SAN FRANCISCO – Tony Bennett doesn’t flub the words to “God Bless America.” If he sings that the oceans are “right with gold,” that’s what they’ll be forever more.
Madison Bumgarner’s mistake? That was so much harder on the ear Monday afternoon.
With the Giants and Washington Nationals locked in a government shutdown of a game in the seventh inning at AT&T Park, Bumgarner made one disastrous decision that changed everything – and might have altered the course of this NL Division Series.
He fielded a sacrifice bunt and threw to third base. He might as well have thrown a car battery in a swimming pool. He had no chance. He chucked it anyway. It went wide, and past a contorting Pablo Sandoval, and into the Giants bullpen, and over the river and through the woods…
By the time order was restored, the Nationals had scored three runs on their way to a 4-1 victory. The Giants still hold a 2-to-1 edge in the series and have one more shot to clinch at home in Game 4 on Tuesday. Otherwise, it’s back to Washington, where a rested Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann would await them.
[RELATED: Giants announce Vogelsong as Game 4 starter]
Starting pitching report
Entering the seventh inning, Bumgarner had lassoed the moon – or at least some patio furniture.
He had limited the Nationals to four singles and extended his postseason streak to 22 consecutive scoreless innings – six away from matching Christy Mathewson’s franchise record.
Bumgarner stretched and pulled a generous strike zone from plate umpire Tom Hallion, and the Nationals at times appeared to have no chance. But he also switched up the game plan, perhaps banking on their aggressive tendencies by throwing first-pitch strikes to just nine of the first 18 batters.
Bumgarner leaned on stout outfield play on a few deep drives, though, and he got away with two fastballs down the middle to Jayson Werth with two aboard in the third inning. Werth fouled back both of them before grounding out. That was the only time in the first six innings that the Nats advanced a runner into scoring position against him.
Then came the seventh, and Ian Desmond’s leadoff single. Bumgarner lost Bryce Harper on a five-pitch walk, and with the wheel play on, catcher Wilson Ramos fouled off a bunt attempt.
Ramos, who didn’t have a sacrifice bunt to his name in over three years, bunted again with two strikes. Bumgarner fielded it in front of the mound, and after the slightest hesitation, turned and fired to third base.
A perfect throw would’ve arrived after the train doors had shut. It was a bad decision made worse because the throw was wide, skipping to the feet of bullpen coach Mark Gardner, who couldn’t very well drop his clipboard and heave it home.
By the time left fielder Travis Ishikawa retrieved it, Harper had followed Desmond home and the Nats held a 2-0 lead.
Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a single through the left side, and with no outs and the catcher running, the Nats made a gutsy send. Ishikawa’s throw was on target but Ramos slid just ahead of Posey’s tag.
Bumgarner completed the inning but he lost much more than his scoreless streak. Two of the three runs he allowed were earned. He walked one and struck out six.
Jean Machi served up a solo home run to Harper in the ninth.
At the plate
For the second time in Doug Fister’s two postseason starts here, the Giants did not score against the right-hander as long as he remained in the game.
They only managed to get a run off him in Game 2 of the World Series because he departed following a leadoff single in the seventh, then came a bunt and a double-play grounder that pushed one across.
They didn’t even manage that much this time, although Fister was far from polished in the early innings. It took a terrific catch from Harper, battling the sun in left field, to prevent a two-run double off Brandon Crawford’s bat in the second inning. The catch allowed Fister to sidestep Ishikawa with a walk to load the bases for Bumgarner.
Fister knew better than to throw Bumgarner anything straight, too. After three ring-the-bell swings, Bumgarner could not deliver his third grand slam of the season. He struck out, ending the Giants’ best chance.
Belt singled in the fourth inning but was thrown out easily trying to steal on a play that had to involve a missed sign somewhere. (Fister didn’t allow a stolen base all season. Opponents only attempted to steal once.)
Fister exited after holding the Giants to four hits and three walks in seven shutout innings. Tyler Clippard worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
Crawford hit a sacrifice fly in the ninth to avoid the shutout, but the Giants never got the tying run to the plate against Drew Storen.
Sandoval, whose postseason hitting streak stayed alive thanks to his two-outs-in-the-ninth double Saturday, made far quicker work of extending it this time. He led off the second inning with a single, and his 14-game streak is one away from matching Marquis Grissom’s postseason record for an NL player. Sandoval is three away from matching the major league playoff record of 17, shared by Derek Jeter, Manny Ramirez and Hank Bauer.
Harper contributed more than a walk and a home run. His catch on Crawford changed the game, and he made another diving catch in the seventh on Ishikawa.
If the Nats had started Ryan Zimmerman in left field, the results probably would’ve been much different.
The Giants announced 43,627 paid. Right with gold?
The Giants try to wrap up their NL Division Series in Game 4 on Tuesday. Ryan Vogelsong (8-13, 4.00 ERA) takes the mound against Washington left-hander Gio Gonzalez (10-10, 3.57). First pitch is scheduled for either 5:37 p.m. PDT or 6:07 p.m. PDT.