The Nationals appeared to be on the verge of winning their sixth straight game and sweeping the San Francisco Giants on Thursday evening at Nationals Park, but closer Rafael Soriano could not hold the lead in the top of the ninth. The result was a painful 4-3 loss to the Giants in a game that the Nationals had led since the third inning.
Dan Haren had another quality start for the Nats, and deserved the win. He gave up one run on a home run to Brandon Belt in the sixth inning. That was it. Haren pitched six innings, and was only in trouble in the first inning when he loaded the bases. He managed to wiggle out of that jam without giving up any runs. The Nationals defense committed two errors behind him, but neither of those runners who reached on the errors scored.
The Nationals offense got to Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong in the third inning. Vogelsong was making his second start coming off the DL, and it showed. He lasted three and two-thirds innings and threw 92 pitches.
The Nats put runners on base against him in the second, loading the bases but unable to score. The Nationals cashed in during the third inning. Denard Span singled and stole second. Ryan Zimmerman drew a walk. Bryce Harper struck out and Jayson Werth hit into a fielders choice with Zimmerman out at second. Ian Desmond came up to bat. Werth stole second, and with runners on second and third, Desmond doubled to score both Span and Werth. Adam LaRoche then singled, scoring Desmond. Rendon fouled out to end the inning,.
At the end of six innings, the score was Nationals 3, Giants 1. There the score stayed until the top of the ninth. Fernando Abad pitched a scoreless seventh, and Tyler Clippard pitched a scoreless eighth.
In the bottom of the seventh, LaRoche hit a screaming liner right back to Giants reliever Sandy Rosario which hit him right in the chest. Rosario had to leave the game and the Giants called on Javier Lopez to shut the Nats down. He did so, pitching one and two-thirds innings of scoreless relief.
Soriano came out for the ninth with a two run lead to protect. Soriano was shaky on Wednesday, the day before, when he only avoided blowing a save due to Span making an unbelievable catch in center field for the third out. The Giants had learned their lesson from that. To keep Span from robbing you of hits, you need to send it completely out of the park.
Buster Posey singled off Soriano to begin the ninth inning. Soriano then got Hunter Pence to strike out and Pablo Sandoval to fly out. Soriano only needed one more out. However, he walked the next batter, Roger Kieschnick, a .250 hitter. Soriano came unglued when home plate umpire Jim Joyce ruled that Soriano’s 2-2 offering to Kieschnick was a ball. Soriano thought it was a strike. Instead of thowing something in the zone to make Kieschnick swing or put the ball in play, Soriano walked him.
Up came pinch hitter Hector Sanchez. Before this at bat, his average was .213 and he had not hit a home run all year. After facing Soriano, his average was .229 and he had hit his first home run of the year. On a 3-2 count, he got a fastball and got enough of it to send it into the short porch in right field. Three runs were the result, and the Nationals were down 4-3.
Sergio Romo pitched a one-two–three inning in the bottom of the ninth against Harper, Werth and Desmond. Romo got the save and Lopez got the win.
The Nationals had chances during the game to add onto their three run lead, but could not do so. They left eleven in scoring position.
Now the Nationals travel to Atlanta to face the Braves with a sour taste in their mouths after the way this home stand ended. The Nats need to hit the reset button and put it behind them.
Next Game: Friday, August 16th against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. Game time is 7:30 p.m. Scheduled starters are Taylor Jordan (1-3, 4.14 ERA) for the Nationals and Alex Wood
(2-2 , 2.78 ERA) for the Braves. Wood is a converted reliever who will be making his fourth start.
Of note: Drew Storen has rejoined the team in the bullpen and will make the trip to Atlanta. Ryan Mattheus has been sent to Syracuse to work on his form. Mattheus has not been effective since he came off the DL and had very few rehab appearances in the minors. He probably needs several weeks of work, as he was rushed back too soon from his broken hand.