Posts Tagged ‘Adam LaRoche’

The Nats’ Season Ends In San Francisco

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

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A strangely quiet line-up, a misplayed grounder, a well-placed bunt, a defensive gem, and a wild pitch ended Washington’s season on Tuesday night, as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Washington Nationals, 3-2. The defeat ended the Nationals season, as the Giants now go on to face the St. Louis Cardinals for the National League championship.

The difference in this series, as any Nationals fan will tell you, was Washington’s strangely quiet line-up. While Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper hit well against Giants’ pitching in the series, San Francisco was able to consistently quiet the bats of Denard Span, Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond — the heart of Washington’s offense.

The same was true on Tuesday, with a medley of Giants pitchers (from starter Ryan Vogelsong to closer Hunter Strickland) throwing on oh-fer to Span (0-4), Werth (0-3), LaRoche (0-4), and Desmond, who notched a single hit. Even the normally productive Anthony Rendon (0-4) proved unable to provide the Nationals with needed offense.

The misplayed grounder on Tuesday came in the 2nd inning, when a hit back to the pitcher off the bat of Juan Perez was muffed by Nationals southpaw starter Gio Gonzalez, putting two Giants runners on base with no one out. A well-placed bunt (by Ryan Vogelsong) one batter later loaded the bases, with the Giants then scoring two runs — on a walk to Gregor Blanco and a Joe Panik ground out to first, which scored Perez.

Did Gonzalez pitch well? The 2-0 score at the end of two reflected the reality of the series: the Giants were moving runners on bloops, bleeders, walks and errors — a habit of championship teams. They were finding a way to win. At no time was this more apparent than in the 6th inning, when a long drive off the bat of Jayson Werth was snagged by right fielder Hunter Pence, who made a Roberto Clemente-like back-to-the-wall catch.

But the game came down to a Nationals miscue in the 7th inning, when Nats fireballer Aaron Barrett came on in relief of Matt Thornton and walked Pence to load the bases. Barrett then threw a wild pitch to Pablo Sandoval, which scored Panik with the go-ahead and eventual winning run.

Barrett made up for the gaffe when he tagged out Buster Posey after blooping a ball to the backstop on an intentional walk, but the damage was done — and San Francisco was the 3-2 winner of the game, and the victor in the series. “I got lucky, obviously, with the wild pitch,” Barrett said after the loss. “The bottom line is I didn’t make pitches when I had to, and it ended up costing us the game.”

If there was a Washington hero for the loss, it was Bryce Harper, who showed that he can be a big-game player in a winner-take-all series. Harper ripped his third homer of the Nats-Giants toe-to-toe in the top of the 7th inning on a 97-mph Hunter Strickland fastball, a long and deep fly ball that ended up in McCovey Cove.

“This is tough,” center fielder Denard Span said after the loss. “We didn’t play well all series. That’s the bottom line. The Giants made the least amount of mistakes. We made too many mistakes. The little things added up.” Nats skipper Matt Williams called the defeat “bitter,” but praised his team for their 96 win season. “I’m proud of them,” he said.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Winners go on to play another day, while losers talk about things like “perspective” — as in, “I know we lost, but let’s put this in perspective.” Still, it’s worth standing back, particularly after a season-ending loss like the one last night, to talk about history . . .

Back in 2010 I wore my ‘Curly W’ hat to the Roy Halladay-Tim Lincecum post-season face-off in Philadelphia, calculating that no one would really look to see whether the cap bore the trademark Philadelphia “P.” I was mostly right, though one Philadelphia fan gave me a puzzled look: “Really?” he asked, eying my hat. “Why would you root for such a loser . . .”

I might have told him that if anyone should know about losing it was a fan of the Philadelphia Stinking Phillies, Established in 1883, it took the Phillies 22 years to just appear in a championship game (which they did, in 1915), and just under one hundred years to win their first one, which came in 1980 . . .

If you study the Phillies or Cubs or White Sox or Twins or Braves (or just about anyone else, perhaps, excepting the Cardinals and Yankees) you realize that it sometimes takes years to build a winner — and a little bit of luck to win it all even when you have one . . .

