Defense bites Giants again as Dodgers complete four-game series sweep

LOS ANGELES — The San Francisco Giants didn’t follow the same playbook from the previous three games at Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles did, though, and the results were predictable.

San Francisco mixed it up by scoring two early runs and taking the lead, but the Dodgers continued their penchant for two-out runs, while the Giants’ suboptimal defense hurt them yet again Sunday in a 7-4 loss.

The Dodgers swept four from San Francisco for the first time since June 23-25, 1995. The Giants are now 16½ games behind LA in the NL West. They’re also two games behind the Cardinals and a game behind the Phillies for the third wild-card spot.

“Really frustrating, a level of play that it’s just not going to be acceptable for us,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “There’s no other way to classify it except as not good enough.”

The Giants charged into the break winning seven of nine, so the series at Los Angeles stung all the more.

“We just didn’t get it done,” starter Alex Cobb said. “It’s not where we want to be after a four-game series.”

The Dodgers’ dominance of the Giants in their four-game sweep was reflected in a number of categories:

L.A

SF

Average

.282

.187

Two out RBIs

21

9

RISP

10-33

6-29

PRAISE

28

30

runs

25

13


Yermín Mercedes, who doesn’t have a clear defensive position, was in left again Sunday and misplayed a drive by Freddie Freeman in the seventh that had a 90% chance of being caught, according to Statcast. Mercedes said he’d lost the ball in the sun for a moment and Kapler said, “Not the best jump. He looked up and saw sky, it happens and he wasn’t able to recover. I asked him if he got his best jump, is he able to catch it? He thinks he is.”

As it was, it was a double, and Freeman scored on Jake Lamb’s go-ahead double off Tyler Rogers. Gavin Lux sent in Lamb with a single, and Trayce Thompson — with brother Klay cheering wildly from behind the Giants’ dugout — doubled in another run. Thompson went 5-for-13 in the series with three extra-base hits and five RBIs, and he made a super play in left in the sixth, leaning way over the side wall to snatch a foul ball by Luis González.

Mercedes has been in left, at first and has caught with the Giants, but doesn’t look especially comfortable at any spot. He had not played in the outfield in the majors before this season and had only six games there in the minors.

Asked about Mercedes’ performance in left before the game, Kapler said, “I don’t think there’s a way to fully quantify that yet. Mercedes has worked his ass off out there in the outfield. He’s an athletic dude, he’s not a burner, but he’s athletic enough to make this work.”

Mike Yastzremski wasn’t available to play the outfield except in an emergency because of left calf soreness, the result, he said, of half-stepping on the side wall trying to make a play Saturday; Yastrzemski is day-to-day.

Four of the Dodgers’ runs Sunday came with two outs, and three hits in their three-run third came with two outs and two strikes. In the series, the Dodgers scored 25 runs — 21 came with two outs.

“All I can really look to is shutting the door with two quick outs,” Cobb said. “Limiting the damage, even not letting one of those runs cross across the plate, puts us in a different position. We were right there in every single game. So it makes it frustrating.”

Cobb gave up three consecutive hits to open the game, including an RBI single by Freeman, but made it through the dangerous Dodgers lineup three times, working 5 ⅔ innings and retiring eight of the final nine batters he faced.

Thairo Estrada drove in the Giants’ two early runs with a base hit, and Darin Ruf tied it up in the fifth with a two-run blast to left, his fourth home run in the past six games. But he was out of the game in the seventh when Brandon Belt pinch hit with two outs and a man at second and popped up to third.

The Giants’ rotation has been the team’s saving grace much of the season — the team entered the day with the second best starters’ ERA (3.48) in the league. Monday at Arizona, San Francisco’s top starter in May, Jacob Junis, rejoins the rotation.

“I think we have a lot of confidence as a rotation to go out and give this team a chance to win every single night against anyone,” Junis said. “Even in this series, we were right there until the very end; we just came out on the wrong end. So I think (the rotation) is going to be a strength for us in the second half, and it’s just a matter of putting it all together on a nightly basis and going and doing it.”

Can a strong rotation keep a flailing team in a pennant race?

“Certainly,” Kapler said. “I think it’s no secret that we’ve had some defensive challenges behind that rotation. And I think that’s the area that we are going to continue to attack. That will even be better for our bullpen.”

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