Nats' bats provide Fourth of July fireworks
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals displayed their own set of fireworks in the batter's box and defeated the Giants, 9-3, in Saturday's Independence Day matinee at Nationals Park.
Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner was on the mound when the Nationals scored three runs in the first inning on homers by Michael Taylor and Bryce Harper. By the time Bumgarner left the game, he had allowed six runs over five-plus innings.
"Bumgarner is so good," Harper said. "You don't want to be behind a guy like that. It's good to get out in front."
Stephen Strasburg, who started the game for Washington and looked like he was going to have his best start of the season, left the game in the fourth inning because of left-side tightness. Tanner Roark came in and picked up his fourth win of the season.
With the victory, the Nationals improved their record to 45-36, while the Giants have lost five straight games and dropped to 42-40. The reigning World Series champions entered the national holiday occupying second place in the National League West, three games behind the Dodgers.
"There have been a lot of really good ups and some pretty bad downs," Bumgarner said. "We're in a pretty decent spot, right now. We just have to put it together and get on a roll."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Nationals' bats come alive: Besides the early home runs by Taylor and Harper, Tyler Moore also had four RBIs in the game. His biggest hit came in the sixth inning, when he doubled down the left-field line, scoring Yunel Escobar and Ian Desmond.
"We came out swinging the bats aggressively," Moore said. "Bumgarner's not real fun to face all the time. He's a really good pitcher. Mikey T set the tone, then Harp came up with another homer. So then we kind of rolled with that." More >
Giants fade fast: Few things demoralize a team more than seeing its ace implode early. Five pitches into the game, Bumgarner and the Giants trailed, 3-0. Right then and there, San Francisco was essentially finished.
"He got ambushed," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Bumgarner (8-5). "They came out swinging. It's a case of a pitcher trying to get settled and they jumped on a couple of mistakes."
Roark gets an emergency victory: Roark replaced Strasburg in the fourth inning and allowed two runs over 4 1/3 innings, while striking out three batters.
"He was able to extend again," manager Matt Williams said about Roark. "That's important on days like today, where you don't have to use the whole bullpen ... and Tanner provided that. He is versatile. He can do a lot of things. So today, it was long [relief] and he stepped up." More >
Tag, you're not it: A baserunning blunder ended a lukewarm comeback by the Giants in the eighth inning. With a run in and Gregor Blanco at second base, Matt Duffy hit a grounder to deep shortstop. Realizing he had no play on Duffy, Washington shortstop Ian Desmond allowed his momentum to carry him to third base, where Blanco had made a short but unfortunate turn. That was enough to enable Desmond to tag out Blanco to end the mini threat.
"We have to play smarter, not harder, sometimes," Bochy said. "I think that got us today." More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Nationals as a team have issued two walks or fewer in each of their last 17 games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the longest such streak for any team in the live-ball era.
Strasburg left Saturday's game against the Giants because of tightness on his left side and was replaced by right-hander Tanner Roark. Strasburg was dealing for 3 2/3 innings, allowing one hit and striking out three batters, as the Nationals were leading the Giants, 3-0.
After getting Buster Posey to ground out to second baseman Danny Espinosa for second out of the fourth inning, Williams, pitching coach Steve McCatty and assistant athletic trainer Steve Gober went to the mound to see if something was wrong with Strasburg, who grabbed at his left side. A few minutes later, Strasburg was out of the game.
"We will continue to evaluate [his left side] and see how he is [on Sunday]," Williams said. "Given his season, so far, I don't want to take a chance there." More >
Giants: It'll be up to right-hander Ryan Vogelsong to stifle the Nationals on Sunday at 5:08 p.m. PT, if the Giants are to avoid an 0-6 road trip. Ominously, Vogelsong owns a 7.94 ERA in five career starts against Washington.
Nationals: Washington will go for a series sweep on Sunday at Nationals Park at 8:08 p.m. ET. Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann will take the mound for the Nats. In his last two starts against the Giants, including the playoffs, Zimmermann has allowed three earned runs over 16 2/3 innings, while recording 14 strikeouts.
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