So this might be one of those seasons when the Washington Nationals might be more entertaining on the road then they are at home.
The entertainment from a series-opening romp over San Francisco continued Saturday at Oracle Park, but the romping switched sides as the Giants struck back by thumping the Nats, 9-3.
The Nats’ bats remained hot from the night before, knocking three Giants pitchers around for 11 hits, but the undoing came as it usually has in the Nats’ current 1-9 run, from inefficiencies and errors in nearly every other part of the game.
“Yesterday we had the hits with guys on base, today we weren’t so fortunate, and the errors, man, we’ve got to clean that up, we really do,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters afterward. “You can’t give good teams 28-29-30 outs, it just can’t happen.”
The most obvious mistakes were on the base paths, where the Nats erased or stranded four of their first six base runners and ran into what turned out to be a game-killing out at home plate in the third inning.
Red-hot Josh Bell was stranded at second base after doubling for the third straight game in the first, and Yadiel Hernàndez’s leadoff single in the second was erased on Maikel Franco’s double play.
The Nats finally plated runners in the third, when Victor Robles reached base for the third straight game on a walk, then raced around to score on Alcides Esobar’s double.
Cèsar Hernàndez then drove the first pitch he saw from Logan Webb into the gap in left-center for a standup double that scored Escobar to make it 2-0 with nobody out and Hernandez in position to keep the scoring going.
Juan Soto, who went 0-for-4 with a strikeout, lined the first out right to Jason Krizan, but Bell followed with his ninth hit in the past three games, a hard ground ball past the shift in shallow right field.
A charging Luis Gonzàlez fired a one-hopper to Curt Casali, camped out in front of the plate, while Hernàndez slid in from the top of the right-hand batter’s box.
Casali’s lunging sweep to his left tagged Hernàndez on the back as he slid past home. Umpire Adam Beck initially called Hernàndez safe, but the Giants appealed, and replays showed Hernàndez did not tag the plate, so the call was overturned, the run was erased, and Bell left at first, despite the aggressive base running.
Nelson Cruz advanced Bell to second on his first hit since Tuesday, a single to right, but Yadiel Hernàndez grounded out to keep it 2-0.
The Giants would tie the score in the next half inning and go ahead for good two innings later.
The Nats might have given themselves a chance to get back in the game after they’d cut the Giants’ lead to 4-3 on Robles’s RBI single in the top of the sixth. But a rusty Kyle Finnegan and the second error of the game in the kept them out of it.
“They’re going to get hit and put the balls in play,” Martinez said. “But today was not good, not good out in the field.”
Jason Vosler’s solo homer to lead off the sixth made it 5-3 and Cassali’s single chased Erasmo Ramirez, setting the stage.
Finnegan entered the game on a four-appearance streak with no hits or runs and two walks through Wednesday.
But after two days off, he walked Gonzàlez on four pitches. Then Darin Ruf hit the first pitch Finnegan threw over the plate into right field for a single, loading the bases for Flores.
Finnegan finally found his command at the bottom of the zone and got a ground ball to short on his second pitch to Flores, but the 6-4-3 double play scored the third run of the inning to make it 6-3 and put Gonzàlez on third base.
Next up was Brandon Crawford, who hit a ground ball toward Cèsar Hernàndez, in shallow right center, but the second baseman couldn't get a glove on the ball, and Gonzàlez scored to make it 6-3.
Tario Estrada’s ground ball to Alcides Escobar could have ended the inning, but the shortstop’s throw to first short-hopped Josh Bell, who couldn’t dig it out of the dirt. Crawford, off on contact with two out, scored easily.
“I’ve seen him make that play tons of times, so he’s got to use his legs a little bit better, move his feet a little bit better,” said Martinez. “But those plays got to be made.”
“We’re hoping Finnegan could have stopped the bleeding a little bit right there and get us to that next inning, and we felt comfortable with being behind two runs. He couldn’t do it.
Martinez said Finnegan’s unexpected difficulties won’t keep him from using the durable right-hander again in the series finale Sunday, but he still looking for more innings and fewer pitches from Josiah Gray.
‘If we got the lead tomorrow, he’s [Finnegan] got to pitch tomorrow, so I want to keep most of these guys’ pitch counts down so that tomorrow, we got a chance to win the series.”