LOS ANGELES–The only thing worse than a brazen enemy is a successful one, and Sunday night, Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig was both.
The animated, adrenalized adversary didnt record a hit during the first three games of the season-opening series, but tortured San Francisco throughout a 9-0 Giants loss that forced a series split.
After the Giants took the first two games of the weekend with narrow 1-0 victories, its pitching staff failed to remain perfect on Saturday and Sunday, a sin that by no means should guarantee a losing effort.
Except in both cases, it was a sin the Giants offense couldnt forgive no matter how hard it tried.
Its going to be a good offense, I know it is, manager Bruce Bochy said after his club suffered its second straight shutout loss. It was a rough series for the boys. The Dodgers put up a lot of zeroes against us.
While Bochys lineup was busy anchoring runners in scoring position to their respective bases, Puig emerged as the Dodgers catalyst, creating the first run of the game with a mix of determination and will power coupled with a Giants miscue.
After Giants starter Chris Stratton induced a routine flyout to left field for the second out of the fourth inning, Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager challenged Hunter Pences arm in an effort to take third base.
Seager arrived in plenty of time to beat the throw, but shortstop Brandon Crawford cut it off to pick off an overzealous Puig trying to advance from first to second.
When second baseman Joe Panik gloved Crawfords throw, Puig retreated toward first base. While doing so, Puig did his best impression of a theatrical third base coach, waving Seager home with the promise he would distract the Giants with a rundown.
Remarkably, Puig accomplished his goal.
Panik faked a throw and tried to chase Puig down on his way to first. The Giants hero from the first two games of the season never tossed the ball to first baseman Brandon Belt, and by the time Puig raced back to the bag, Seager had darted on home to reward Los Angeles with a 1-0 lead.
While the Giants offense couldnt buy a run if it tried to, their defense handed one away for free.
Puig relished the spotlight, savoring the moment with a celebration at first base. His antics have long bothered Giants fans that cant stand his flair for the dramatic and natural desire to crave attention, but its especially hard to take when Puig gets his way.
We didnt quite handle that, Bochy said. Give him credit, Puig got back in time. Im sure if Joe had a do-over, he would have gotten rid of that ball a little sooner.
It wasnt the only fun Puig had at his rivals expense.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Dodgers right fielder smoked a double to the right center field gap that exited his bat at 108 miles per hour. It split the distance between Austin Jackson and Andrew McCutchen, rolling to the wall and carrying the good feelings the Giants created during the first half of the weekend with it.
By that point in the game, a 2-0 lead felt like a 10-run deficit, given how uninspiring the Giants offense had become.
Last year, San Francisco created a habit out of making at-bats with runners in scoring position as exciting as vacuuming carpets around the house. Over the past two days, a spring cleaning might have been a good idea.
The trilogy of players the club signed to revamp a lowly offense –Jackson, McCutchen and Evan Longoria– combined to finish the weekend series 2-for-43. While Jackson and McCutchen each recorded a hit, Longoria admitted hes still feeling the pressure as hell carry an 0-for-15 line back to AT&T Park.
Its just a little bit magnified right now, Longoria said. Opening series, against the Dodgers, a lot of people looking for me to come out of the gate hot including myself and obviously Im not happy with the way that went.
In three of the first six innings, the Giants managed to push a runner into scoring position against Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill, but no player could spark an offensive surge.
In the top of the third, Belt reached third base with less than two outs, but a Jackson groundout to third and a McCutchen flyout to left kept the Giants scoreless. In the fourth, a two-out double from Belt might have scored a fleet-footed base runner, but third base coach Ron Wotus held catcher Buster Posey as he rounded third to prevent a relay throw from easily beating him to the plate. A Crawford intentional walk led to a Stratton strike out, and Hill escaped the jam.
The Giants had another chance in the sixth when Posey pounded a double off the left field wall to lead off the frame, but the hitters who followed couldnt bring him in. Even after Posey stole third base without a throw, a Belt line drive was snagged with a nifty slide by who else but Puig to end the inning.
After Stratton departed, Josh Osich surrendered a two-run home run to Cody Bellinger, which essentially sealed a game that was already trending in the Dodgers favor.
Over 36 innings of baseball, the Giants offense managed just two runs, both of which came on Panik home runs. Opening Day starter Ty Blach was the only San Francisco starter to ever log an inning with the lead this weekend, as he threw a scoreless bottom of the fifth Thursday after Paniks solo shot off Clayton Kershaw.
While the Giants likely would have entered Los Angeles satisfied if it could earn a series split against a Dodgers squad that won 104 games a season ago, the crushing manner San Francisco lost the final two games of the series generated a wake-up call the club didnt want to hear so early in the year.
Obviously it hasnt been easy sledding for me, Longoria said. But the fact of the matter is we won two out of four on the road, and you know, thats what we take out of it. For me, Ive got a long way to go, but weve got a lot of games left.
At the end of the weekend, the Giants finished 1-for-28 with runners in scoring position.
The offensive ineptitude marked the first time in franchise history the team failed to score more than one run in each of their first four games of a season.