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Heartbreaker: Nationals blow lead in ninth, lose 2-1 on Brandon Belt HR in 18th

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Washington Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann threw 8 ⅔ scoreless against the San Francisco Giants and Drew Storen came on to close it out, but the Giants tied it up at 1-1 in the ninth and won it on a Brandon Belt homer in the 18th inning...

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

NLDS Game 2 Top 5:

5. Quick Recap: The Washington Nationals were one out away from wasting Asdrubal Cabrera's leadoff double to the left field corner off San Francisco Giants' starter Tim Hudson. Jordan Zimmermann K'd trying to bunt Cabrera over, and Denard Span's groundout moved the runner to third in front of Anthony Rendon, whose two-out single to left field left him 2 for 2 on the night and put the Nats up 1-0 with their first lead of the NLDS.

Jordan Zimmermann rolled through six scoreless, retiring twelve straight batters after Giants' left fielder Travis Ishikawa's leadoff single in the third.

After seven innings, and a seven-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh, Zimmermann was up to 78 pitches, 15-straight set down and 18-straight scoreless innings on the mound over which he gave up just four hits, three of them tonight.

Zimmermann was up to 18 straight outs, nineteen-straight scoreless and 88 pitches after a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 eighth inning.

Drew Storen took over with two down in the ninth and gave up back-to-back hits by Buster Posey and then Pablo Sandoval. Joe Panik scored on the double to left by Sandoval to tie it up, but Posey was thrown out at home.

1-1 in the ninth.

With the game still tied up at 1-1 in the eighteenth inning... Giants' first baseman Brandon Belt absolutely crushed a 3-2 fastball, sending a towering home run to right field and into the stands. 2-1 Giants.

Nationals drop second straight, trail 2-0 in NLDS.

4. Zimmermann's Turn: Nationals' starter Jordan Zimmermann, 28, put together about as good a second-half as you could ask for, going (8-0) with Washington 12-1 in his 13 starts, over which he put up a 2.18 ERA, a 2.58 FIP, nine walks (0.93 BB/9), 81 Ks (8.41 K/9) and a .211/.241/.329 line against in 86 ⅔ IP.

And he ended the season with just about as good a start as you could hope for, a no-hitter vs the Miami Marlins in which the only runners to reach base did so on a walk and a wild pitch/strike three.

This afternoon in the nation's capital, however, the Nationals' 2007 second-round pick was making what was arguably the biggest start of his six-year major league career in a "must-win"-ish Game 2 of the NLDS.

"I had a good fastball and I was locating in and out, and the slider was there and I mixed a curveball in second or third time through the lineup." -Jordan Zimmermann on win over Giants in late August

After the Nats' 3-2 loss in Game 1 on Friday with Stephen Strasburg on the hill, the Nationals turned to Jordan Zimmermann in Game 2, hoping the right-hander could help them even things up with the Giants.

In his one start against San Francisco this season, the right-hander held the Giants to seven hits and two runs in eight innings of work in a 6-2 Nats' win in which he earned his ninth curly-W of the 2014 campaign.

"He maintained velocity all day," Nationals' manager Matt Williams said that afternoon.

"Early on it was a lot of fastballs. Then he worked in breaking balls early in counts to get ahead as we went through the middle innings and that kind of kept his pitch count down too and allowed him to get through the eighth."

"I had a good fastball and I was locating in and out," Zimmermann explained after the win, "and the slider was there and I mixed a curveball in second or third time through the lineup. I started throwing more curveballs. And the last two innings I mixed in a few changeups and got some ground balls. And overall, [Wilson Ramos] and I were on the same page and our defense played great."

Though he only saw them once this season, Zimmermann told reporters on Friday that we was prepared for today's start and knew what he needed to do to have success against the Giants.

"They are experienced, that's for sure," he said. "If you make your pitches, and throw the game you want to throw, I mean, good things will happen. You have to stay out of the middle of the plate, pitch your game."

The Nationals needed a solid outing from their 2007 2nd Round pick, whose only previous postseason outing lasted just three innings in Busch Stadium in St. Louis in 2012.

Zimmermann's second postseason start began with...

