SAN FRANCISCO -– Sometimes, you just have to tip your cap to a Gold Glove third baseman. Even when he’s playing left field.
Ryan Zimmerman might have a noodle arm and very little experience out in the pasturelands, but he came up huge twice to snuff out a pair of rallies Wednesday night. The Giants lineup made enough ambient noise but couldn’t cover up the screeching sound of Matt Cain’s wretched first inning in a 6-2 loss to the Washington Nationals.
Zimmerman laid out to rob Brandon Crawford of a certain RBI hit in the sixth inning. He flopped on his chest to take a single away from Angel Pagan to end the seventh. And the Nationals’ defense also saved a run in the fourth when, following Crawford’s RBI triple, second baseman Danny Espinosa made a sliding stop before throwing out Gregor Blanco.
The result was the Giants’ third consecutive loss, matching their longest streak of the season, and now they’ll have to hope Tim Hudson is firm enough to prevent a four-game sweep on Thursday.
Starting pitching report
There was little explanation for what went wrong with Cain at the outset, but the Nationals picked up on it quickly and didn’t do him any favors by expanding the zone.
Cain (1-4) threw balls on 12 of his first 16 pitches while walking the first three batters, and although his 2-1 slider to Adam LaRoche was in a good spot to get a double-play grounder, the bouncing ball was well placed and snuck through the middle for a two-run single. Zimmerman hit an RBI ground out to complete the three-run first inning.
There was no repairing the score or Cain’s pitch count, but he found the strike zone and only allowed one more run through the fifth inning. Jayson Werth squared up a two-strike, hanging slider for his sixth home run of the season. Cain got away with a few other mistakes, including LaRoche’s drive into the left field corner that Gregor Blanco caught on the run in the third inning.
With Cain’s spot due up second in the fifth inning and the Giants down 4-1, he was lifted for a pinch hitter.
Cain’s five walks were one short of his career high. Those four walks in the first inning represented a career high –- and was something no Giants pitcher has done since Erik Surkamp in 2011.
George Kontos worked two scoreless innings, striking out three following a single and a stolen base in the sixth. Jeremy Affeldt retired three batters in the eighth.
But Yusmeiro Petit couldn’t buy a two-strike pitch from plate umpire Phil Cuzzi in the ninth. After a pair of walks that had the ballpark groaning and the Giants bench screaming, Werth coaxed a two-run single up the middle to break the game open.
At the plate
The Giants were held under three runs for the third consecutive game, but other than Brandon Hicks’ two called strikeouts in his first two trips, the at-bats weren’t unsightly.
Tough right-hander Tanner Roark scattered seven hits and didn’t walk a batter while yielding one run in six-plus innings, but the defense twice came to his rescue. Buster Posey extended his hitting streak to nine games with a leadoff single in the fourth and Crawford tested Zimmerman’s arm on his RBI triple.
Michael Morse also tested Zimmerman’s arm when he stretched a two-out double in the sixth. But there was nothing wrong with his wheels, as he extended fully to haul in Crawford’s drive down the left field line.
The Giants drove Roark (5-4) from the game in the seventh when Hicks, who has looked lost at the plate lately, reached on a bunt single and Blanco sprayed a hit of his own. But Joaquin Arias, a last-minute addition to the lineup because of Pablo Sandoval’s respiratory ailment, grounded into a double play on a pitch right down the middle from Drew Storen.
Sandoval (seen, above) came off the bench to pinch hit in the pitcher’s spot and snuck a single through the right side that scored Hicks. But Zimmerman charged Pagan’s bloop and came away with it while sprawled in the grass to end the inning.
The Giants outhit the Nats (8-6) but had nothing to show for it. In fact, they entered this series 27-1 when outhitting an opponent, but they’re winless against the Nats despite outhitting them twice in three games.
Fun fact. If you rearrange the letters in 'range factor,' you get 'Zimmerman.'
Or something like that.
The Giants announced 41,404 paid, including 1,000 kids in the Junior Giants program who received gloves from Buster Posey prior to the game. Hopefully they were Zimmerman models.
The Giants and Nationals wrap up their four-game series at AT&T Park on Thursday.
Tim Hudson (6-2, 1.97 ERA) takes the mound against Nationals right-hander Blake Treinen (0-2, 1.78). First pitch is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. PDT.