Opposite dugout: Struggling Giants find themselves in unfamiliar position

giants-logo.pngManager: Bruce Bochy (11th season)

Record: 22-30

Last 10 games: 5-5

Who to watch: C Buster Posey (.333 with 7 HR, 11 RBIs), 1B Brandon Belt (10 HR, 22 RBIs), 3B Eduardo Núñez (.283 with 17 RBIs, 13 SB), RHP Matt Cain (3-3, 4.45 ERA), RHP Mark Melancon (2.51 ERA, 10 saves)

Season series vs. Nationals: First meeting (3-4 in 2016)

Pitching probables:

May 29: RHP Tanner Roark vs. LHP Matt Moore, 4:05 p.m., MASN2
May 30: LHP Gio Gonzalez vs. RHP Jeff Samardzija, 10:15 p.m., MASN2
May 31: RHP Max Scherzer vs. RHP Matt Cain, 10:15 p.m., MASN2

Inside the Giants:

The Giants usually use strong pitching and relentless offense to subdue opponents, but these aren't the Giants of a recent vintage. Injuries and inconsistency have robbed manager Bruce Bochy of the ability to use his 25-man roster to its fullest and the Giants are challenging the Padres for the basement in the National League West. Few people saw this collapse coming, though fewer people could have predicted that key cogs like ace Madison Bumgarner and emotional sparkplug Hunter Pence would be hurt, or that their replacements wouldn't produce as they have in the past. San Francisco is at or near the bottom in a variety of offensive categories - 29th in average (.228), homers (42) and total bases (622), and dead last in on-base percentage (.288) and slugging percentage (.353) - and middle-of-the-pack pitching hasn't been nearly enough to pick up the slack. As a result, the Giants are eight games below .500 and headed toward a lost campaign unless something changes dramatically - and quickly.

Catcher Buster Posey, who missed a week earlier this season with a concussion, has been his usual productive self, leading the Giants in batting average (.333), though his seven home runs have driven in only 11 runs. Center fielder Denard Span, who has battled right shoulder and right thumb injuries, boasts a .294 on-base percentage that's well below his career norm and has yet to steal a base. Since returning from a strained groin earlier this month, shortstop Brandon Crawford has slashed .317/.424/.741, hitting safely in 15 of his last 17 games. The Giants' most consistent power bat belongs to first baseman Brandon Belt, who has 10 homers and 22 RBIs, both team-leading marks. But Belt is struggling along with a .238 batting average, and though his 33 walks have upped his on-base mark to .355, the Giants need him to do a little more than stroll to first base following four balls. One-time Nationals fan favorite Michael Morse worked his way back into the majors and is acting as a pinch-hitter for the Giants, going 4-for-13 in that role.

Lefty Matt Moore starts the series opener and has worked at least six innings in three straight games and four of his last six. He's pitched much better at home (2-1, 2.57 ERA) than on the road (0-4, 7.80 ERA), but left-handed hitters are ripping him for a .404/.469/.825 slash line. He's made one career start against the Nats without factoring into the decision, posting a 3.60 ERA in five innings of work. Tuesday starter Jeff Samardzija has little to show for this season, winning only one game in seven decisions over 10 starts. He's prone to losing it only briefly and paying for it: from his 31st to 45th pitches, foes slash .419/.471/.774 with three homers. In 14 career games (seven starts) against Washington, he's 2-5 with a 3.83 ERA. Matt Cain draws the start in Wednesday's series finale, and the right-hander hasn't finished a season with a winning record since going 16-5 in 2012. He's only worked seven innings in two of his 10 starts this season, but is 3-1 with a 1.21 ERA in five home starts. Opponents are making hay in the first inning, when Moore allows a .317/.400/.537 slash. Cain has enjoyed a fair amount of success against the Nats with a lifetime 7-5 record and 3.30 ERA in 17 starts.

Mark Melancon, the Giants closer, is no stranger to the Nationals, who traded for him last July and had hoped to retain him. But Melancon bolted for San Francisco and a four-year, $62 million deal in the offseason. Yet with the Giants' struggles, there's been some chatter that the Nats might inquire about his availability. He's got 10 saves in 12 tries around a 10-day stay on the disabled list with a right pronator strain. But he's helped solidify the bullpen, which has a collective 3.90 ERA.

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