1st: Giants' leadoff man Gregor Blanco fell behind 0-2 and popped to short left-center on a 95 mph 1-2 fastball. Joe Panik sent a towering fly to right where Jayson Werth caught out no.2. Buster Posey stepped in with two out, worked the count full and lined single through short. Pablo Sandoval popped out to right to end a scoreless 17-pitch first.

2nd: Hunter Pence fell behind 0-2, but singled through short on a curve that was up in the zone. Brandon Belt K'd swinging at a 93 mph 3-2 fastball up high and Pence was caught stealing at second for the strike'em out, throw'em out DP. Brandon Crawford stepped in with two out and popped out to right to end a 13-pitch second that left Zimmermann at 30 total after two.

3rd: Travis Ishikawa sent a single back up the middle, just out of Zimmermann's reach. Tim Hudson bunted the runner over/gave up an out. Gregor Blanco fell behind 1-2 and took a knee-high 95 mph fastball inside for a called strike three and out no.2. Joe Panik's groundout to first ended a quick, 13-pitch third that left Zimmermann at 43 pitches.

4th: Buster Posey grounded out to short to start the Giants' fourth. Pablo Sandoval fell behind 0-2 and chased a 94 mph heater up high. Hunter Pence's groundout to first ended a quick, seven-pitch, 1-2-3 third. 50 pitches total.

5th: Brandon Belt grounded out to first. Brandon Crawford did the same. Travis Ishikawa's groundout to third ended another quick, 1-2-3 frame. Nine-pitch fifth for Zimmermann, 59 total after five, nine straight Giants set down.

6th: Tim Hudson K'd swinging at through a 94 mph 2-2 fastball. 10-straight. Gregor Blanco lined out to short. 11-straight. Joe Panik's groundout to first made it 12-straight outs and three straight 1-2-3 innings. 12-pitch frame, 71 total after six.

7th: Buster Posey was the thirteenth straight batter retired by Zimmermann after the Giants' catcher's lineout to third. Pablo Sandoval sent a high fly to left for the fourteenth straight. Hunter Pence's groundout to short made it 15-straight outs. Seven-pitch frame, 78 total after seven.

8th: Brandon Belt sent a fly to short-left-center where Ian Desmond made a over-the-shoulder catch. Brandon Crawford lined an 0-1 pitch to right but just foul. Zimmermann's 0-2 pitch to Crawford was a 94 mph heater up high that got a swinging third strike. 17-straight. Travis Ishikawa fell behind 1-2, got to a 2-2 count and lined out to first to end a 10-pitch frame with the eighteenth straight out recorded by the Nats' starter. 88 pitches total. 19-straight scoreless.

9th: Pinch hitter Matt Duffy fell behind 0-2, got to 1-2 and chased a slider outside. ONE! 19!! Gregor Blanco fell behind 0-2 and sent a fly ball to center for out no.2. TWO!! Joe Panik started up 2-0, hit a long fly ball, got to 3-1 and took the first walk of the game... that was it for Zimmermann.

Jordan Zimmermann's Line: 8.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 100 P, 69 S, 9/5 GO/FO.

3. Hudson vs the Nats: In thirteen second-half starts, 39-year-old, 16-year veteran Tim Hudson was (2-7) with the Giants 5-8 in his outings, over which he put up a 4.73 ERA, a 4.14 FIP, 15 walks (1.92 BB/9) and 42 Ks (5.37 K/9) in 70 ⅓ IP with opposing hitters putting up a combined .300/.340/.451 line against him.

Asked in his pre-start press conference on Friday if he ever thought going down the stretch that he might not get a turn in the rotation in the postseason with the way things were going, Hudson said, "No," or at least, "Not really."

"I felt like we got a pretty good handle on some things mechanically. I felt like I figured some things out going into that last start. I feel really good physically right now and where I am mechanically..." -Tim Hudson on overcoming second-half struggles

"Obviously throughout the season you're going to go through some ups and downs," he explained, "Mine just happened to be at the end of the year, in September."

Hudson and his pitching coach worked hard to straighten out his mechanics and get him back to his first-half form when he posted a 2.87 ERA, a 3.19 FIP and a .245/.285/.378 line against in 119 IP.

