Giants need old offense to show up in winner-take-all Game 5 originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
LOS ANGELES -- As his teammates took grounders and batting practice Tuesday afternoon, Brandon Belt hopped out of the visiting dugout at Dodger Stadium and walked over to first base. He started fielding grounders, and instead of glove-flipping them to his side, he whipped them back to a coach standing 90 feet away, a sly smile on his face as every throw left his fingertips.
Belt was not supposed to be making throws, not with a brace still on his left hand to protect his fractured left thumb. But he's pushing hard, hoping to be ready to return to the lineup at some point in the next round. The Giants right now need him more than they ever have.
A 7-2 loss to the Dodgers on Tuesday night marked a third straight lackluster performance from the lineup. Overall, the Giants have just nine runs in this series and just five in three games since they blasted three homers in support of Logan Webb in Game 1. Both runs in Game 4 scored on groundouts.
Gabe Kapler used his entire bench in an effort to catch up, but the Giants spent a potential closeout game playing defense the whole night. Their pitching has been mostly brilliant in this series, but they still are waiting for the offensive attack that finished second in the NL in runs during the regular season.
"I would chalk this, some of the more recent -- I won't even call them struggles -- but more recently us not being all that explosive on offense, to running up against some really good pitchers," Kapler said. "I think that's what happens in the postseason. You just get quality arm after quality arm, and sometimes you have one big inning and you're able to win the game with that one big inning.
"Sometimes you have to scratch across a run like we did yesterday, and it's one swing that makes all the difference. We're going to have our work cut out for us against (Julio) Urias in Game 5 and we'll be prepared for that."
Urias led the way in Game 2 at Oracle Park and will face off against Logan Webb on Thursday. Behind him, the Dodgers have a bullpen seemingly full of guys who throw 100 mph. While Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he didn't think Max Scherzer would be part of the mix for the winner-take-all game, it's not difficult to imagine the famously intense right-hander walking into his manager's office and telling him he'll have his spikes on.
It won't be an easy task for the Giants lineup. None of this has been. Through four games, they're batting .184 with a .524 OPS. That's the lowest of any team in the Division Series round. While the Giants did nearly win out on the final homestand of the regular season to clinch the division, it was clear they weren't taking the same swings during that week. Some of that has carried over against much better pitching.
Kapler said he'll digest it all, look back at Game 2 and figure out the right mix for Thursday. He said he's not sure if he'll use the same lineup -- one with only one left-handed hitter, Brandon Crawford, in it -- but he doesn't plan to change too much against Urias. This isn't the time to panic. The Giants are going up against good pitching, and they'll just have to find a way to beat it, something they were better than just about anybody at during the regular season.
"We'll do what we normally do," Kapler said. "We're going to try to put the best lineup out there that kind of counters some of Julio's strengths. He's got a lot of them. It's not an easy thing to do, but we'll do the best that we can. And I have a lot of faith in -- I've said this through the year -- the lineup we throw out there against lefties, the lineup that we threw out there last time against Julio. I feel really good about it.
"I think all of our players, all of our staff, myself included, will be confident with the lineup that we put out there. We're not going to change anything here at the end of the season."