Davey Johnson was at a loss to explain the continued lack of offensive production after Monday night's 8-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants in the Washington Nationals' first game of three in AT&T. "I can't explain it," the 70-year-old manager told reporters, "Even the hitters went over some things and had a little meeting today. [Ryan Zimmerman] said a few words and [Ian Desmond] and it was a good meeting. That we're trying to do too much and not just go up there and swing the bat, get a good pitch and hit it. But we'll be all right. Tomorrow is another day. But today was awful tough." It was the sixth time this year the Nats had been shut out.
The Nationals' 155 runs scored so far this season before tonight were the National League's third lowest total. They had the second-worst average and on base percentage and the third lowest slugging percentage in the NL going into the game. Third-lowest BABIP. Second-lowest wRC+. They had Stephen Strasburg on the mound tonight in the second game of three, but the 24-year-old right-hander entered the game tied with Atlanta's Kris Medlen with the fourth-lowest average runs per start in the National League with 2.67 runs scored when his turn's come around so far in 2013. All of which meant, of course... that the visiting team would jump out to a quick 2-0 lead... give Strasburg less support than usual and hold a 2-1 lead until the ninth when the Giants rallied to tie it ...
Here's what happened...
After Nats' leadoff man Denard Span singled his way on to start the game, Bryce Harper, in the two-spot tonight, bunted the runner over ill-advisedly(?) giving up an out, but it set Ryan Zimmerman up for with an RBI opp the three-hole hitter cashed in with a line drive double into the left-center gap and off the Yahoo! sign on AT&T's outfield wall. 1-0 Nationals. Zimmerman's fifth was followed one out later by Ian Desmond's 14th double of 2013. The Nationals' shortstop took a 1-1 slider from Matt Cain the other way for a two-out, two-base hit that drove Zim in for a 2-0 lead over the Giants after a 1/2 inning in San Francisco. #zimanddesileadbyexample
GIven a two-run lead to work with, Stephen Strasburg walked Angel Pagan to start the Giants' first inning of work, but the Nats' starter quickly erased the leadoff runner with a 5-4-3 DP off Marco Scutaro's bat. Pablo Sandoval took a 1-2 fastball through the left side of the infield for a two-out single by a diving Ryan Zimmerman and past an in-pursuit Ian Desmond. Buster Posey hit a full-count heater back up the middle to put two on with two out for Hunter Pence, and... Strasburg walked Pence on four pitches to load the bases for Brandon Belt, who was 4 for 5 in the series opener last night. Belt K'd swinging over a diving 2-2 change, however, and Strasburg had a scoreless first after 31 pitches.
A 1-2-3 second against the Nats' 7-8-9 hiiters had Matt Cain up to 37 pitches after two innings on the mound in AT&T. Gregor Blanco singled to start the Giants' second on an 0-1 change from Stephen Strasburg. A 1-1 two-seamer to Brandon Crawford got a fly to center for out no.1 of the bottom of the second. Out no.2 came on a sac bunt from the opposing pitcher. With a runner on second and two down, Angel Pagan lined to center on a belt-high 2-0 heater that drove Blanco in and made it a 2-1 game, but Pagan got caught trying to steal second for out no.3 after cutting the Nationals' lead in half. [ed. note - "Updated Suzuki stats, 3 for 28 in SB against.] 13-pitch inning for Strasburg, 44 overall after two.
After a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 third, Matt Cain was up to 46 overall and he'd set seven Nationals in a row down after Ian Desmond's two-out double in the first. Still 2-1 Nats. Marco Scutaro took the second leadoff walk of the night off Stephen Strasburg and was the third leadoff runner in a row to reach base. As he did in the first, however, Strasburg erased the leadoff walk with a DP, this time a 6-4-3 off Pablo Sandoval's bat. A 1-2 change to Buster Posey got the Giants' catcher swinging to end a 13-pitch frame that had Strasburg at 57 overall. 2-1 Nationals after three.
Adam LaRoche walked to start the top of the fourth, then moved up on Ian Desmond's second hit of the night, a hard-struck single to center off Matt Cain. Danny Espinosa bunted both runners over in front of Roger Bernadina, who got hit and loaded the bases for the Nats' clutch* catcher. Kurt Suzuki grounded back to the mound, allowing Cain to throw home for a force and out no.2, and Stephen Strasburg was punched out on a check-swing strike three which left'em loaded. Still 2-1 Nationals. Gregor Blanco battled for six pitches before lining a two-strike fastball to right for a two-out single. Blanco stole the 26th base in 29 attempts against Suzuki this season on a 2-0 pitch to Brandon Crawford, but Crawford popped a 2-1 pitch up behind short to end the fourth. 18-pitch inning for Strasburg, 75 overall after four.
