Giants woes continue with 5-3 loss to Nationals

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SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants’ torrid July is fading nearly out of sight in their rear-view mirror after a 5-3 loss to the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night, their eighth defeat in 12 games.

Hours after releasing veteran second baseman Joe Panik, the Giants sent rookie left-hander Conner Menez against the Nationals, but the 24-year-old from Hollister could not halt the team’s recent skid in front of 31,628 fans at Oracle Park.

Pablo Sandoval tried to rescue the Giants, doubling and scoring a run in the sixth, and delivering an RBI double in the seventh. But he struck out to end the game with Kevin Pillar on third base.

The Giants (56-58), who won 17 of 20 though July 23, made up no ground in the National League wild-card race after entering the night 3½ games out of the No. 2 spot.

Menez had pitched well at three levels this summer, including a 5-3 record with a 3.29 earned run average at Double-A and Triple-A. He allowed just two runs in five innings of a no-decision against the Mets in his major-league debut with the Giants on July 21.

In his first MLB start since then, Menez was shakier this time, allowing five earned runs in six innings.

He has surrendered two home runs in each of his two starts.

Menez walked two batters in the first, falling behind 1-0 when Kurt Suzuki delivered a two-out RBI single.

After a 1-2-3 inning against the bottom of the order in the second, Menez again started the third with a walk to Trea Turner. A single by Gerardo Parra set up Anthony Rendon’s sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead before Suzuki hit a two-run homer 10 rows up the left-field bleachers.

The Giants got on the board in the third when Pillar singled, went to third on a wild pickoff try by starter Anibal Sanchez, and scored on Brandon Crawford’s ground out.

But the Nationals got that run back in the fifth when Turner lined a 3-2 pitch over the left-field fence for a 5-1 lead.

The veteran right-hander Sanchez (7-6), who entered the game with a lifetime 3-0 record and 0.58 ERA against the Giants, allowed his only earned run of the night when pinch hitter Sandoval doubled to lead off the sixth and scored on Brandon Belt’s single to right.

Sandoval stayed in the game and doubled in Pillar to make it 5-3 in the seventh.

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