January 29, 2023

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Road-weary Giants come out flat in Miami

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MIAMI — Coming off a marathon series in Philadelphia, in which three games totaled 29 1/2 innings over 11 hours and seven minutes (across three days), the Giants were met with a nearly immovable force: Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara.

The Giants received the opposite of a warm welcome to Miami on Thursday night, losing, 3-0, at loanDepot park. It marked the fourth time in the first seven games of San Francisco’s three-city, 10-game road trip that it has lost to a sub-.500 team (the Marlins improved to 21-28).

“Obviously, you want to take care of those teams [who are under .500],” starter Alex Wood said. “I think we’re just starting to put all of it together. … Anytime you face a guy like Sandy — he’s pretty good. So there’s not gonna be a whole lot of room for error.”

The southpaw Wood delivered a solid outing for the second start in a row, and he felt perhaps the best he has on the mound this season. His performance, along with that of batterymate Joey Bart, marked the silver lining for the Giants.

Wood went 5 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits — all singles — and two walks, and he struck out five. Though he did not protest when he was pulled in favor of Camilo Doval (who had not entered earlier than the seventh inning this season), Wood felt he could have gone longer, despite having tossed 90 pitches. Manager Gabe Kapler said that was one of the motivations for pulling Wood: He was reaching the limit San Francisco sets for its pitchers, and Kapler felt that going to Doval was “the right decision for the Giants and for Alex.”

Even if Wood was frustrated he didn’t get a chance to finish the sixth inning, he was pleased with his performance. His first start of June marked a shift in momentum that accompanied the flip of the calendar, after Wood posted a 5.32 ERA in five May starts.

“Tonight I felt like I had pretty good stuff,” Wood said. “My last three or four [starts], I haven’t thrown up to my standards, my capabilities. … I would have liked to stay in, but you know, those aren’t my decisions, and so they get paid the big bucks for it. … I’m sure me and Kap, we’ll chat about it like we always do, and I think we both try to see each other’s perspectives on any and all decisions.”

Bart, who entered Thursday 1-for-20 with 12 strikeouts dating back to May 18, reached base twice, including a leadoff single in the third inning. Bart walked in the fifth but was out on a double play two pitches later. Even if that means Bart is now 2-for-22 since May 18, it’s a step in the right direction, especially against a dominant pitcher like Alcantara.

“[Sandy’s] just really effective,” Kapler said. “We had a decent approach, we drove his pitch count up pretty good. … Our approach was good the first couple times through.”

Early on, it did seem like the Giants had Alcantara’s stuff figured out. Their first inning was arguably their best at the plate. They got runners on base almost immediately, after Mike Yastrzemski doubled in the second at-bat of the game and Wilmer Flores followed with a walk.

But Yastrzemski’s knock was one of just three hits the Giants managed. San Francisco went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position, stranding five while having only one baserunner reach third base — Yastrzemski in the first on Joc Pederson’s flyout.

Pederson also struggled against the Marlins’ arms, striking out twice and reaching base once on a single that hit the mound and bounced off Alcantara’s glove in the fourth.

With Evan Longoria on the bench with right shoulder soreness (he pinch-hit in the eighth inning and flied out), Brandon Belt still in San Francisco while his inflamed right knee recovers and Brandon Crawford scratched with a cold (per Kapler), the Giants were without three key veterans plus Darin Ruf (on bereavement leave).

Longoria and Crawford could return to the lineup on Friday, as might Austin Slater (left wrist inflammation). And though the Giants will be facing a less potent pitcher in Elieser Hernandez (2-5, 5.77 ERA), having those veteran players at the plate and in the field should help.

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