SAN FRANCISCO – No matter how the three outcomes shook out against the Washington Nationals, the Giants’ series would’ve stood as a confidence builder of sorts.
That’s because the rotation held the Nationals to just three earned runs over 19 innings – a sturdy improvement from the seismic liquefaction that took place on the Giants’ last trip to Toronto and Colorado.
So it was hard for anyone to get too upset at AT&T Park Wednesday afternoon, when the Giants couldn’t spring a second comeback, lost 2-1 in 10 innings, and came up short in their bid to sweep the Nationals.
Bryce Harper’s off-the-front-foot home run accounted for the only run in Madison Bumgarner’s seven innings. Then Harper burned a double in the 10th off Jeremy Affeldt, eventually losing his helmet while dashing home with the tiebreaking run on Ian Desmond’s single.
The Giants, who already rallied once in the eighth inning on Buster Posey’s RBI single, couldn’t muster another comeback in the 10th.
Marco Scutaro flied out to the warning track, ending the series, the game – and his hitting streak at 19 games. Scutaro earlier had been 0 for 2 with two walks.
This kind of loss has been a rarity for the Giants this season. They had been 15-1 when holding an opponent to two runs or fewer.
Starting pitching report
Bumgarner went unrewarded while making one of his best starts of the season. He held the Nationals to four hits and two walks in seven innings, using his slider and cutter to keep the ball off the barrel.
Bumgarner had especially firm stuff in the first inning, when he struck out the side while throwing 11 of 14 pitches for strikes. And he was unhittable from the stretch. The Nationals were 0 for 9 against Bumgarner with runners on base.
But Harper fouled off a slider and a curve in the sixth before Bumgarner came back with a sinker that stayed in the middle of the plate. Harper was out on his front foot but still managed to catch the barrel, and was strong enough to power the pitch over the left field wall.
It was Harper’s 12th home run of the season, and surprisingly, just his 23rd RBI.
Bumgarner retired six of seven hitters after that while completing seven innings. He’s authored seven of the Giants’ 21 quality starts this season.
Bumgarner has gone 20-5 with a 2.26 ERA in his last 31 starts at AT&T Park. The Giants are 23-8 in those games.
Three relievers cobbled together a scoreless eighth inning. Jose Mijares and Chad Gaudin each retired one of two batters, leaving runners at the corners for Javier Lopez.
A night earlier, Lopez’s strikeout of Adam LaRoche was one of the more subtly important outs in the Giants’ comeback victory. Lopez did it again, getting LaRoche to pop up to left field and strand both runners.
Sergio Romo pitched around a one-out single in the ninth. But Affeldt gave up Harper’s one-out double in the 10th, and after an intentional walk, Desmond poked his hit to center field.
It snapped Affeldt’s streak of nine consecutive scoreless appearances.
At the plate
The Giants advanced a runner into scoring position in four of Gio Gonzalez’s first seven innings, but the left-hander used his assortment of breaking pitches to douse every flickering rally.
Four of Gonzalez’s five strikeouts came with runners in scoring position, including consecutive whiffs by Posey and Hunter Pence to strand runners at the corners in the first inning.
But the Giants did enough battling to drive up Gonzalez’s pitch count, and he departed after issuing a one-out walk to Angel Pagan in the eighth.
Then the Giants did what they’ve been doing all season.
Scutaro, needing a hit to extend his major league best streak to 20 games, instead battled back from a 1-2 count to draw a walk against right-hander Drew Storen. Then Posey followed with a ground single that snuck through the left side. Pagan got a great jump off second base and scored without a play as the sellout crowd roared its approval.
The Giants would have pulled ahead if not for two stellar defensive plays. First, Harper made a sliding catch to rob Pence of a hit. Then LaRoche flopped in the dirt to stop pinch hitter Brandon Belt’s hard grounder, and noticing that the pitcher wouldn’t cover in time, he threw to second base on his knees to get the force out.
Bumgarner fielded his position well, leaping to snag Kurt Suzuki’s chopper after it deflected off his glove in the third inning.
But the Giants’ play of the game belonged to Pence, who showed no hesitation while leaving his feet to catch Kurt Suzuki’s sinking line drive with a runner at first base in the ninth. If the ball had gotten past Pence, it would’ve been disaster. But he didn’t choose the safe route – and he didn’t regret it
The Giants announced 41,175 paid, including one fan seated down the left field line who made a nice snag after Pence flung his bat into the stands. The most unusual part: The fan tossed the bat back into the Giants dugout.
I’ve seen a lot of balls thrown back from the stands, but never a bat.
The Giants begin a three-game series against the Colorado Rockies, who took three of four from them last weekend at Coors Field. Tim Lincecum (3-3, 4.70 ERA) takes the mound Friday against right-hander Tyler Chatwood (2-0, 2.55). It’ll be Barry Zito (3-3, 3.91) against right-hander Juan Nicasio (4-1, 4.47) on Saturday and Matt Cain (3-2, 5.12) on regular rest Sunday against right-hander Jon Garland (3-5, 5.19).