Kruk and Kuip: Rain delay ruined pitching duel
Adam LaRoche launched a tiebreaking two-run homer off Guillermo Moscoso as the Giants lost to the Nats Tuesday. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Madison Bumgarner allowed one run in four innings before a rain-delay cut his start short. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
WASHINGTON – Leave it to that great and accomplished artist, Joaquin Arias, to make a tidy charcoal sketch of these Giants in the second half.
Arias doubled in the first inning Tuesday night. He singled in the third. He singled again in the fifth and the seventh. He was 4 for 4 – all with the bases blissfully empty.
When he stepped to the plate in the eighth inning, the Giants had the tying and go-ahead runners in scoring position for him.
Arias flied out.
And the Giants signed another flea-market quality piece of art – a 4-2 loss to the Washington Nationals in a game where the skies opened for an hour and 17 minutes but the visitors once again ate mouthfuls of dust in the clutch.
The storm struck just before the fifth inning and lasted long enough to knock out both starting pitchers, Gio Gonzalez and Madison Bumgarner. It came down to a bullpen game, and the Nationals’ relievers are one of the reasons that this one-time potential NLCS preview series instead became a sorry show between two sub-.500 clubs.
But if the Nats bullpen is a moveable object and the Giants’ offense is a stoppable force, the object won out this time. Adam LaRoche crushed a tiebreaking two-run home run in the sixth off Guillermo Moscoso, and the Nats improved to 58-60 on the season.
Starting pitching report
It was entirely out of his control, but Bumgarner’s impressive streak of durability ended after 10 starts. He didn’t complete at least seven innings for the first time since June 8. It was the longest streak by a Giant since 1988, when Rick Reuschel posted 11 consecutive starts of at least seven innings.
Prior to the rainstorm, Bumgarner gave up a run on five hits and a walk in four innings. He struck out four and has a 1.80 ERA over his last 11 starts.
He was not at his sharpest or most focused this time, but his slider once again got him out of trouble. The Nats loaded the bases on two singles and a two-out walk in the third inning, but Bumgarner got Jayson Werth – a .571 hitter in August – to chase a breaking pitch while striking out.
But Bumgarner couldn’t pitch around Ian Desmond’s leadoff double, which eluded center fielder Andres Torres to start the fourth. Adam LaRoche followed with a single to put runners at the corners, and Wilson Ramos hit a sharp grounder back to the mound that deflected off Bumgarner. Desmond scored, but third baseman Pablo Sandoval made a good reaction play to throw out Ramos.
Bumgarner’s lowest moment actually came on the basepaths. He drew his fifth walk of the season – the most among major league pitchers – to start the third inning, but might have assumed too much when a pitch got past Ramos. It deflected off the backstop to the catcher and Bumgarner, who slowed on his way into second base, looked utterly dismayed as second baseman Anthony Rendon applied a swipe tag.
Moscoso pitched like he was still trying to drag out the rain delay. He walked the first two batters he faced in the fifth, although he lucked out when Ryan Zimmerman’s shot up the middle deflected off the pitcher’s glove and right to Arias to start a rare 1-4-6-3 double play.
Moscoso had good stuff, though, and struck out Werth to escape the fifth.
But he paid for a pitch right down the middle in the sixth. Ian Desmond led off with a single and LaRoche punished a fastball while denting the back wall of the bullpen past the right field fence.
The Nats tacked on a run in the eighth against Santiago Casilla when Werth doubled and scored on Kurt Suzuki’s sacrifice fly.
At the plate
The Giants entered having lost 12 of their last 16 games against left-handed starters, so it probably worked to their favor when the rain delay knocked out Gio Gonzalez after four innings.
But the Giants had their chances against the Nats left-hander. Arias hit a one-out double in the first inning and Werth, in right field, didn’t exactly impress with his hustle to retrieve the ball and get it back to the infield. Brandon Belt walked and Gonzalez had a chance to get out of the inning on Buster Posey’s potential 3-6-1 double play grounder, but the pitcher didn’t cover first base. The inning continued, and Gonzalez picked himself up by retiring Hunter Pence on a grounder.
The incident wasn’t forgotten, though, as Werth had words with Gonzalez in the dugout. The pitcher had to be restrained by a coach from going after Werth.
Gonzalez had other issues, too. He appeared to have trouble stretching out his back in between innings and briefly went down the clubhouse tunnel with a trainer. He managed to strand two runners in the fourth, however, when he struck out Brandon Crawford – dropping the Giants shortstop to 1 for his last 27 against left-handers.
Against the Nats bullpen, Arias continued to start rallies. He singled in the fifth and scored what was the tying run at the time when Nats shortstop Ian Desmond let Posey’s two-out grounder skid under his glove for an error.
After LaRoche’s home run put the Nationals ahead 3-1, Arias’ fourth hit started a rally in the seventh. Posey walked and Arias scored from second base on Pence’s infield chopper that found a seam between the middle infielders. But Pablo Sandoval flied out to strand two runners.
Wouldn’t you know it? Arias stepped to the plate again in the eighth and for once the bases weren’t empty. He had two outs and both the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position.
He flied out.
The Giants were 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position and left 12 on base. They’re hitting .176 with RISP over the last 12 games. No wonder they’ve averaged the fewest runs in the major leagues (2.58 per game) since the break.
Their only RBI hit was Pence’s Baltimore Chop.
The rain delay lasted one hour and 17 minutes. All the while, Bumgarner was due to lead off. Bruce Bochy didn’t give him that chance; he sent up pinch hitter Gregor Blanco instead.
The Nationals announced 27,304 paid. They’ve added a new president to the race here. It’s William Howard Taft, and he’s surprisingly athletic for his size.
The Giants and Nationals continue their three-game series at Nationals Park on Wednesday. Tim Lincecum (6-11, 4.18 ERA) takes the mound against right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (13-6, 3.06). First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. PDT.