That’s true for the Nationals too. It’s taken ten years for the Nationals’ front office to build a winner, but it might have taken a lot longer. Back in 2008, the Nationals offered a huge contract to Mark Teixeira, and were disappointed when he decided to sign with the New York Yankees. He signed with them because they were a “winner” . . .

But here’s the thing: If Teixeira had signed with the Nationals, the team might have had a stronger 2009 and finished with, say, 63 wins instead of 59. Which means? Which means that Bryce Harper would probably be playing in Pittsburgh (or in Baltimore) instead of in Washington . . .

So what would you rather have — Mark Teixeira playing first base, or Bryce Harper in left field? Which is why we take universal take-it-to-the-bank judgments about baseball (or about anything else, for that matter) with more than a grain of salt . . .

We’re going to hear a lot of such judgements in the days ahead: the Nats loss to the Giants shows “they’re not ready for prime time,” that the Nats don’t know how to don’t “step up on the big stage,” that skipper Matt Williams “needs seasoning,” that the Nationals need to show some “character . . . ”

What a bunch of baloney. This has nothing to do with character. The Giants didn’t win their series against the Nationals because they’re better citizens, they won it because they hit some timely bleeders and some down-the-third base line bunts . . .

Perspective? How this for perspective: If the “just a little outside” Zimmermann called “ball” in game two had been called a “strike,” we’d still be playing . . .

It was a great season. It was fun to watch. The Nationals are a fine baseball team. They didn’t win it all, but that’s the way it goes . . .

So here’s the argument for perspective. When you lose a series like this one, you pack up your bats, you hop on the airplane, you start planning for next year — and you live to fight another day. In almost everything else, that’s never an option . . .

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LaRoche, Rendon Power Nats Past Mets

Friday, September 12th, 2014

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On a night when beanballs and inside pitches seemed to dominate the game (and which saw Miami Marlins superstar Giancarlo Stanton go down in Milwaukee), home runs from Adam LaRoche and Anthony Rendon sparked a 6-2 Nationals win against the Mets at New York’s Citi Field.

LaRoche continued his hot hitting in September and has turned into a Mets killer. He is hitting .361 against the Mets this year and is hitting .393 with five home runs and 15 RBIs since September 5. LaRoche has turned into the Nats dominant bat in the final run to October.

The Nationals victory came at the expense of New York starter Bartolo Colon, who had his own problems with inside pitches. After LaRoche homered in the first to score two runs, Colon hit the next batter, shortstop Ian Desmond. When Anthony Rendon homered in the fourth, Colon then hit Jayson Werth — and Colon was tossed from the game.

While it was obvious that Colon had hit Werth on purpose, the Nationals right fielder later said he wouldn’t speculate on whether that was the case: “I don’t know. It doesn’t matter what I think,” Werth told reporters. “The umpire thought so. He hit Desi earlier in the game after a homer. He hit me right after. The home-plate umpire thought that was enough.”

While the Nationals ended up putting six runs on the board, the two home runs (and the four runs they plated) would be all that Washington needed. The Nationals were rewarded with a solid performance from starter Tanner Roark, who threw 6.1 innings, giving up seven hits and just two earned runs.

“I was commanding both sides of the plate. I’m not trying to nibble. I’m trying to make pitches, but trying to go right after them,” Roark said of his performance.

The Colon HPB’s earned retaliation from the Nationals, as reliever Matt Thornton hit Daniel Murphy in the bottom of the 8th. Murphy left the game with a contusion on his wrist and is reportedly day-to-day.

The Nationals also got solid pitching from the Washington bullpen, which worked out of two potential Mets rallies. The Mets loaded the bases in bottom of the seventh and the bottom of the eighth innings, but Craig Stammen dampened the Mets in the 7th while Tyler Clippard tamed the Mets in the 8th.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Okay. Okay. Okay. We were wrong. Back before the All Star break would took issue with the decision to put Pirates outfielder and sometime third sacker Josh Harrison on the All Star team, pointing out that his numbers didn’t reflect the honor, and plumping for our own nominee, Adam LaRoche . . .

