Baggs' Instant Replay: Nationals 9, Giants 3

July 4, 2012, 3:09 am
Share This Post

BOX SCORE
WASHINGTON It started well enough. Tim Lincecums scoreless innings streak reached 13 when he impressively carved through three dangerous hitters from the stretch Tuesday night.But there was no luck for Lincecum after that. Just plenty of mistakes, a career-worst eight runs allowed and enough explosive meetings of bat and ball in the nations capital to make you believe Independence Day arrived 24 hours ahead of time.The Giants and Nationals entered Tuesday night tied for the most victories in the National League. The Nats made easy work of Lincecum to take charge of the Senior Circuit in a rain-delayed, 9-3 victory at Nationals Park.Was it the mid-90s heat and humidity? Thats been the old standby for Lincecum in the past. But the longer his struggles go this season, the more it seems the familiar explanations just dont go deep enough.Lincecum gave up two runs in the second inning, got pounded in the third and retired just one batter in the fourth. He left them loaded for George Kontos, and after all were redeemed at the bettors window, Lincecum ended up matching his career worst with seven earned runs and establishing a new one with eight allowed in all.Lincecum watched the rest of the fourth inning, a forlorn figure leaning against the dugout rail. He was coming off seven scoreless innings against the Dodgers, which snapped his winless streak at 10 starts. Now he is bereft of momentum again, and hes got one more start before the All-Star break the first-half finale Sunday at Pittsburgh to figure out how to reinvent himself in the second half.Starting pitching reportLincecum (3-9) had made 171 starts in his major league career. He had never given up eight runs in a start. Heck, he probably didnt have one of those at the University of Washington, either.It all started with such promise. After Steve Lombardozzis leadoff single put Lincecum in the stretch, where he has struggled to make pitches, he executed very good sequences to get ahead of wunderkind Bryce Harper in a confrontation that ended with a fly out. After pitching backwards to Harper with early-count offspeed stuff, Lincecum ran his fastball in and out to strike out Ryan Zimmerman. Then he threw a changeup to strike out Michael Morse.But he began to show loose threads in the second inning, and the Nationals tugged at them. Danny Espinosa rocked Lincecum for an RBI double that hit near the top of the wall in dead center. Lincecum and catcher Hector Sanchez might have gotten too tricksy-cutesy with a first-pitch curveball to Jordan Zimmermann, a hanging blob that the opposing pitcher shot into right field for a double that scored Espinosa.Meanwhile, with the Giants making quick outs, Lincecum had little rest between innings. That might have contributed to a series of location mistakes in the third, although one small decision by the Nationals made a very big difference.Lincecum induced what would have been a double-play grounder from Morse, but Zimmerman was running with the 2-2 pitch. Shortstop Brandon Crawford had no choice but to throw to first base.That third out proved elusive, as Adam LaRoche doubled over center fielder Angel Pagans head on a high and outside fastball. Lincecum followed with a hanging, 0-1 curve that Ian Desmond attacked and sent into the left field seats for a two-run home run.Just like that, Lincecum and the Giants trailed 5-0.Perhaps Giants manager Bruce Bochy wanted Lincecum to get one more inning to save the bullpen, given the 11:05 a.m. game that awaits both teams on Wednesday. Or perhaps Bochy wanted to give Lincecum a chance to work on his delivery.Either way, the decision to send a stringy-haired, sweaty Lincecum out for the fourth inning turned out to be very bad, indeed. After retiring Zimmermann, Lincecum wrapped two walks around Harpers double and Bochy came to collect the ball with the bases loaded.Lincecum ended the day with a 6.08 ERA. He ranks 89th out of 90 major league pitchers that have made at least 15 starts. If not for Atlantas Mike Minor, Lincecum would rank as the worst pitcher in the major leagues by the stat that is most often used to define their performance.Bullpen reportKontos did Lincecum no favors. Neither did Gregor Blanco, who went to center field on the double-switch with Pagan getting an early exit.Kontos threw a fat 0-2 pitch while allowing a two-run single to Morse and Blanco made a terrible throw to the plate, allow Zimmerman to take third base. LaRoche followed with a sacrifice fly to give the Nats an 8-0 lead.At least Kontos struck out Ian Desmond, ensuring that Lincecums final run would be unearned. A small consolation.Clay Hensley, Brad Penny and others pitched and played baseball and such after that. Their deeds will not be chronicled here, but check the box score if you must.At the plateThe Giants will miss both of Washingtons All-Star starting pitchers in Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, but Zimmermann (5-6) reminded why he has a lower ERA than either of them.He gave up hits to the leadoff batter in three of his first four innings, including doubles to Pablo Sandoval and Melky Cabrera. But he did what Lincecum could not, executing pitches to keep the Giants off the board.A yippy throw from third baseman Ryan Zimmerman opened the door for a two-run rally in the fifth inning. After Hector Sanchez reached on the error, the Giants received consecutive singles from Crawford and Nate Schierholtz (who entered with Kontos on a double switch). Blanco followed with a broken-bat hit that scored a pair.With no outs, the Giants had thoughts of a comeback. But Ryan Theriot, Melky Cabrera and Buster Posey went down in order.Give Crawford his due, though. He turned in his second three-hit game in a span of six starts.In fieldLets focus on off-the-field stuff. Such as how Giants manager Bruce Bochy pulled most of his starters off the field.Hey, at least the Giants will be a tad better rested for Wednesdays 11:05 a.m. first pitch, which is more appropriate for a college football game. Pablo Sandoval and Cabrera were gone in the fifth inning. Posey, the first baseman, was out in the sixth.By the end, the Giants 3-4-5 hitters were Justin Christian, Joaquin Arias and Emmanuel Burriss.Poor Hector Sanchez had to catch the whole way.AttendanceThe Nationals announced 36,985 paid. For once, the actual attendance seemed even larger. Theyre getting behind this team of theirs here. The lower sections remained well populated even after an 85-minute rain delay in the seventh inning. (The sweet, sulfurous lure of postgame fireworks might have had something to do with that.)Up nextThe Giants will be quaffing many caffeinated beverages as they continue their series in the District with an 11:05 a.m. first pitch on Wednesday. (Thats 8:05 a.m. back in the Bay Area.) Left-hander Madison Bumgarner (10-4, 2.85) gets the Independence Day start against right-hander Edwin Jackson (4-4. 3.57).

More Team Talk