WASHINGTON -- The Giants knew that they had to face Max Scherzer. Ultimately, however, the Nationals confronted a more formidable opponent by having to oppose Brandon Crawford.The Giants' shortstop, not the Nationals' pitching ace, loomed over the series finale at Nationals Park as if he were another D.C. monument. Crawford
WASHINGTON -- The Giants knew that they had to face Max Scherzer. Ultimately, however, the Nationals confronted a more formidable opponent by having to oppose Brandon Crawford.
The Giants' shortstop, not the Nationals' pitching ace, loomed over the series finale at Nationals Park as if he were another D.C. monument. Crawford went 4-for-4, including a fourth-inning home run off Scherzer, to account for the scoring in San Francisco's 2-0 triumph.
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"It was like he knew he had to be good. He stepped up," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Crawford, who was an All-Star in 2015 and is bidding to return to D.C. when the 2018 All-Star Game is played there next month.
The outcome gave San Francisco a 2-1 series victory over the National League East leaders and halted seven years of frustration here for the Giants, who entered this series having lost 17 of 22 games at Washington since the start of the 2011 season.
The Giants ended Scherzer's nine-decision winning streak. But they did nothing to overwhelm Scherzer (10-2) himself. He pitched almost flawlessly -- unless he was facing Crawford. The winner of the NL's past two Cy Young Awards yielded four hits in seven innings while walking three and striking out nine. But Crawford collected three of the hits off Scherzer, including a fourth-inning drive over the right-field barrier that followed Pablo Sandoval's leadoff walk.
Crawford said that Scherzer threw him the gamut of his deliveries, from fastballs to offspeed pitches, until he connected with a 2-2 slider. "I just tried to shorten up and see the ball over the plate," said Crawford, who has eight home runs.
Scherzer spoke with humility about facing Crawford. "I threw good pitches to him," Scherzer said. "He put great swings on them. He wins. I lose. It's as simple as that. He's hot. I have to be better than him. Today he was great. And tip your hat and move on."
Facing Nationals reliever Matt Grace in the eighth inning, Crawford lashed his final hit, a double. The ball eluded Washington left fielder Juan Soto long enough to cause observers to wonder whether Crawford should have dashed toward third base in an attempt to record a cycle.
Said Crawford, "Right when I hit it I was thinking about it, and I was running hard out of the box, and then I saw it curving pretty hard, so I thought it was going to go foul. I slowed up for a second -- which might have cost me a shot at the cycle. But I was a little disappointed in myself when I saw it bounce by him."
Crawford, who recorded his sixth career effort featuring four or more hits, also became the first Giant to amass at least three hits off Scherzer in a game. Moreover, Crawford joined Cincinnati's Scooter Gennett and Miami's Martin Prado as the only players to collect three or more hits off Scherzer in a game this season.
The Giants' pitching also contributed significantly. Starter Derek Holland surrendered three hits in five innings before relievers Mark Melancon, Sam Dyson, Tony Watson and Hunter Strickland each worked an inning apiece.
"I knew coming into the game that I couldn't make any mistakes," said Holland (4-6).
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This game's ninth inning marked the first time that Strickland and Washington megastar Bryce Harper faced each other since their AT&T Park altercation on May 29, 2017. This time, Strickland never came close to throwing at Harper, who grounded out to Crawford.
"The past is the past," Strickland said. "I think everybody's moved on from that. That's part of our job, to get whoever it is out. No matter if it's him or [Matt] Adams, they're all good hitters."
Sandoval, starting at first base, drew a pair of walks. That marked the first time he coaxed multiple walks in one game since Aug. 12, 2015, when he was in his first year with the Red Sox.
Like Washington, the previous stop on their three-city trip, the Giants haven't fared too well at Miami, posting a 3-6 record there in the previous three years. Madison Bumgarner will get the first crack at reversing this trend, which should raise the Giants' hopes. However, Bumgarner has recorded only three quality starts in his seven previous outings against the Marlins. Miami will counter with left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, who's 1-3 with a 5.86 ERA.
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.