We’ll stick by the spirit of our claim, particularly given LaRoche’s amazing September, while acknowledging that Harrison has become Pittsburgh’s MVP — and that in spite of (and while acknowledging) yet another solid season from last year’s MVP, Andrew McCutchen. Harrison led the N.L. in total bases in August with 71, extra base hits with 19 and a slugging percentage of .602 . . .

Harrison could also win the N.L. batting title. Harrison is hitting .314, while N.L. leader Justin Morneau is hitting .317. And Harrison has been tearing up opposing pitching in September: he’s 11-32 since September 1 with four doubles. And at third base, Harrison has been a whiz . . .

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Nats 6-4 Victory Extends N.L. East Lead

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

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The Nationals sent nine hitters to the plate in the first inning against Atlanta starter Ervin Santana last night at Nationals Park and scored four runs, an avalanche of offense that stunned the Braves and led Washington to its second win in a row against their division rivals. The final 6-4 score extended the Nationals lead in the N.L. East to nine games.

“They came out swinging the bats and were really, really aggressive with the first couple pitches of every at-bat,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Usually, when they do that against [Santana], they get quick outs. But they found the outfield grass and put a big number up — four runs. We weren’t able to recover after that, but we battled.”

It would now take a near miracle for the Braves to overtake the Nats for the division crown, though four games remain between the two teams. The beneficiary of last night’s victory, played before an excited crowd of nearly 30,000 partisans, was Jordan Zimmermann, who threw six complete innings in picking up his eleventh win on the season.

The Nationals first inning onslaught included a double from Denard Span, a Jayson Werth walk and singles from Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos — all of which led to three early D.C. runs. An Asdrubal Cabrera sacrifice fly scored the fourth run of the inning.

The Washington victory marked another great game for hot-hitting first sacker Adam LaRoche, who was 2-3 with two RBIs on the night. “It feels like we’re just that much closer,” LaRoche told the press after the victory. “Not to take anything for granted until this thing is sewn up, but these are big. This time of year, playing the team chasing you, to be able to win a couple.”

While the game dimmed the end-of-season prospects for the Braves, Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman said his team wasn’t about to give up. “We still have a chance,” Freeman said. “Once we’re fully eliminated from the division race, then we’ll worry about the wild card.”

Atlanta attempted to climb back into the game by putting two runs on the board in the fourth and sixth innings, which included a home run off the bat of Justin Upton. But other than the Upton home run, righty Jordan Zimmermann was steady and efficient in setting down Atlanta hitters.

“I felt OK. I didn’t have my best stuff. The fastball was like a tick off. I ran into some deep counts,” Zimmermann said of his six inning outing. “A couple of at-bats by Bonifacio cost me 15 to 20 pitches. That’s why I wasn’t able to go longer. Overall, I felt OK. It was just a little bit of a battle tonight.”

As has now become common practice, Nats manager Matt Williams successfully mixed and matched his relievers against Atlanta’s long-ball hitting line-up. Aaron Barrett, Ross Detwiler and Craig Stammen took the Nationals through the end of the eighth inning, while Drew Storen notched his third save in a row and his fourth on the season.

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LaRoche’s Bat Salvages Phillies Series — Storen Gets The Save

Monday, September 8th, 2014

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Adam LaRoche slugged two home runs, Gio Gonzalez tossed a solid six innings and reliever Drew Storen earned his second save of the season as the Washington Nationals downed the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park on Sunday, 3-2. The victory, coupled with an Atlanta loss, reduced the Nationals “magic number” to win the N.L. East to fourteen games.

LaRoche has been on fire for the Nationals over the last week. LaRoche has ten RBIs in his last four games, along with three home runs. His first home run in the second inning on Sunday tied the game at one run apiece, while his second in the fourth tied it at two.

LaRoche has had a career of success over Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels, who provided a solid performance for the Ashburns on Sunday (6.1 innings with three earned runs). “It was just one of those days where he left a couple of pitches right over the plate,” LaRoche said in explaining his success against Hamels.

After two tough losses to the Phillies, and reliance on an over-taxed bullpen, Washington needed a good outing from its starter, and Gio Gonzalez gave it to them on Sunday. The lefty picked up his eighth win on the season in throwing 105 pitches, 67 of them for strikes.

