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Giants 8-5 over Nationals: Nats battle back, but drop fourth straight

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Max Scherzer didn't have it tonight, and the San Francisco Giants jumped out to a 6-1 lead, but the Washington Nationals fought their way back into the game only to drop their fourth straight. 8-5 final in AT&T.

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

5. Scherzer vs San Franciscso: In five second-half starts before tonight's, Washington Nationals' ace Max Scherzer was (1-1) with the Nats 2-3 in his outings, over which the 31-year-old right-hander put up a 3.90 ERA, a 3.87 FIP, nine walks (2.70 BB/9), 41 Ks (12.30 K/9) and a .248/.309/.439 line against in 30 innings.

In 18 starts in the first half of his first season in the Nationals' rotation, Scherzer was (10-7) with a 2.11 ERA, a 2.23 FIP, 14 walks (0.95 BB/9), 150 Ks (10.23 K/9) and a .183/.214/.299 line against in 132 innings.

In his last two starts, a 5-4 Nationals' win over Arizona, and a 6-4 loss to Colorado, he allowed 12 hits, four walks and seven runs in twelve innings, with the Rockies connecting for three home runs in last Sunday's series finale in D.C.

"He's one of the top, elite players at his position and certainly one of the best players in the game, so he's paid like it and he performs like it..." -Mike Rizzo on Max Scherzer on MLB Network Radio

After he walked three batters for the second start in a row in the previous outing against the D-Backs, throwing 114 pitches in six innings, Matt Williams talked to reporters about what's been different for Scherzer recently.

"I think his fastball is just a touch up and they were able to lay off some high ones tonight," he said. But even when Scherzer isn't at his best, Williams explained, he still attacks hitters.

"The good thing is that he competes regardless. We stretched him tonight for his pitch count and he was able to work through the last inning and set us up for the rest of the game."

Scherzer was facing the Giants for the first time since 2011 tonight, and trying to help the Nationals stop a three-game losing streak after they were shut out in back-to-back losses to the Los Angeles Dodgers and managed to score just one run in the series opener in San Francisco on Thursday.

He took the mound with a 1-0 lead and gave it up one out in when Giants' third baseman Matt Duffy took a 95 mph 1-1 fastball for a ride and a solo home run to left that tied things up at 1-1. Brandon Belt singled to right in the next at bat, but was stranded at third two outs later. 20-pitch first.

Brandon Crawford doubled to left and off the fence in the first at bat of the Giants' second, and then scored on an RBI double to right field by Justin Maxwell, who took a 1-2 fastball outside to the right field corner to make it 2-1.

Scherzer's 38th pitch of the game was a 2-2 slider that hit Ehire Adrianza in the foot. Matt Cain bunted him over to second/gave up an out, and Gregor Blanco drove both runners in with a line drive to right field. 4-1.

Matt Duffy hit double no.4 of the second, driving Blanco in to make it 5-1 after a 29-pitch frame that left Scherzer at 49 total after two.

Scherzer's 50th pitch of the game was a first-pitch fastball to Hunter Pence that cleared the center field fence. 6-1 Giants. He got the next three outs on eight pitches. 58 total after three.

Max Scherzer's Line: 3.0 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 0 BB, 3 Ks, 2 HRs, 58 P, 40 S, 5/0 GO/FO.

4. Cain vs Washington: Matt Cain, 30, returned to the mound after surgery to remove bone chips and shave down bone spurs in his right elbow back on July 2nd, giving up seven hits, four walks and five runs in five innings in his first major league start in close to a year.

San Francisco's '02 1st Round pick shut the New York Mets out over six innings on the mound in his second start of the season.

In seven starts overall since he returned, the right-hander has put up a 5.59 ERA and a 5.11 FIP, with 13 walks (3.16 BB/9) and 26 Ks (6.32 K/9) in 37 innings, over which opposing hitters have put up a combined .303/.369/.557 line against the Giants' starter.

Tonight's outing against the Nationals was his first against Washington since June 11, 2014, when he gave up three hits, five walks and four runs in five innings of a 6-2 loss.

He was winless in his last three starts before tonight's, giving up 24 hits, six walks and 13 runs, all earned, in fifteen innings over which opposing hitters put up a .369/.440/.600 line.

Cain was making his 15th career start against the Nationals tonight, after going (5-5) in the previous fourteen outings with a 3.34 ERA, 29 walks (2.29 BB/9) and 82 Ks (7.82 K/9) in 94 ⅓ IP, over which he held Nats' hitters to a combined .231/.292/.368 line.

Cain walked the first batter he faced, Michael Taylor, who promptly stole second in the next at bat (15 for 18). Yunel Escobar bunted Taylor over/gave up an out, and Bryce Harper drove him in with a long fly to right, 1-0. 18-pitch first.

With the score tied up at 1-1, Clint Robinson lined a double to center in the first at bat of the Nats' second, and took third on a weak roller toward first that Cain handled. Danny Espinosa stepped in with the go-ahead run 90 feet from home, and sent a grounder toward short with the runner going on contact, but Brandon Crawford fielded it and threw home to cut Robinson down. Jose Lobaton's grounder to the mound ended the frame. 12-pitch second for Cain, 30 total after two.

