be the Giants’ starting center fielder this year, but he’s lost playing time there to Austin Slater and Mike Tauchman, who was acquired from the Yankees in exchange for left-hander Wandy Peralta and a player to be named later earlier this week. Injuries to Donovan Solano (right calf strain) and Crawford (left calf contusion) have created more opportunities in the infield for the versatile Dubón, who frequently takes ground balls at shortstop and second base and shags fly balls in the outfield to keep himself ready to play wherever the Giants need him.
“I think he’s done a really nice job at shortstop,” Kapler said. “He’s surprisingly agile and looks like an experienced shortstop out there. He just doesn’t have that many reps, particularly relative to our starting shortstop. It’s really nice to see him make plays to his left and his right, to look athletic, to look confident and to look experienced despite not having that many reps. At the plate, it’s nice to see him hit the ball in the air and do some damage.”
Dubón, 26, drew praise for his more selective approach during Spring Training, and while he didn’t have much to show for it in April, his .253 expected batting average suggests there’s been an element of bad luck in his slow start. Despite making hard contact, Dubón hasn’t been rewarded with many hits, as evidenced by the diving catch Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. made on a liner Dubón hit in the sixth.
“He still gives me a hard time from last year when I took an extra-base hit away when I was in center,” Dubón said. “He said that when he has a chance to dive for my ball, he’ll dive, so that’s why I just laughed with him a little bit.”
Dubón is doing his best to stay upbeat, though his frustrations seemed to spill over into other aspects of his game earlier this week. On Tuesday night against the Rockies, Dubón tried to do too much and ended up committing an egregious gaffe on the basepaths, running through a stop sign and colliding with third-base coach Ron Wotus to undermine a fourth-inning rally in an eventual 7-5 loss in 10 innings.
“I think Dubón is generally frustrated right now,” Kapler said afterward. “He’s an incredibly competitive young man. Things haven’t gone his way at the plate. He’s still adjusting to some challenges. We’re asking a lot of him on defense, the center field-shortstop thing. I certainly think that frustration doesn’t have boundaries.”
“It was a mental mistake,” Dubón said. “I’ve just got to run with my head up. That’s something we’ve talked about with Wo. I’m surprised he’s OK. I’m a big man coming at him and I collided with him. But I’ve got to run with my head up. It’s something we discussed, and it’s not going to happen again.”