"We did some, me and [Dave Righetti] did a lot of work on the side, working on some things between starts and going into my last start in L.A. I felt like we got a pretty good handle on some things mechanically. I felt like I figured some things out going into that last start. I feel really good physically right now and where I am mechanically, we did some good work over the last week or so."

In his first postseason start since 2010 with Atlanta, Hudson was facing a team he was familiar with from his time with the Braves.

In two starts this season, which were his 30th and 31st career outings against the franchise, Hudson was (2-0) with a 0.73 ERA, three walks and eight Ks in 12 ⅓ IP over which he held Nats' hitters to a combined .239/.286/.304 line.

"There's obviously a lot of history between myself and these guys," Hudson said. "We go back a lot of years from when I was with Atlanta. But obviously they're a different club now than [when] I faced them early on in my career."

Hudson's third start of the season against the Nationals began with a scoreless 15-pitch first in which he pitched around a one-out single by Anthony Rendon. Hudson needed just eight pitches to retire the side in order in the second.

Asdrubal Cabrera hit an opposite field double into the left field corner to start the Nationals' half of the third. Jordan Zimmermann tried to bunt the runner over, but K'd tried to do so on a 1-2 pitch. Denard Span's groundout moved the runner over to third, and Anthony Rendon... drove him in with a single to left that made it 1-0 Nats after three. 14-pitch frame for Hudson, 37 total.

Ian Desmond singled to center with one down in the Nationals' fourth and stole second with Bryce Harper at the plate. Harper worked the count full, but K'd swinging at a back-foot splitter. Wilson Ramos took a called strike three on a 1-2 fastball up high, stranding Desmond at second. 13-pitch frame, 50 total for Hudson after four.

A lineout to first by Denard Span ended an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 frame by Hudson, that left the Giants' starter at 61 pitches.

Anthony Rendon was 3 for 3 tonight after his leadoff single to center in the sixth and he took second on a groundout to short by Jayson Werth. Adam LaRoche's groundout moved Rendon to third, and gave Ian Desmond an RBI opp, but the Nats' shortstop's swinging K ended a 10-pitch sixth that left Hudson at 71 pitches.

Wilson Ramos singled to center with one down in the Nats' seventh, but two outs later he was stranded at first and Hudson was through seven on 86 pitches after a 15-pitch frame.

Anthony Rendon was 4 for 4 vs Tim Hudson tonight after he singled to center with one down in the eighth, ending Hudson's night...

Tim Hudson's Line: 7.1 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 Ks, 97 P, 69 S, 10/1 GO/FO.

2. Turning Point(s): No.1: Anthony Rendon stepped in with a runner on third and two out in the Nationals' half of the third, and after singling to left with one down in the first inning, Rendon did it again, this time with two outs, driving Nats' second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera in two outs after he doubled to start the frame. 1-0 D.C.

Turning point No.2: Jordan Zimmermann was through 8 ⅔ scoreless

1. The Wrap-Up: Jean Machi took over for Tim Hudson with one out in the eighth and Anthony Rendon on first after his fourth hit of the ninth in four at bats. Jayson Werth sent a fly ball to right for out no.2. Adam LaRoche stepped in with two out. Rendon stole second to move himself into scoring position. Javier Lopez came out with a 0-1 count to face LaRoche and struck him out.

Drew Storen took the mound in the ninth with one on and two out and gave up a single to center by Buster Posey. Pablo Sandoval lined to left to drive Joe Panik in from second and the Giants tied it up at 1-1, but Posey was thrown out at home for the final out of the frame.

Sergio Romo retired Ian Desmond for the first out of the ninth. Bryce Harper grounded sharply to first. Wilson Ramos fell behind 0-2 and K'd swinging to end the ninth.

Tyler Clippard struck Hunter Pence out. Brandon Belt K'd swinging at an 0-2 change outside. Brandon Crawford walked with two down. Travis Ishikawa grounded back to the mound to end the top of the tenth.

Jeremy Affeldt took the mound for the Giants in the home-half of the tenth. Asdrubal Cabrera and Matt Williams got tossed for arguing over a high called strike three on the second-straight high strike call by home plate umpire Vic Carapazza. Ryan Zimmerman came on to pinch hit and lined a one-out single to left field. Danny Espinosa came on to run at first. Denard Span grounded into an inning-ending DP.

