NLDS Game 4 GameThread:
5. Quick Recap: San Francisco Giants' shortstop Brandon Crawford singled with one down in the bottom of the second. Juan Perez grounded back to the mound in the next at bat, but the spinning roller eluded Washington Nationals' lefty Gio Gonzalez, bouncing off his glove and rolling out toward second.
Ryan Vogelsong's bunt toward third loaded the bases when it died in the grass and a four-pitch walk to Gregor Blanco forced in a run and gave San Francisco a 1-0 lead early in Game 4 of the NLDS.
And the #SFGiants take the lead, 1-0. Blanco walks, Crawford scores! Now batting: PANIK— #OctoberTogether (@SFGiants) October 8, 2014
Joe Panik's groundout to first in the next at bat brought in the second run of the inning and the Giants were up 2-0 after two in AT&T Park.
The Nationals cut the Giants' lead in half in the fifth. Ian Desmond lined a single to left for the first hit off Giants' starter Ryan Vogelsong and Bryce Harper worked the count full in the next at bat before lining a 3-2 slider by third base for an RBI double that made it a 2-1 game.
With one out in the seventh, Bryce Harper got hold of a 96 mph 3-1 fastball from righty Hunter Strickland and put it in the drink, sending a no-doubter of a solo home run soaring out to right and into McCovey Cove on a fly to tie things up at 2-2. Harper's 3rd HR of the the series, second off Strickland.
Back-to-back singles by Joe Panik and Buster Posey off Matt Thornton in the seventh ended the Nats' lefty's brief outing. Aaron Barrett walked Hunter Pence to load the bases, then spiked a 2-1 pitch to Pablo Sandoval, allowing Panik to score from third to make it 3-2 Giants.
That's how it ended. Nationals eliminated from the postseason. Giants take the NLDS, 3-1.
4. GIO in AT&T: Matt Williams told reporters on Monday that Gio Gonzalez's success down the stretch led him to name the recently-turned-29-year-old left-hander the Washington Nationals' Game 4 starter.
In 14 outings in the first half of Gonzalez's third campaign with the Nats, the former Oakland A's lefty was (6-5) with a 3.56 ERA, a 3.29 FIP, 33 walks (3.56 BB/9) and 85 Ks (9.18 K/9) in 83 ⅓ innings pitched, holding opposing hitters to a combined .221/.304/.359 line.
Gonzalez landed on the DL for the first time in his career in mid-May and he missed just over a month with what was diagnosed as left shoulder inflammation, but upon returning to the rotation, he slowly returned to form as well.
After going winless in his first eight second-half starts, (0-4) with a 4.43 ERA and a .273/.344/.388 line against over 42 ⅔ IP in July and August, Gonzalez turned things around in September, going (4-1) in five starts with a 2.48 ERA, a 2.18 FIP, five walks (1.38 BB/9), 31 Ks (8.54 K/9) and a .178/.218/.265 line against in 32 ⅔ IP.
"Over the last six weeks, he's given us really good pitching performances," Williams said. "His numbers the last month of the season, especially, [his] last four starts, were fantastic."
So what was different for Gonzalez over that stretch?
"For me, it's the ability for him to throw all of his pitches for strikes," Williams explained tonight. "That's important for him. So his curveball he threw for strikes when he wanted to and out of the zone when he wanted to. Changeups were good to right‑handers, and he also threw them to left‑handed batters. And that makes his fastball, which is a great fastball, even better.
"So his command was good. His presence was good. His pace of game was good. He worked a little bit quicker, and that's a function of him having rhythm and having confidence and being able to throw the ball where he wants to.
"So that's why he was better; better in the last six weeks than he was in the first half, as an example."
Gonzalez finished strong too, with seven scoreless innings against the New York Mets in his final regular season start on September 25. Since then he's waited for his turn in the postseason rotation.
"We hope for more of the same tonight," Williams said. " He's going to face some lefties, which is good. Allow him to throw his curveball when he wants to. And, of course, his changeup is really important to righties, too.
"If he can have all those, he can give us a chance to win."
Gonzalez took the mound in the bottom of the first inning tonight and got a line drive to left for the first out of the Giants' first.
1st: Gregor Blanco sent a soft liner to Bryce Harper in left for the first out of the game. Joe Panik grounded weakly to second for out no.2. Buster Posey lined a two-out single to left for the Giants' first hit. Hunter Pence went the other way for the second straight hit, putting two on in front of Pablo Sandoval, who lined out to right to end a 15-pitch frame.
2nd: Brandon Belt popped out to Adam LaRoche on the right of the mound. Brandon Crawford lined a 2-2 curve to left field for a one-out single. Giants' left fielder Juan Perez sent a weak roller back to the mound that spun away from Gonzalez. Ryan Vogelsong's bunt died in the grass to the left of the mound, leaving everyone safe and loading the bases with one out. Gregor Blanco took a four-pitch walk that forced in the first run. 1-0. Joe Panik grounded weakly to first to bring in a second run, 2-0. Buster Posey's groundout to third ended a 20-pitch frame. 35 total.
