WASHINGTON – The location changes constantly, but the Giants' main problem never does.
A trip back to the East Coast did nothing to solve the clutch-hitting woes for a team that left 12 more runners on base in a 4-2 loss to the Washington Nationals to open a three-game series Tuesday night.
The Giants came up short before and after a lengthy rain delay and ended up 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position, dropping their average in that department to .203 since the All-Star break.
"It's the same thing we've been talking about," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We get our hits and get them out there. We're just going to have to have somebody hit a gapper at some time, you think. But we're missing it."
The Giants have scored just 62 runs in 24 games since the All-Star break, repeatedly failing to come through in big spots. Tuesday's game was the 11th straight in which the Giants recorded two or fewer hits with men in scoring position.
The lone silver lining Tuesday was that the latest failures didn't saddle a starter with another hard-luck loss. Madison Bumgarner pitched well in four innings but didn't come back out after a rain delay that lasted 1 hour and 17 minutes.
Bumgarner escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third by striking out Jayson Werth, but the Nationals scored an inning later. Ian Desmond led off the fourth with a double and went to third on Adam LaRoche's single. Desmond scored on Wilson Ramos' sharp grounder back to the mound that bounced off Bumgarner's leg.
Bumgarner is as competitive as it gets, but he didn't fight Bochy's decision to shut him down as the delay passed the hour mark.
"We weren't even thinking about letting him go back out there," Bochy said.
The Giants put multiple runners on in the first, third and fourth innings against Gio Gonzalez but couldn't scratch out a run. Gonzalez also was pulled after the delay, and the Giants tied the score on an error in the fifth. But the Nationals went back on top on LaRoche's two-run homer in the sixth and held on as the Giants stranded two men each in the seventh and eighth.
The lack of clutch hitting is nearly universal, with some of the biggest failures coming from the heart of the lineup. Hunter Pence left five on base Tuesday, and Pablo Sandoval stranded three. Even Buster Posey is not immune, leaving three runners on base. Posey is hitting just .166 in his last 20 games.
"I wish I had a good explanation," Bochy said of Posey's slump. "It just shows you that it doesn't matter how good you are in this game, you're going to have your ups and downs, including Buster. His swing is fine."
Note – Second baseman Marco Scutaro was a late scratch because of a stiff back, but Bochy expected Scutaro to be back today. Joaquin Arias was inserted into the No. 2 spot in Scutaro's place and had a career-high four hits.