SAN FRANCISCO – At the rate Madison Bumgarner and Doug Fister were breaking bats Tuesday, entire ash forests were at risk of depletion.
Their stuff was fast and firm, and it wasn’t just the blustery air that made it seem like an October night at AT&T Park. The matchup was as tightly contested as Game 2 of the 2012 World Series, when these pitchers last faced one another.
Better to prevail in October than June, perhaps.
Fister got a measure of revenge and the Merced native treated his cheering section with seven scoreless innings. Bumgarner gave up two runs in the fifth inning and the Giants ran themselves out of two scoring chances on their way to a 2-1 loss to the Washington Nationals.
The Giants have lost two consecutive for the first time since May 16-17.
Starting pitching report
Bumgarner, the NL Player of the Month for May, held a forceful Nats lineup to two runs on eight hits in seven innings. He struck out five and the only walk he issued was intentional.
But two soft singles started the Nats’ rally in the fifth. Fister popped up his bunt attempt with runners at the corners and Bumgarner, knowing he wasn’t likely to induce a double-play grounder from the speedy Denard Span, threw three consecutive breaking balls hoping for a strikeout.
The 0-2 slider was down but Span dug it out for a sacrifice fly to left field. Anthony Rendon singled and Jayson Werth followed with a clean RBI single through the left side. Rendon was tagged out trying to go from first to third, but not before the run crossed the plate.
Bumgarner (8-4) pitched two more innings, and managed to strand Adam LaRoche after a leadoff double in the sixth. LaRoche momentarily scored when first base umpire Phil Cuzzi called Ian Desmond safe on a footrace to the bag with Bumgarner. But the pitcher immediately flashed a “git out here” flick of his hand to the dugout, Bruce Bochy challenged and it took 46 seconds for replay officials to overturn the call and end the inning.
With the Giants unable to complete a comeback, Bumgarner lost for the first time since April 28. He had been 5-0 in his previous six starts.
Juan Gutierrez made it 14.2 scoreless innings in 15 appearances at AT&T Park when he set down the Nationals in the eighth and ninth.
At the plate
Like Bumgarner, Fister gave up eight hits and walked a batter in seven innings. The difference was that the Giants’ hits didn’t come at the right times.
The Giants had better at-bats against Fister (5-1) the second and third times through the lineup, but they stranded seven runners over a four-inning span from the third to the sixth. Buster Posey lined out and flied out to end two of those innings.
Pablo Sandoval’s third hit of the night, a double leading off the sixth inning, was squandered when he was thrown out trying to score on Brandon Crawford’s two-out single to right field. Jayson Werth’s throw was on target and Sandoval’s awkward, knee-skidding slide didn’t come close to evading the tag.
The Giants made another critical out on the basepaths in the seventh. Brandon Hicks drew a leadoff walk but was doubled off on Angel Pagan’s lineout to third base.
They put the tying runs on base with one out in the eighth against Tyler Clippard when Posey singled and Sandoval walked. But Michael Morse struck out on a high fastball, Gregor Blanco flied out and Clippard extended his streak to 20 consecutive scoreless appearances.
The Nats bullpen led the majors in ERA (2.18) by a sizable margin, so even the comeback-oriented Giants knew the odds were against them. But they made noise in the ninth against closer Rafael Soriano, who entered with a 1.13 ERA.
Crawford hit a leadoff triple to the deepest part of right-center, and scored on Brandon Hicks’ ground out to short. But pinch hitter Hector Sanchez and Pagan made outs in the air to end it.
The Nationals lost their challenge in the third inning when Manager Matt Williams thought that Pagan didn’t beat the throw to first base. One replay angle appeared to support him, but there wasn’t deemed to be enough video evidence to overturn the call.
The lack of a challenge didn’t come back to bite the Nats.
The Giants announced 41,545 paid. No doubt someone left in a panic when they realized the lead over the Dodgers was down to 7 ½ games in the NL West.
The Giants and Nationals continue their four-game series on Wednesday at AT&T Park. Matt Cain (1-3, 3.52 ERA) takes the mound vs. Nats right-hander Tanner Roark (4-4, 2.91). First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. PDT.