3rd: Hunter Pence popped out to third. Pablo Sandoval sent a weak roller to first. Brandon Belt sent a fly to center that ended a quick, 10-pitch, 1-2-3 third. 45 pitches.
4th: Gio Gonzalez covered first on a groundout to Adam LaRoche off Brandon Crawford's bat. Juan Perez sent a fly to center that Denard Span caught. Ryan Vogelsong went down swinging to end a quick, 10-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth. 55 pitches total for Gio.
• Gio Gonzalez's Line: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 55 P, 37 S, 6/4 GO/FO.
3. Same Old Vogelsong: Ryan Vogelsong, 37, was (5-7) in 19 first-half starts with the San Francisco Giants 10-9 in his outings, over which he put up a 3.86 ERA, a 3.43 FIP, 32 walks (2.63 BB/9) and 94 Ks (7.71 K/9) in 109 ⅔ IP.
After going (3-2) with a 3.42 ERA and a .237/.292/.384 line against in eight starts and 47 ⅓ IP coming out of the All-Star Break, however, he struggled in the final month of the regular season, going (0-4) in five September starts, over which he put up a 5.53 ERA, a 5.34 FIP, 14 walks (4.55 BB/9) and 23 Ks (7.48 K/9) in 27 ⅔ IP with opposing hitters putting up a combined .257/.344/.458 line against him.
Going into Game 4 of the NLDS, the right-handed veteran of ten major league campaigns told reporters that he felt confident that he could turn things around and help the Giants win the best-of-five series.
"I've done it in the past," Vogelsong said on Monday.
"You know, I've had, over the last‑‑ actually over my entire career, I've had times where I've gotten out of whack there a little bit and things have gone awry and I've found a way to get back on the right path.
"So hopefully, like I said, the work I put in from the end of the season to now pays off and I go out there and make the pitches that I want to make."
"Vogy is a guy that helped us in 2012," Giants' skipper Bruce Bochy told reporters when asked why he was giving the righty the ball in Game 4, "and he's got the experience. I think he's having an even better year than what the numbers showed. He's got good stuff."
Vogelsong went (3-0) in the postseason in 2012, posting a 1.09 ERA, 2.73 FIP, 10 walks (3.65 BB/9), 21 Ks (7.66 K/9) and a .182/.273/.227 line against in 24 ⅔ IP, tossing 5 ⅔ scoreless in a 3-0 win over the Detroit Tigers in the third game of the World Series.
The Nationals knocked the right-hander around in two regular seasons starts this year, scoring six earned runs on nine hits in six innings against Vogelsong in a 9-2 win in AT&T Park in June and three runs on four hits and four walks in 5 ⅓ IP in a 14-6 win the nation's capital in late August.
Vogelsong's third 2014 start against the NL East Champions this season began with scoreless 22-pitch first in which he worked around a two-out walk to Jayson Werth.
The Nationals went down in order in a quick, seven-pitch second which left Vogelsong at 29 overall after two.
Given a 2-0 lead to work with, Vogelsong retired the Nats in order in a quick, 11-pitch third that left him at 40 pitches total. A 16-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth gave the Giants' right-hander ten straight outs and four scoreless on 56 pitches.
Ian Desmond singled to left for the first hit off Vogelsong in the first at bat of the fifth, then scored when Bryce Harper lined a full-count slider by third for an RBI double. 2-1 Giants. Two outs later, with Harper still at second, pinch hitter Nate Schierholtz took a two-out walk. Denard Span's groundout to first ended a 21-pitch frame that left Vogelsong at 77 pitches.
With some help from leaping catch at the wall by Hunter Pence in right on a line drive that should have been a double by Jayson Werth, Vogelsong retired the first two batters in the sixth before exiting the game.
• Ryan Vogelsong's Line: 5.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 81 P, 49 S, 3/5 GO/FO.
2. Bryce. Harper.: Washington Nationals' outfielder Bryce Harper made two spectular-ish plays in the outfield in last night's 4-1 win over the San Francisco Giants in Game 3 of the 2014 NLDS.
With two on and one out in the second, he tracked a Brandon Crawford fly to the left field fence and made a leaping catch on a ball that fell a few feet short of leaving the yard.
After walking in a patient at bat against Madison Bumgarner in the top of the seventh and scoring one of the three runs the Nationals put up that inning, the 21-year-old outfielder made a shoestring grab on a Travis Ishikawa line drive to left-center in the bottom of the frame as the Giants tried to rally immediately after falling behind.
In his first at bat of the night, Harper lined one back up the middle that bounced off Bumgarner's thigh and was redirected to short.