Matt Thornton took over in the eleventh and issued a leadoff walk to Giants' outfielder Juan Perez. Gregor Blanco bunted the runner over. Joe Panik popped out to short for out no.2. Buster Posey was walked intentionally with two down. Pablo Sandoval K'd swinging at a high 1-2 heater for out no.3.

Santiago Casilla took over in the home-half of the eleventh with Anthony Rendon due up first. Rendon worked the count full and took a called strike three knee-high outside. Jayson Werth was 0 for 5 tonight after flying out to center. Adam LaRoche... grounded into the shift for out no.3.

Aaron Barrett gave up a leadoff double to center by Hunter Pence. Jerry Blevins came on to face Brandon Belt, who moved Pence to third with a groundout to second. Brandon Crawford stepped in with the go-ahead run 90ft from home and fell behind 0-2 and popped out to short on a 1-2 bender. Two down. Andrew Susac's groundout to first stranded Pence.

Yusmeiro Petit started the Nats' twelfth against Ian Desmond and walked the shortstop on four pitches to start the frame. Bryce Harper came up next against the Giants' right-hander and sent a long fly to center that allowed Desmond to move up. Wilson Ramos worked the count full and K'd swinging. The Giants walked Nate Schierholtz intentionally to get to Danny Espinosa, who lined out to short to end the twelfth.

Craig Stammen started the thirteenth. Juan Perez grounded out to second. Gregor Blanco sent a fly to center for out no.2. Joe Panik grounded out to short to end the top of the frame.

Petit came back out for the thirteenth and gave up a two-out single to center by Jayson Werth. Adam LaRoche K'd swinging to end the Nats' thirteenth.

Note: Rachel from @WeLoveDC captured this image of Dave Nichols and FBB hard at work...

Stammen came back out for the fourteenth and gave up a leadoff single to left on a 3-0 fastball. Pablo Sandoval popped to left for the first out of the frame. Hunter Pence took a high 1-2 fastball for a called strike three. With Brandon Belt up, Posey tried to take second on a pinch in the dirt and was thrown out by Wilson Ramos.

Petit came out for a third inning of work and struck Ian Desmond out to start the frame. Bryce Harper K'd swinging at a 2-2 fastball outside. Wilson Ramos K'd swinging to end the fourteenth.

Brandon Belt grounded out to first to start the fifteenth. Brandon Crawford grounded out to second. Yusmeiro Petit grounded out to short to end the top of the frame.

Kevin Frandsen hit for Stammen in the bottom of the fifteenth and popped out to short right. Danny Espinosa grounded out to second. Denard Span walked with two down. Anthony Rendon sent a fly to deep center to end the fifteenth.

Note: Dave Nichols ran out of scorecard and traced one out on his notepad to keep going.

Rafael Soriano took over on the mound in the sixteenth and struck Juan Perez out to start the frame. Gregor Blanco started up 3-0 and popped to foul territory off third for out no.2. Joe Panik popped up to Anthony Rendon in fair territory for out no.3.

Petit came back out for a fifth inning of work... Jayson Werth K'd looking. Adam LaRoche sent a fly to deep right field. Ian Desmond... K'd swinging.

Note: Yahoo!Sports.com's Jeff Passan found the last fries in Nats Park and generously shared them.

Tanner Roark vs Buster Posey. Seventeenth inning. Fly to deep left. One down. Pablo Sandoval lined out to a diving Danny Espinosa at second. Hunter Pence K'd swinging on a check-swing strike three.

Petit came back out again...for the bottom of the seventeenth... Bryce Harper sent a fly to left. Wilson Ramos popped out to right-center. Tanner Roark grounded out short.

Note:

In the top of the eighteenth, Brandon Belt uh... belted one out to right. Sorry. HR. 2-1 Giants.

Giants' right-hander Hunter Strickland came on in the bottom of the eighteenth and retired the first two batters before walking Anthony Rendon. Jayson Werth... ? Werth fell behind 0-2... got to 1-2, 2-2 and sent a fly to right to end it.

Nationals trail 2-0 to Giants in NLDS