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.
The Giants’ record is a thing of beauty. At 42-21, the Giants own the best record in baseball. Their number of wins exactly doubles their number of losses: they have won exactly two-thirds of their games for a (slightly rounded) winning percentage of .667. They are on a course to win 108 games this season. A thing of beauty.
This beautiful record will be on the line tonight when the Giants take the field in San Francisco to face the Washington Nationals in a four-game series. Several prognosticators picked the Nats to win the World Series, and they may do that, but their record is something somewhat less than a thing of beauty. At 32-29, they stand in a flat-footed tie with the Atlanta Braves. Their winning percentage is .525, on course to win 85 games this season.
The pitching probables are Strasburg and Vogelsong, Fister and Bumgarner, Roark and Cain, and Treinen and a Giant to be named. The first three games are night games, and the final game is an afternoon contest.