Harper K'd looking in the fourth, then drew the walk in the seventh before homering for the second time in this series in the top of the ninth, hitting a 94 mph 1-1 fastball from Giants' right-handed reliever Jean Machi to the back rows of the stands in right field in AT&T Park to put the Nats up 4-0 in what ended up a 4-1 win.
His defense is what really stood out for his manager, Matt Williams, when the first-year skipper talked to reporters after the game.
"It's a difficult outfield to play," Williams said after the 4-1 win. "Sunny field in left on a day game like this, so it's not easy; wind‑‑ it wasn't really windy early on, but the wind picked up and he made a couple really nice plays. Of course the homer that added another run for us.
"But first and foremost, he was great defensively. Went up against the wall and made that play with a couple guys on; that could change the game for us."
Before tonight's game, Williams was asked how impressed he's been with the 2010 no.1 overall pick on the field, at the plate and in the clubhouse in his first season as the Nats' manager.
"I think it's been really good," Williams said. "Yesterday's game, the first play he made, that is certainly a momentum swinger for the other dugout, and if that ball gets in or gets off the wall, you're looking at a couple runs.
"With their ace going, it's an uphill climb. But the fact that he made that play allows us to relax a little bit and go about our business in a more traditional fashion, because he made the play."
The walk in the seventh, in particular, stood out as a good sign that Harper's locked in after an injury-shortened season in which he'd struggled at the plate after suffering a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb which required surgery and cost him two months on the DL in the middle of the summer.
"For me, the most important thing for Bryce is his patience," Williams explained. "And yesterday facing Bumgarner, he was patient and he drew a walk. He hit a really hard ball up the middle that got a piece of Madison that they caught, but good approach, and he did everything he could possibly do to get a base hit in that regard.
"He ran the bases well. He played good defense. All of those things combined just proves what kind of talent he's got.
"But he's been composed. He's been patient and, you know, hopefully we get into tonight's game, he could be the same way and he could help us win it. And then, you know, beyond that, we'll see. But he's been really good."
Through eight postseason games in his career, Harper is now 6 for 37 with a double, triple and three home runs.
Tonight in San Francisco, Harper sent a fly to deep center in his first at bat.
Ian Desmond singled in front of Harper in the fifth. Harper worked the count full and sent a low liner by third that brought Desmond around from first to cut the Giants' lead in half, 2-1. 7 for 39 for Harper.
At bat no.3 came against Giants' right-hander Hunter Strickland and Harper put one in the drink!!!! HR to right and into McCovey Cove. 8 for 40, 4 HRs.
With two out in the ninth, Harper walked...
1. The Wrap-Up: Tanner Roark took over on the mound in AT&T Park after Nate Schierholtz hit for Gio Gonzalez in the top of the fifth and gave up back-to-back singles by Gregor Blanco and Joe Panik. Buster Posey sent a fly ball to center that allowed Blanco to tag and take third. Hunter Pence rolled one out to first, but when Adam LaRoche threw home, Blanco put on the brakes and returned to third base, bases loaded. Pablo Sandoval popped up over the infield for out no.2. Jerry Blevins came on to face Brandon Belt and struck him out with a 1-2 curve. Still 2-1 Giants.
Giants' lefty Javier Lopez took over against Adam LaRoche with two out in the top of the sixth and got a fly to center that ended the frame.
Blevins came back out for the bottom of the sixth and retired the Giants in order in a 10-pitch inning.
Hunter Strickland retired Ian Desmond on a fly to right, but a 3-1 fastball to Bryce Harper ended up in McCovey Cove. Harper's 3rd HR of the NLDS soared out to right and over the wall, walkway and into the water. 2-2 game after six and a half.
GIF: BFF forever and ever http://t.co/9dEaMMt4K9— That guy (@md_dc) October 8, 2014
Joe Panik lined to left for a single off Matt Thornton with one down in the Giants' seventh. Buster Posey singled to center to end Thornton's outing.
Aaron Barrett came on vs Hunter Pence, fell behind 3-0 quickly and walked him on a 3-2 fastball low and away. Pablo Sandoval got ahead 2-1 and Barrett spiked the next pitch, allowing Panik to score from third. 3-2 Giants. Barrett tried to throw an intentional ball four to Sandoval on the next pitch, but threw it over Ramos, who recovered it and threw home in time to get Posey. Two down. Rafael Soriano got a line drive to left from Brandon Belt to end the Giants' seventh.
Sergio Romo popped up the side in a quick, 1-2-3 eighth.
Soriano came back out for the Giants' half of the inning and completed a scoreless frame.
Santiago Casilla came on in the ninth. Adam LaRoche sent a fly to deep center for out no.1. Ian Desmond was punched out on a check-swing strike three. Bryce Harper walked to bring the go-ahead run to the plate.Wilson Ramos grounded out to second. Ballgame.
Nationals eliminated from the postseason, Giants take NLDS 3-1.