Given a 5-1 lead to work with, Cain retired the Nats in order in a 10-pitch third that left him at 40 pitches.

Clint Robinson took a 3-0 fastball off the ankle with two out in the fourth, but an Ian Desmond groundout ended a 21-pitch frame. 61 total for Cain after four.

Danny Espinosa took a 1-2 two-seamer for a ride in the first at bat of the fifth, sending an opposite field blast out to left to make it 6-2 Giants, and Jose Lobaton doubled to center on the next pitch from Cain. Doug Fister bunted the runner over, trying to give up an out, but got a hit instead when it got past the mound.

Michael Taylor K'd swinging when contact was needed for out no.1, and Yunel Escobar sent a fly to right for the second out of the frame, but Bryce Harper stepping in with two on and two out and flat jacked a first-pitch fastball. Three-run home run to right-center field. 6-5 Giants. Harper's 30th.

Ryan Zimmerman reached on an error and Clint Robinson singled to end Cain's night...

Matt Cain's Line: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks, 2 HRs, 83 P, 48 S, 7/4 GO/FO.

3. Random Game Notes: With last night's 3-1 win, the Giants improved to 10-2 in their last 12 games in AT&T Park .

• Max Scherzer was facing the Giants tonight for the first time since the 2012 World Series when he was still in Detroit.

• Buster Posey started tonight's game 43 for 131 (.328 AVG) against the Nationals in his career, with hits in 21 of his last 22 games against Washington (including last seasons NLDS).

• The Giants, as a team, started tonight's game with the second-best AVG with RISP in the majors at .288, behind only the Blue Jays (.292 w/ RISP).

Yunel Escobar's home run on the first pitch of the game last night was his third leadoff home run of the season and the seventh of his career.

• Escobar's .307 AVG on the year is the highest among NL third baseman.

Bryce Harper's .458 OBP on the year is MLB's best right now, and he leads the majors in slugging percentage (.643) and leads the NL in HRs (29).

• The Nationals are 15-18 in AT&T Park since 2005 after last night's loss.

2. Turning Point(s): The Nationals manufactured their second run in the last 28 innings with Michael Taylor walking in the first at bat of tonight's game, stealing his 15th base in 18 attempts, taking third on a sac bunt by Yunel Escobar and then scoring on a sac fly to right by Bryce Harper, but the lead didn't last long as Giants' third baseman Matt Duffy hit a 1-1 fastball out to left with one down in the home-half of the first to tie things up at 1-1.

• The Giants connected for four doubles in the home-half of the second with Brandon Crawford, Justin Maxwell, Gregor Blanco and Matt Duffy all hitting two-baggers off Scherzer as San Francisco jumped out to a 5-1 lead.

• The Nationals weren't done, however. With the score 6-1 Giants after a Hunter Pence home run in the third, Danny Espinosa hit a solo home run to start the top of the fifth, and two outs later, with two runners on, Bryce Harper hit a three-run home run to right center to make it a one-run game in AT&T. 6-5 Giants. Harper's 30th of 2015.

1. The Wrap-Up: Doug Fister took over on the mound in the bottom of the fourth inning and gave up back-to-back two-out singles by Matt Duffy and Brandon Belt, but both runners were stranded at the end of an 18-pitch frame.

Jeremy Affeldt took over for Matt Cain with two on and two out in the fifth and got a groundout to second from Ian Desmond to end the frame with the Giants still up, 6-5.

Fister walked Justin Maxwell with two out in the Giants' fifth, but completed a scoreless 16-pitch frame. 34 total.

Affeldt hit Tyler Moore in a two-out pinch hit appearance in the top of the sixth, so Giants' skipper Bruce Bochy went to George Kontos vs Michael Taylor. Swinging K. Still 6-5 San Francisco.

Matt Thornton took the mound for the Nationals in the bottom of the sixth inning. Gregor Blanco doubled to center with one down and stole third in the next at bat. Matt Duffy walked to put runner on the corners with one out, and Brandon Belt hit a grounder to first that allowed Blanco to score. 7-5 Giants after six.

Kontos came back out for the seventh and retired Yunel Escobar. Josh Osich came on to face Bryce Harper, lefty vs lefty and got a fly to center before out no.2 before striking out Ryan Zimmerman.

Casey Janssen completed a scoreless inning of work in the bottom of the seventh.

Osich came back out for the top of the eighth and gave up a one-out single by Ian Desmond.

Danny Espinosa grounded into a force at second, but the Giants couldn't turn the double play. An error by Matt Duffy on a ground ball to third off Jose Lobaton's bat kept the inning alive and ended Osich's night.

Sergio Romo came on to face pinch hitter Anthony Rendon and got him swinging with a 1-2 slider. 7-5 Giants in the eighth.

A swinging bunt by Juan Perez, stole base and bunt single by Gregor Blanco put runners on first and third with no one out and Matt Duffy drove Perez in with a sac fly to center. 8-5 after eight.

Romo came back out looking to end it and retired two batters before the Giants went to the pen for Javier Lopez vs Bryce Harper.

Nationals now 58-57