WASHINGTON -- Even when the Giants mount a furious comeback, the horse breaks down.
After weeks of grasping for clutch hits, the Giants collected several of them while charging back from a five-run deficit over the final two innings. But the final hit they needed to complete their comeback -- a drive from Hunter Pence to left-center field -- ended up in the glove of a diving Denard Span.
The potential tying and go-ahead runners trod off as the Giants lost 6-5 to the Washington Nationals Thursday night.
Brandon Belt, the only Giant who hits homers these days, hit an upper-deck blast in the eighth inning, his 14th, to match Buster Posey and Pence for the club lead. Pablo Sandoval flared a two-run double in the inning -- his first extra-base hit in 15 games. And Belt added an RBI single in the ninth as the Giants had runners at first and second for Pence.
His drive appeared destined to hit turf and clatter off the wall. It did neither of those things.
It was incredibly similar to the catch that the Padres' Will Venable made on Juan Perez in the 12th inning June 17 at AT&T Park, which stole a walk-off victory from the Giants.
The Giants lost 68 regular-season games last year. They’ve already lost 67 this season.
[RELATED: MLB standings]
Starting pitching report
Remember in Game 1 of the World Series, when Tim Lincecum relieved Barry Zito?
Yeah. It’s not as much fun in reverse.
Lincecum got clobbered in a five-run fourth inning, when the mistakes weren’t limited to his personage. At least Zito wielded an effective mop in a season that’s become one huge expanse of wet floor.
Lincecum has been known to melt like one of his favorite Choco Tacos in the heat and humidity, but it didn’t feel at all like an August night in the District. It was cool and breezy, which figured to help the two-time Cy Young Award winner, who was coming off an eight-inning, one-hit victory over Milwaukee.
But the Nationals cranked up the heat in another respect. Ian Desmond crushed a home run in the second inning and unbelievably, improved to 10-for-12 against Lincecum in his career. (Do he and Paul Goldschmidt have a secret handshake?)
The real trouble began to bubble in the fourth after Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth hit soft singles. Lincecum barely beat Desmond to first base on a ground out, and Adam LaRoche was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Then Lincecum made his most painful mistake of the night -- a 2-2 fastball to Anthony Rendon that had plenty of fuzz (94 mph) but awful location (down the middle). Rendon hit it over center fielder Gregor Blanco’s head for a two-run double.
Kurt Suzuki’s single scored LaRoche, a wild pitch brought in another run and the Nationals made it a five-run inning when Belt couldn’t pick Sandoval’s throw after the third baseman made a sprawling stop of Ryan Zimmerman’s grounder down the line.
The throw arrived well ahead of Zimmerman, but not only did Belt’s failure cost the Giants a run, it also cost Sandoval an unjust error because Denard Span took third base on the play.
Zito, who reportedly cleared waivers earlier in the day, held the Nationals to one hit and struck out one in two relief innings. It was his ninth relief appearance in 424 career games.
[REWIND: Report: Zito clears waivers, trade unlikely]
At the plate
Giants manager Bruce Bochy has all but lit incense in the hopes of receiving offense in recent weeks.
The Giants sure couldn’t get it in seven innings against Jordan Zimmermann, although Roger Kieschnick did manage an RBI single in the second inning after Pence walked and stole second base.
Zimmermann got Lincecum to ground into a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded to end the fourth inning, and the Giants didn’t get another runner into scoring position against him.
The Giants did their damage against the back end of the Nats bullpen in the eighth. Belt’s home run was a tape measure shot off left-hander Ian Krol. Right-hander Ryan Mattheus didn’t retire any of the three batters he faced, as Posey and Pence singled ahead of Sandoval’s double.
But Nats manager Davey Johnson got his front-line guys hot, and Tyler Clippard struck out Kieschnick and Blanco to end the rally.
Belt managed an RBI single in the ninth off Nationals closer Rafael Soriano and Posey singled to get the tying run into scoring position. But then came Pence’s drive, and Soriano getting credit for a save that more properly belonged to his center fielder.
In the field
The Nats defense picked Zimmerman up a time or two as well.
Rendon, the second baseman, made a diving stop to take what would’ve been a two-out, RBI single away from Belt in the third inning. And Zimmermann helped his own cause by snagging Marco Scutaro’s line drive off his shoe tops to end his night.
The Nationals announced 30,657 paid. This time Taft won the President’s Race. We told you he’s athletic for his size.
The Giants and Nationals conclude their three-game series on Thursday at Nationals Park. Ryan Vogelsong (2-4, 6.71 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound against right-hander Dan Haren (7-11, 4.99).