Marco Luciano

Luciano picks up first hit, but Giants' bats continue to struggle

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SAN FRANCISCO -- When a reporter asked Marco Luciano about what happened to the ball from his first hit in the big leagues, the rookie reached into his locker and pulled it out. The ball already was in a glass box imprinted with the accomplishment and date, and Luciano flashed a wide smile as he displayed it in front of reporters and a couple of cameras. 

It was an image that the Giants would be smart to splash across the city as part of next year's marketing campaign, but late Friday, Luciano was about the only one in the clubhouse who could manage a smile.

The Giants lost 3-2 to the Boston Red Sox, kicking off a brutal stretch of their schedule with another quiet offensive performance. They have scored fewer than three runs in seven of their past nine games, and nobody was in the mood to find silver linings. Asked about getting back on track on the mound after his 1 1/3-inning performance last weekend, ace Logan Webb paused. 

"It's a lost game," he said quietly. "It still was not great, to be honest. But it's better than 1 1/3."

This spring, Webb spoke excitedly about leading a new generation of Giants into the future. But Friday's loss was a reminder that the path has plenty of potholes. 

The Giants started four consecutive rookies at the bottom of their lineup and another -- Blake Sabol -- hit for Luis Matos in one of the game's biggest spots. One day, the Giants hope to look back at this summer as a launching point for a homegrown group that consistently competes for division titles, but the growing pains right now are leaving a mark. The rookies combined to go 2-for-14 with seven strikeouts. 

"We believe in those guys and especially believe in their ability to improve on the job," manager Gabe Kapler said. "That's why they're here and at various times they've been good for us and we expect that individually and collectively they have all the talent in the world to be successful going forward."

The Giants have been reliant on youth for most of the month, although they could soon get more experienced options back. Brandon Crawford is ready to come off the injured list and should be in the starting lineup Sunday, and Thairo Estrada is not far behind. Mitch Haniger swung off a tee on Friday, and the expectation remains that he will be back around the first of September. 

On Friday, though, Kapler's hands were somewhat tied. LaMonte Wade Jr. was unavailable because of back tightness that has bothered him for most of July, and Kapler used Austin Slater off the bench in a big spot in the sixth. 

When the Giants got the first two runners on in the seventh, Kapler's only pinch-hit options were two rookies: Sabol and Casey Schmitt. Sabol hit for Matos and got robbed of a single by Justin Turner, and then Brett Wisely and Luciano struck out, the latter coming on an outside pitch that was yanked back into the zone by Red Sox catcher Connor Wong. 

"A couple of tough at-bats there," Kapler said. "I'm not sure it's necessarily about approach, just maybe some experience, maybe some good pitching, and maybe some development left for some of those young players."

The Giants are staying patient, and if they wanted a reminder of how quickly all this can turn for young players, they needed only to look across the way on Friday. Red Sox rookie Triston Casas hit .197 in a month in the big leagues last year and had a mediocre first half, but with two big hits Friday, he's batting nearly .500 since the All-Star break. His long homer off Webb, which followed an RBI double, was his seventh of the second half. 

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The Giants have rookies with the talent to one day reach those heights, with Luciano leading the charge. He provided the highlight of the night in the sixth, smoking a 107 mph liner off Rafael Devers' glove for his first big league hit.

Luciano picked up the hit in front of his parents, who haven't gotten to see him play much but flew in from the Dominican Republic on Thursday. He said the keepsake will go to his mom.

"I'm really happy they were here to see it," he said, smiling.

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