But the game also had its quota of strange, and not very good, plays — at least for the Nationals. The Phillies notched their first run of the game in the first inning on an unusual throwing error from Denard Span in center to Anthony Rendon covering third, who then retrieved the ball and threw it past Jose Lobaton at home plate. The two errors gave Philadelphia its first run of the game.

Then, in the sixth inning, after Nats shortstop Ian Desmond doubled to left field, a Cole Hamels balk moved him to third. Desmond then sprinted home on a long sacrifice fly to left field off the bat of Scott Hairston that barely stayed in the park. It was the first time in Hamels’ memory that he’d lost a game by a balk: “It’s unfortunate,” Hamels said.

The Hairston sacrifice vindicated Matt Williams’ view that Hairston would contribute against Hamels. “He has good numbers against Hamels,” Williams confirmed after the win. “He has seen him well and hit him well over time. I wanted to give him that opportunity, for sure.”

“Cole wasn’t as sharp with his command and just controlling the ball,” Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said after the Hamels loss. “And then the balk kind of came into play. It was a questionable call. He does that often.”

With the Nationals up 3-2, Washington skipper Matt Williams called on Drew Storen to save the game, the first time the righty had come on in the role since Williams announced that the team would give a struggling Rafael Soriano some time off to correct the flaws in his delivery.

Storen was philosophical about his new role, which he will presumably share with others in a “closer by committee:” set up shaped by Williams. “Really, the only thing different is the run to the mound — fans are real into it,” Storen said after notching his save. “You soak that in for a second, and move on, and lock in and do what you need to do.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Count the Phillies as among those in baseball who have consistently had the Nationals’ number. The Nats had lost five straight against Philadelphia coming into Sunday’s game and finished out the season with a 9-10 record vs. their N.L. East rivals . . .

Among the elite teams in baseball, the Nationals have losing records (as Adam Kilgore points out) against five other solid squads — the Braves, Orioles, Angels, Athletics and Cardinals (of course), and a losing record against Philadelphia . . .

Here’s how Kilgore explains it: “The Nationals went 6-3 against the Phillies before the all-star break, then split a four-game series against them in early August. This month, the Phillies have turned their bullpen from disastrous to dominant . . .”

The Nationals “magic number” to clinch the National League East now stands at 14, the result of Atlanta’s 4-0 loss on Sunday to the Miami Marlins. The 4-0 shutout confirmed what has ailed the Braves in the last part of the 2014 campaign: they can’t hit worth a damn . . .

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Nats In “Epic Collapse” As Phillies Win In 11

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

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If there are “epic wins” (and there have been this season), then there are certainly “epic losses” — and, for the Washington Nationals, Friday night was one of them. Leading by three runs going into the 9th inning, Nationals closer Rafael Soriano gave up two home runs (to Carlos Ruiz and Ben Revere) and Washington went on to lose to the Philadelphia Phillies in 11 innings, 9-8.

The loss featured nearly every up (and down) that Nationals fans have seen this year: a solid outing from starter Stephen Strasbug (who threw six solid innings of four hit baseball), a hot hand from a heroic Adam LaRoche (who hit yet another home run and notched three RBIs), and a wobbly 9th from an embattled closer whose job is now in jeopardy.

And there was also the unusual, and surprising — including a muffed fly ball off the bat of Dominic Brown in the 11th inning that featured a keystone cops-like outfield collision between Bryce Harper and Denard Span. Two batters later, a throwing error from Tyler Moore allowed Brown to score. Philadelphia’s two runs in the 11th held up to give the Ashburns the win.

After the loss, left fielder Harper confirmed that he was at fault in the rare outfield play, which gave the Nationals three errors on the night. “It got to the point where I thought I could get it, he called it and we bump into each other,” Harper said. “Center field priority, of course. I got to get out of there.”

So what now? As the boos rained down on Soriano when he walked from the mound to the dugout in the 9th, it was clear that skipper Matt Williams would have to rethink who will close games for the home towners, a viewpoint that a testy Williams confirmed during his tense post-game press conference.