[ed. note - " * = if clutch existed."]
Bryce Harper worked an eight-pitch one-out walk out of Matt Cain in the Nationals' fifth, but Ryan Zimmerman grounded into a 3-6-1 inning-ender to let the Giants' starter off the hook for the free pass. The 15-pitch inning had Cain at 83 pitches after five. Stephen Strasburg was at 76 overall after Cain lined out to right on the first pitch he saw in the home-half of the inning. Another diving 2-2 change got Angel Pagan swinging for Strasburg's third K. A Marco Scutaro groundout ended a nine-pitch inning, after which the Nats' starter was at 84 overall.
Matt Cain busted Ian Desmond in under the arms with a backdoor slider that was called strike three by home plate ump Bruce Dreckman for out no.2 of the sixth and K no.4 for the Giants' Matt Cain. A 1-2 slider to Danny Espinosa got Cain another called strike and got him through a 17-pitch sixth inning at 100 pitches overall. 0 for 2, 2 Ks; 1 for 26, 14 Ks for Espinosa on the road trip. Stephen Strasburg played a grounder back to the mound off his cleat and threw to first to get Pablo Sandoval for the first out of the Giants' half of the frame. Strasburg started behind Buster Posey 3-0, but battled back to strike the Giants' catcher out with a 90 mph full-count change. A 2-2 fastball to Hunter Pence got the Giants' outfielder looking for out no.3 and K no. 5 on the night for the Nat's starter. The 13-pitch frame had Strasburg up to 97 overall after six.
The Nationals' 24-year-old right-hander grounded out to second to end a 12-pitch inning by Matt Cain that had the Giants' starter at 112 total. Brandon Belt was the third-straight strikeout victim in a row for Stephen Strasburg. No.6 overall when he went down swinging through a 96 mph 2-2 heater. A nasty 0-2 bender got Gregor Blanco swinging for out no.2 and K no.7 and a grounder to short ended the seventh. Grounder. Desmond. Out. 2-1 Nats after seven in AT&T. The 11-pitch inning had the Nats' right-hander at 108 total after 7.0 IP.
Javier Lopez started the eighth for the Giants, ending Matt Cain's night after 7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 Ks, 112 P, 68 S, 10/3 GO/FO. Denard Span started the top of the inning with a double to left, after which Bryce Harper bunted the Nats' center fielder over to third. Lopez walked Ryan Zimmerman to get to fellow lefty Adam LaRoche and got the Nats' first baseman swinging for out no.2, and right-hander Jean Machi came on to retire Ian Desmond and keep it a one-run game after seven and a half. Tyler Clippard took over for Stephen Strasburg after: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 Ks, 108 P, 62 S, 7/3 GO/FO. Pinch hitter Nick Noonan K'd swinging for out no.1. Angel Pagan flew to left for out no.2. Marco Scutaro... battled for six pitches and doubled off the base of the wall in left. Pablo Sandoval... went down 0-2 and groundout to second to end the eighth. Still 2-1 Nats.
After a scoreless top of the ninth by Sergio Romo, Nats' closer Rafael Soriano came out looking for no.13 of 2013. "Pitch it, Soriano! Pitch it, Soriano! Strike him out, Soriano! Strike him out, Soriano!" Buster Posey grounded back to the mound and off Soriano's glove for an infield hit. Leadoff man on. Hunter Pence stepped in next. Andres Torres came on to run. Pence flew to center on a 1-2 slider for out no.1. ONE!! Brandon Belt flew to Bryce Harper in right for out no.2. TWO!!! Gregor Blanco... tripled to right, over Harper's head, to drive in the tying run. 2-2 game. And the winning run on third. Soriano walked Brandon Crawford intentionally to get to Giants' pinch hitter Brett Pill, whose flyout to center sent it to extras.
Jeremy Affeldt came on in the tenth against Nats' pinch hitter Steve Lombardozzi. A groundout to short started the frame. Denard Span flew to center for out no.2 and Bryce Harper grounded to second to end the top of the inning. Yunesky Maya came on for the Nats. Angel Pagan lined out to Denard Span in center for the first out of the inning. Marco Scutaro lined a slider to center for a one-out single in front of Pablo Sandoval... whose home run to center was of the walk-off variety. Ballgame.
Giants win, 4-2 final.
Nationals now 23-22