WASHINGTON -- Examples of the Giants' recent futility were as omnipresent as American flags during San Francisco's 9-3 loss to the Nationals on Saturday at Nationals Park. Madison Bumgarner yielded three instant runs. Meanwhile, the offensively somnolent Giants mustered only one hit over the first six innings. They've averaged 3.2 runs per outing during their five-game losing streak, but stimulating the offense will be difficult to accomplish while corner outfielders Nori Aoki and Hunter Pence remain sidelined.
In this Fourth of July setback, however, Gregor Blanco's performance typified San Francisco's recent run more than any other facet. He displayed sincere effort as well as carelessness in back-to-back innings. In such mixtures, the latter tends to leave a stronger, more bitter taste.
Adding his own chapter to Willie Mays' book of inventive center fielding, Blanco crept toward second base behind Bryce Harper and took a seventh-inning pickoff throw from Yusmeiro Petit that nearly retired the Nationals' star.
"I was just trying to stop the momentum," Blanco said, referring to Washington's lead that grew to 9-1 in that inning. "[Harper] was way off base. I felt really close to second base and I said, 'Why not?'"
Giants manager Bruce Bochy admired Blanco's initiative. "We'd have had him if Petit recognized it a little sooner," Bochy said. "Give Gregor credit. He's still going all out."
However, Blanco was victimized one inning later. He was on second base with two outs when Matt Duffy hit a grounder toward deep shortstop. Fielding the ball, Washington's Ian Desmond realized that he had no play on Duffy, but noticed Blanco dashing to third ahead of him. Desmond faked a throw to second base, then trailed Blanco, who made a short turn past third base. That was all Desmond needed to tag out Blanco and end the inning with Buster Posey due up next.
"That was a tough one," Blanco said. "He looked like he was going to throw to first base. I felt him next to me, and I couldn't do anything."
Brandon Belt endured a pair of lapses. First, Washington catcher Wilson Ramos trapped him off first base with a strong second-inning throw. Then, Belt couldn't cover first base in time as he took a throw from shortstop Brandon Crawford, who made a nice play on Danny Espinosa's sixth-inning grounder. Belt apparently didn't realize Crawford was within range of the ball.
"We made some mistakes that shouldn't happen on a Major League field," Bochy said sternly.
Bochy observed that such slips tend to multiply during losing streaks. He has said that a well-pitched game typically halts this type of skid. But that eluded the Giants immediately, as Bumgarner was tattooed with Michael Taylor's homer, Yunel Escobar's double off the center-field wall and Harper's homer within his first five pitches.
"They were pretty aggressive, but we knew that going in," said Bumgarner (8-5), who surrendered six runs and eight hits over five-plus innings. Petit (three runs allowed over two innings) fared no better, arousing Bochy's concern: "We have to get him right. Everything's up."
Everything, that is, except the Giants' winning percentage. However, late-inning or walk-off home runs cost them three games on this so far winless trip. Thus, one pitch has made the difference during most of this losing streak, which may have buoyed Bumgarner's perspective of a season that passed its halfway point on Friday.
"We know what we can do," said Bumgarner. "There have been a lot of really good ups and some pretty bad downs. We're in a pretty good spot, right now. We just have to put it together and get on a roll."