“We’re certainly going to have to take a hard look at it,” Williams told the press after the game. “It’s not an easy decision. None of them are. But we want to be able to close those games out. Sori understands that, he’s been around the block.”

The Soriano decision, and the two home runs he gave up in the 9th, overawed what had been a solid outing for the ballclub, and one in which one of the toughest line-ups in the game had put seven runs on the board in nine innings.

The Nationals seven runs had come courtesy of a cascade of hits from Adam LaRoche (who’s first inning home run scored Anthony Rendon), Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper (whose fourth inning singles yield a third run), a Rendon double that scored Denard Span (in the 5th) and a Jayson Werth ground rule double and Adam LaRoche sacrifice fly in the 7th.

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Nats Win L.A. “Marathon” In 14

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

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In what MLB pundits and analysts are describing as baseball’s “game of the year,” Adam LaRoche’s five RBIs off the bench and three separate comebacks in 14 innings of play yielded a dramatic 8-5 marathon victory for the Washington Nationals at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday.

LaRoche was the hero of the game, but he wasn’t supposed to play at all. Coming into the game in the top of the 9th inning, LaRoche ‘s dramatic pinch hit home run tied the game at two apiece, while Denard Span’s single scored Danny Espinosa with the potential winning run.

LaRoche’s heroics seemed a fitting cap for the day that saw Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann throw 6.1 innings of four hit baseball. But the 9th inning home run was only the beginning of an up-and-down marathon fight that saw Washington use all but one of its players while skipper Matt Williams sent nine Nats pitchers to the mound.

The Nationals squandered what seemed like a solid win in the bottom of the 9th, when right fielder Jayson Werth lost a Justin Turner fly ball in the sun. The Turner fly tied the game and gave Rafael Soriano his sixth blown save of the year.

“It’s like the worst feeling in the world, helpless feeling,” Werth said of the play after the Nats win. “There is nothing you can do. You play this game long enough, it will happen to you. Unfortunately, it happened to me with two outs in a meaningful game.”

The Nationals then added two runs in the top of the 12th inning, with LaRoche once again the key to the rally. With the bases loaded following an Anthony Rendon walk and singles from Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper, LaRoche came to the plate and stroked a two RBI single to left field — and suddenly the Nationals had a two run lead.

But, as was true all game for both teams, that lead didn’t last. With Tyler Clippard on the mound, the Dodgers fought back in the bottom of the 12th, with a dramatic two out home run from Carl Crawford once again tying the game. As Crawford’s home run sailed into the center field seats, both Span and Clippard looked on in disbelief.

“When he first hit it, I didn’t think it had enough to go over the fence for sure,” Clippard said of Crawford’s clutch home run. “I thought it might have been a double in the gap. I would have been OK with that. It was just frustrating. We had worked so hard to get to that point in the game.”

The Nationals saved the best for last. With the score tied at five runs apiece, Washington mounted a three run rally in the top of the 14th inning that dashed L.A.’s hope of a win in the game — and a win in the series. Once again LaRoche was at the center of the action — as his fielders choice ground scored Ian Desmond with the go-ahead run. Asdrubal Cabrera then followed that with a two run shot that sealed the Nats win.

“It was a roller-coaster ride, ups and downs,” Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford said following his team’s loss. “Thought we had it, then we had like three chances to win it, and we just didn’t come through, so it was up and down, and it just didn’t go our way.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nationals used all of their position players in Wednesday’s marathon except for catcher Wilson Ramos. LaRoche finished at 2-3 with five RBIs on the afternoon, Asdrubal Cabrera was 2-6, with Bryce Harper going 3-6 . . .

The Nationals went deep into their bullpen after Zimmermann left in the 7th inning. Matt Thornton, Drew Storen, Soriano, Craig Stammen, Xavier Cedano, Barrett, Blevins and Clippard pitched for the Nationals. Recently recalled Blake Treinen pitched the bottom of the 14th . . .

MASN announcers Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo described the marathon contest as “the most dramatic win of the season” for the Nationals. MLB Network commenters on MLB Tonight agreed, with Greg Amsinger describing it as “baseball’s game of the year . . .”

