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Taking stock of Giants’ hitting issues, which are partly on injuries and partly on returning bats

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Bigger picture, Gabe Kapler allowed, “This series hasn’t been our best offensive performance.”

He was being generous.

The Giants scored three runs in four games in Washington, which entailed a total of one out recorded by Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Jon Lester. Against ostensible starters Erick Fedde, Jefry Rodriguez, Paolo Espino and Joe Ross, they scored one run in 20 1/3 innings.

In three of the four games, an offensive attack that prides itself on working pitchers did not draw a walk. In 33 innings, they collected 17 hits, which is the club’s lowest total for a four-game series since Sept. 1-4, 2014, at Wrigley Field. The three runs in a four-game series is their fewest since March 29-April 1, 2018, at Dodger Stadium.

Only one pitcher — LA’s Walker Buehler — had pitched seven innings in an outing against San Francisco this year until Ross went eight scoreless, striking out nine Giants on Sunday.

The Giants are not right when Kapler acknowledges that “we can be more selective and at times more aggressive.”

A big part of the sudden problem is the players on the injured list, and a part of the problem is the players recently on the injured list.

Out are Evan Longoria, Tommy La Stella, Alex Dickerson and Darin Ruf. Among the recently back are Brandon Belt, Mike Yastrzemski and Curt Casali, who have combined to go 5-for-31 since being activated. Casali has started one game; Yastrzemski has hit a few balls hard, and Belt has not shown much life. None had a rehab assignment, and while virtual reality technology and a lot of swings in the cage can help, it probably can’t approximate major league pitching.

“Nothing truly simulates it when the lights come on,” Yastrzemski, who is 2-for-8 with a couple doubles since returning, said after the 5-0 loss at Nationals Park on Sunday. “So it’s all about just kind of trusting the process and knowing that you’re probably not going to be at your best right when you come back.”

Belt has been at his worst and is 0-for-16 with seven strikeouts in his past five games. An oblique strain forced him on the IL at the end of May until the beginning of June, and Kapler has liked what he has seen physically from his first baseman — he’s moving well and fielding his position.

He expressed more confidence that Belt will be fine while allowing, “I think his timing and his rhythm may not be where he wants it to be.”

There are other issues around the offense — Donovan Solano continues to struggle on breaking pitches; Steven Duggar is 0-for-9 with eight strikeouts in his past four games — problems that can be buried when the club is winning. And despite the lack of offense in Washington, the first-place Giants split the series.

The club has had an energy issue recently, as Kapler has cited, and now returns home after seven games on the road in the midst of a 13-games-in-13-days stretch. There are reasons to shrug off the sleepy bats.

But it will be curious to see whether rehab assignments are used more often when Longoria, La Stella, Dickerson and Ruf are due back.

Johnny Cueto was victimized by a high fastball to Kyle Schwarber that was nowhere near the zone — it was the second highest pitch in MLB this year to be homered off of — that accounted for three of the five runs he allowed in 5 1/3 innings.

Kapler called the effort “gutsy,” and he did manage to eat innings but has been up and down since returning from the IL.

The Giants checked on his hip after he had issues fielding a Victor Robles bunt that went for an error.

“He assured us that he was fine and he showed us with his stuff from that point on that he was fine,” Kapler said of Cueto, whose ERA sits at 4.00.

Jimmie Sherfy made his Giants and 2021 debut, pitching two scoreless innings with two strikeouts, a hit and a walk.

“He was especially sharp with his slider,” Kapler said.

The Giants’ rotation for a four-game set against Arizona at Oracle Park: Alex Wood, TBD, Anthony DeSclafani and Kevin Gausman. “TBD” likely will feature Sammy Long, either as a starter or bulk-inning pitcher.


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