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Nationals complete three-game sweep of Giants

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SAN FRANCISCO — The schedule set up like a dream.

No Max Scherzer. No Patrick Corbin. No Stephen Strasburg.

With a chance to gain significant ground in the National League Wild Card chase, the Giants did not have to face any of the Nationals’ top three starters in a critical three-game series at Oracle Park this week.

The results were nothing shy of a nightmare.

The Nationals completed a three-game sweep with a 4-1 defeat of the Giants (56-59) Wednesday as an unheralded trio of starters — Erick Fedde, Anibal Sanchez and Joe Ross — combined to allow just two runs over 18 innings this week.

An offense that paced the National League in nearly every meaningful statistical category for much of July appeared lifeless against a Nationals pitching staff that didn’t have to showcase its best arms.

“You have to navigate the ebbs and flows of a season,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “You go through tough times where you just can’t get a hit.”

Offensive failures have become a recurring theme for the Giants in the month of August, but so have struggles for young starting pitchers. The combination has led to crushing results as San Francisco has dropped six of eight games since the July 31 trade deadline and lost four in a row for the first time since the Giants lost six straight from May 22-May 29.

Three consecutive defeats to the Nationals marked the first time the Giants have been swept since they were outscored 34-8 in a three-game series against the Diamondbacks at Oracle Park from May 22-24.

Outside of losing Wednesday’s game and falling further behind the Nationals in the NL Wild Card race, the Giants also lost right fielder Steven Duggar to a left shoulder sprain in the top of the fourth inning.

With the bases loaded, two outs and the Giants trailing 4-0, Duggar ranged into the right center field gap and made a tremendous diving catch to keep the Nationals from extending their lead. The play saved reliever Andrew Suárez, but Bochy indicated it will likely cost Duggar a trip to the injured list as he immediately grabbed his left shoulder, which Duggar had surgically repaired last September after he tore his labrum diving into second base.

“We’re going to get a MRI here soon just to see where we’re at with it,” Bochy said. “Right now it’s a left shoulder sprain. I feel terrible for the kid. He got over the last time he hurt and was playing pretty good.”

Ross, who grew up in Berkeley and attended Bishop O’Dowd High, scattered just three hits over six innings in one of the best starts of his professional career. Despite entering with an ERA of 8.10 on the season, the right-hander only allowed one extra-base hit, a Mike Yastrzemski double, and a pair of singles while striking out five Giants hitters.

Offense was hardly the only concern for the Giants Wednesday as rookie right-hander Shaun Anderson turned in the shortest start of his season due to a blister issue.

“We were trying to take care of (the blister) this past week,” Anderson said. “It was feeling good in that first inning and it eventually broke open. It’s something I had to deal with. I wanted to keep going but the trainers thought for my best interest, it was better to come out.”

Since entering July with a 3.86 ERA, Anderson’s season mark has climbed to 5.33 and there’s now significant question as to whether he’ll remain in the rotation and make his next scheduled start against the A’s on Tuesday. With an off day coming up on Monday, the Giants may skip Anderson’s turn or place him on the injured list so he can receive the necessary time to heal.

“He may need to miss a start,” Bochy said. “We’ll reevaluate it (Thursday), but it may be the best thing for him to miss one.”

Bochy pulled Anderson after he gave up four runs over three high-stress innings to a Nationals offense that exhausted the Giants bullpen this week. After recording at least 5⅔ innings in all six of his June starts, Anderson has allowed at least three runs and failed to record an out in the sixth inning in each of his last seven outings.

Wednesday’s start would have lasted longer if not for the discomfort Anderson felt on the middle finger of his pitching hand.

“It just happened to be that there was another (blister) underneath that broke open unexpectedly so it was just something I had to deal with.”

The low point of Anderson’s afternoon came when Nationals first baseman Gerardo Parra, who was designated for assignment by the Giants in May, lofted a three-run home run over the left center field fence with two outs in the third. Parra hit a two-run home run for the Giants at Nationals Park earlier this season and hit his first home run at Oracle Park this year on Wednesday in his return to San Francisco.

“That ball got away from (Anderson), it was not where he was trying to put it,” Bochy said. “It was a mis-located fastball.”

The Giants could be out of the Wild Card race by the time Anderson pitches again, but they have another chance to reemerge as a serious threat when they open a four-game series against the Phillies on Thursday.

If the Giants take at least three of four from Philadelphia, they’ll have weakened one of the leading contenders for a Wild Card spot while making up for a lost opportunity against the Nationals this week.

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