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Giants can't catch Nats as Rodriguez struggles

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

WASHINGTON -- Dereck Rodriguez took home no keepsakes Saturday, other than the competitive lessons learned from enduring a rough afternoon.

After Rodriguez's previous two outings for the Giants, he received baseballs, a lineup sheet and other game-related memorabilia that helped commemorate his initial Major League appearance and his first Major League victory. This time, he acquired the experience of how to survive a day when he lacked command of his pitches. That flaw limited him to a 2 2/3-inning performance in the Giants' 7-5 loss to the Nationals.

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WASHINGTON -- Dereck Rodriguez took home no keepsakes Saturday, other than the competitive lessons learned from enduring a rough afternoon.

After Rodriguez's previous two outings for the Giants, he received baseballs, a lineup sheet and other game-related memorabilia that helped commemorate his initial Major League appearance and his first Major League victory. This time, he acquired the experience of how to survive a day when he lacked command of his pitches. That flaw limited him to a 2 2/3-inning performance in the Giants' 7-5 loss to the Nationals.

View Full Game Coverage

Making his third appearance and second start in the Major Leagues, Rodriguez surrendered five runs and six hits at Nationals Park. Most of the punishment he absorbed occurred in the second inning, when Washington amassed four runs.

Video: SF@WSH: Hundley socks three-run homer to left-center

"I felt the same," Rodriguez said, referring to his six-inning, one-run gem last Sunday against Philadelphia. "I just didn't have my best stuff. I didn't really locate pitches. I had a couple of opportunities to put some guys away, and I made too good of a pitch."

It happened in the first inning, when Rodriguez hit Adam Eaton with a 1-2 pitch and yielded Anthony Rendon's RBI single on a full count.

It happened again in the Nats' big second. Bryce Harper, who flied out in the first inning, singled on a 1-2 pitch to sustain Washington's momentum. Rodriguez forged ahead on the count against Matt Adams, 0-2. But Adams worked the count to 2-2 and collected the inning's key hit, a two-run double.

Video: SF@WSH: Cutch plates Hernandez with sac fly to center

Asked if he wanted the 2-2 pitch to Adams back, Rodriguez replied, "There were a lot of pitches I wanted back today, to be honest with you."

Despite Rodriguez's ineffectiveness, he exuded the kind of stubbornness that keeps professional athletes yearning to excel.

"Even in a game like today, he kept going. I'll give him that," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It looked like he was still trying to make pitches. He wasn't caving in. He's a tough kid."

Video: SF@WSH: Pudge talks about watching his son pitch

Bochy pointed out that if Rendon hadn't beaten out the back end of a potential double-play grounder by an eyelash, the Nats would have scored only three second-inning runs -- and then, who knows. "That would have been huge for [Rodriguez]," Bochy said. "It wasn't quite hit hard enough. That was probably a turning point in that inning."

All of this was witnessed by Rodriguez's father, Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez. The younger Rodriguez denied that this affected his performance. "It was just like any other game, honestly," Rodriguez said. "I really didn't think about it much."

Video: SF@WSH: Madson whiffs Crawford, strands a pair

The Giants trimmed most of the 5-0 deficit, chasing Nats starter Gio Gonzalez after 3 1/3 innings. Nick Hundley led the comeback with a three-run, third-inning homer and a seventh-inning RBI double. However, after the latter hit, the rally stalled when Nats reliever Ryan Madson fanned pinch-hitter Brandon Crawford to strand runners on second and third.

The Giants also marooned runners on second and third in the eighth when Sean Doolittle induced Andrew McCutchen's inning-ending popup.

Video: SF@WSH: Doolittle strands a pair, preserves the lead

"Guys did a good job of battling back. I thought we really had some good, extended ABs against Gonzalez," Bochy said. "We had some guys out there [on base]. We just needed another hit."

Ty Blach, a former member of the Giants' starting rotation, pitched 3 1/3 effective innings to freeze Washington's offense and help set up San Francisco's surge. The lone run Blach yielded was Harper's fourth-inning homer, which traveled a projected 437 feet, according to Statcast™.

Video: SF@WSH: Blach strikes out Difo swinging in the 4th

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
An object of concern for the Giants was Gorkys Hernandez's left rib cage. That's where he was hit by an eighth-inning pitch from Washington's Brandon Kintzler. Hernandez collapsed in obvious pain after being hit, but he said that he felt "all right." Bochy said he would check on Hernandez's condition when he reports to the park on Sunday.

Video: SF@WSH: Hernandez is shaken up after getting plunked

SOUND SMART
Hundley, who matched a personal best with four RBIs, is among the few Giants who has thrived with runners in scoring position. He's batting .435 (10-for-23) with three home runs and 16 RBIs this year in those situations. Hundley's .556 slugging percentage leads all Major League catchers who have at least 100 plate appearances.

Video: SF@WSH: Hundley laces a run-scoring double to right

UP NEXT
The Giants hope that Derek Holland can maintain his recent surge when they face Washington in Sunday's series finale, starting at 1:05 p.m. PT. San Francisco is 5-7 in Holland's starts, but that record has improved to 5-3 over his past eight outings. Holland, who has never faced the Nationals, will be opposed by Max Scherzer, the Washington ace who has captured the National League's past two Cy Young Awards. Scherzer is 4-4 with a 4.03 ERA in nine career starts against the Giants.

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.

San Francisco Giants, Nick Hundley, Dereck Rodriguez