The past was prologue tonight as the Giants in the middle innings struggled to get out from under the disaster that was the first inning. Later in the season, if the past is prologue, the Giants will be in trouble should they face the Nationals in October baseball.
Matt Cain toed the hill for the Giants, and promptly he walked the bases loaded to start the game. All three runners scored, and the Giants played catch-up all night though they never equaled those three runs. The final was 6-2, and the Nats took the series by winning its first three games. Tanner Roark has pitched outstanding baseball, so, with him on the hill, overcoming a 3-0 deficit became a tall order, too tall for the Giants.
The Nats showed glove in their victory. Danny Espinosa, the second sacker, robbed Gregor Blanco of a single in the fourth that would have changed the score, and Ryan Zimmerman lunged to catch Brandon Crawford’s shallow flyball in the sixth. Zimmerman has converted to center field from third base, and that conversion has been so complete that the return of Bryce Harper and his remarks about returning to center field have become problematic.
Perhaps baseball is a game of streaks or momentum. If that is so, the Nationals seem to be surfing atop them.
The Nationals rode into town with hot pistols, and they have won big and have won small in two games. They have been impressive. The two losses have the Giants looking for meaning, and Madison Bumgarner has supplied it. Henry Schulman quoted him as saying, “We can’t be perfect every time out. It’s just about how quickly you can come back from it. No matter how good you are, you’re going to go through times like this.”
When he said this, he had just lost his fourth game of the season, having won a career-best six in a row, and the Giants had just been handed their first losing streak in three and a half weeks. In the face of a loss, he was clear, intelligent, and perceptive. Allowing two earned runs while striking out five and walking one, he pitched well enough to win on most days against most teams, but he understands the difference between “most” and “always.” The Nationals split that difference, and they make this a most interesting series.
Michael Morse in the eighth, facing Tyler Clippard, had his hand on a golden opportunity. He hit a long foul ball down the line toward left before Clippard delivered a 3-2 fastball that Morse missed. Earlier in the sixth Pablo Sandoval attempted to score from second on Brandon Crawford’s single. But Jayson Werth threw him out. In a tight game, one of these turning points could have turned out differently and given the Giants a W. But they didn’t, and Bumgarner’s philosophy comes in handy when games turn on matters of inches, and when the fans’ interest has to be nourished by superior baseball and not by wins. How quickly the Giants come back against a fine team will have to be enough as we watch expectantly tomorrow.
With a five-game winning streak and a beauteous record (42-21, exactly twice as many wins as losses) on the line, the Nationals behind Stephen Strasburg and Denard Span routed the Giants in the first game of a four-game series.
Ryan Vogelsong, the Giants’ number five starter, suffered six extra-base hits, tying his career record. Three of them came from the bat of the lead-off hitter, Denard Span who doubled, twice, and tripled. The rout was on and, further, admitted in the seventh when the Giants pulled half of their position players.
Strasburg lowered his ERA to 2.99 permitting one run, earned, in six innings. Vogelsong allowed six in six while his ERA climbed to 3.84. The victory allowed the Nationals to keep pace with the Braves, victors over the Colorado Rockettes, 3-1, with whom they share a 33-29 record.
The Giants lost a game of their lead over the Dodgers, who defeated the Cincinnati Reds, 6-2.
The Giants look to return to the winning column when they send Madison Bumgarner to the mound to face Doug Fister in his third start after returning to action from the disabled list. Fister brings an ERA of 3.19 to duel with Bumgarner’s 2.68.