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One For The Books: Nats Blast The Giants, 14-6

Monday, August 25th, 2014

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Can the Nats hit in big games? Can they move runners over, hit behind them, launch massive home run shots that plate big runs? Can they play from behind? Are they an offensive powerhouse, or a team that sometimes (and really not that often), loses its center, allowing their opponents back into a game?

While sometimes nothing will convince a skeptic, Sunday afternoon’s Nationals 14-6 victory against the San Francisco Giants will assuredly silence all the negativity that followed the team through April and May. Yesterday, in front of 35,000-plus, the Nationals blasted the Giants with eighteen hits, six of which were doubles and three home runs. It was one of the most satisfying wins of the season.

Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, Asdrubal Cabrera, Bryce Harper, Scott Hairston and Jose Loboton doubled during the game and Ian Desmond, Harper and Danny Espinosa each hit home runs. The Nationals were 10-17 with runners in scoring position. The victory marked the end of a remarkable homestand in which the Nationals were 9-1, with five walk-off wins in a six game stretch.

“This was a great homestand,” Scott Hairston, who hit a clutch pinch-hit double in the fourth inning yesterday, said of the Nationals victory. “I’ve never experienced anything like it. I think it’s safe to say nobody has. And it’s a lot of fun.”

In spite of the fireworks that Nats hitters enjoyed on Sunday, the game started ominously, with righty Stephen Strasburg being pulled by Nats skipper Matt Williams after just four innings. Strasburg gave up eight hits and five earned runs, which included home runs to Gregor Blanco and Travis Ishikawa.

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Strasburg, who had pitched well in his previous two outings, with decisive performances against Arizona and the Mets, “didn’t have his A-game,” as reliever Craig Stammen noted, and had to be bailed out by the Nationals bullpen. Strasburg agreed with the assessment.

“I was making dumb pitches,” Strasburg said after the win. “On a 3-2 pitch, I have to execute a better pitch there to Blanco. The same with Ishikawa on the 1-2 pitch. You want to challenge them, but at the same time you have to focus on hitting your spots. I really wasn’t doing that today.”

With Strasburg on the bench, the Nationals mounted their comeback, taking advantage of Bruce Bochy’s decision to bring in Jeremy Affeldt in relief of Giants’ starter Ryan Vogelsong in the sixth inning. Affeldt faced five Washington hitters without getting an out — giving up a Bryce Harper double, singles to Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Loboton, a Scott Hairston double and a Denard Span infield hit.

The Nationals bullpen also came through (as they almost always do) in a big way. Craig Stammen, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano gave up a single earned run in five innings of work, with Soriano closing out the game on a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

“Son of a gun, you just wanted an out anywhere and we couldn’t get it,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of the Nationals sixth inning offensive. The usually reliable Affeldt agreed, shaking his head in frustration at his own outing. “I take full responsibility for that game,” he said.

The Nationals also piled on five more runs in the 8th, though by then the Giants were well out of the game. Juan Gutierrez (“the human rain delay“) threw just 1.1 innings while giving up five earned runs, including home runs to Bryce Harper (his seventh) and Danny Espinosa (2-2 on the day) — his eighth.

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The Wisdom Of Section 1-2-9: Worries among 1-2-9 regulars over Bryce Harper’s ability to get on track after being on the disabled list have now been replaced by worries over the inconsistent pitching of Stephen Strasburg.  The section was moodily silent after Blanco and Ishikawi authored moon shots against the Washington “ace” . . .

“Look, it’s Gregor DiMaggio,” one regular noted when Gregor Blanco went deep. “Stras just looks terrible.” Another section season ticket holder shook his head. “You know, it could be that they’re just not letting him loose,” he argued. “This guy can throw 98 and once upon a time he did that regularly. They’re easing him back, when they should just let him throw what he wants . . . ”

“So what do we do with Strasburg?” a 1-2-9 regular asked as Craig Stammen emerged from the bullpen in relief of the big righty in the top of the 5th inning. “If this game is an indication, he’s no longer number one in the rotation. You can’t put him up front in the post-season, he’s just too inconsistent . . .”

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