WASHINGTON – Joe Panik plays second base. He is spraying hits as if from a nozzle. He’s unconsciously good at the plate. He’s even playing with a swollen and bent left pinky finger.
Do you think he likes the taste of rain on his tongue?
The Giants did not get a second baseman at the trade deadline. But Panik is providing a carbon copy of what Marco Scutaro provided in a pennant race two seasons ago, and the rookie left fine-powdered fingerprints all over baseball’s hottest team Friday night.
Panik’s first major league home run was a three-run shot that disrupted a tough pitcher, Doug Fister, in the fourth inning. The left-handed hitter finished 4 for 5 and Buster Posey hammered out two more extra-base hits as the Giants won 10-3 to snap the Washington Nationals’ 10-game winning streak.
Panik’s shot in the fourth gave the Giants a 3-1 lead and the Giants kept adding to it – a sensible idea against the previously irrepressible Nationals, who boasted walk-off victories in five of six games entering the series.
The Nationals’ 10-game winning streak matched the Royals for the longest in the majors this season, and also equaled the franchise record since relocating from Montreal in 2005. It was snapped by an opponent that had dragged itself to its hotel past 5 a.m. Friday morning after a long and draining series in Chicago.
Starting pitching report
Hudson (9-9) hasn’t recaptured his ultra-efficient form from the first half, but he continued to pitch well enough to give the Giants a chance to win.
He allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits while getting away with a few more location mistakes in 5 1/3 innings. The unearned run came in the first inning, when Panik covered second base on a double-steal and got hasty with a snap tag as Posey’s throw deflected off his glove for an error that allowed Anthony Rendon to score.
Hudson managed to strand Adam LaRoche at second base and only allowed one more runner into scoring position the rest of the way, when Jayson Werth hit a solo shot to start the fourth inning.
Werth hit a one-out single in the fifth, and with Hudson having logged 95 pitches in a concentrated span, Bruce Bochy went for the left-handed matchup with Javier Lopez against LaRoche.
Bochy couldn’t have played for a matchup in the sixth inning if not for the job that Yusmeiro Petit and Madison Bumgarner did when the Giants played 14 innings the previous day at Wrigley Field.
With the bullpen mostly rested (at least their arms, anyway), Lopez entered a 4-2 game in the sixth and recorded a pair of outs. Jean Machi recorded the next five outs and is back on a roll, now with a 0.90 ERA over his last 20 appearances. He had faced 22 consecutive batters without allowing a hit over his last eight games, before Rendon singled in the eighth.
The crowd stirred even with the home team down four runs, but that was to be expected given all the late-inning heroics they’ve seen here in recent days. Sergio Romo threw four oxygen-starving sliders to Jayson Werth, though, to record the strikeout and end the threat.
The Giants’ four-run ninth allowed Bochy to bypass closer Santiago Casilla in favor of Juan Gutierrez, who allowed a run before wrapping up the victory.
At the plate
The Giants drew a tough assignment in Fister, who was 6-1 with a 1.76 ERA at home while going 8-for-8 in quality starts. The Merced native also had tossed seven shutout innings June 10 to beat the Giants at AT&T Park.
Their big rally was sudden and started with two outs and the bases empty in the fourth inning. Pablo Sandoval fouled off three consecutive pitches with two strikes before poking an infield single, Michael Morse fouled off one two-strike pitch before dunking a curveball into center field for another single and then Panik took an aggressive cut at a first-pitch sinker that probably wasn’t far from the spot Fister (12-4) intended.
Panik, who still has a swollen left pinky finger, let go of the bat with his top hand after contact and sprinted out of the box as the ball kept carrying until it slipped over the center field wall 400 feet away.
Panik also singled in the second, sixth and eighth innings. He’s 9 for 16 on the road trip and is hitting .429 average (27-63) in August.
Posey’s solo shot in the sixth inning was his 15th of the season, matching his total from last year, and his second in as many nights. He’s already far ahead of his second-half production from last season, when he managed just a pair of homers. He has five after the break already this season.
Fister had allowed two home runs over his previous seven starts combined. He allowed more than three runs for the first time in 11 starts.
The Giants used another two-out rally in the eighth to pad their lead, and once again Panik was at the center of it. Gregor Blanco, who had replaced Morse in left field, drew a walk and Panik won a left-on-left matchup against Jerry Blevins with a single to right field. Travis Ishikawa followed by mashing a two-run double off the wall in right-center, with Panik hook-sliding his way around a tag to score from first base.
An error opened the door in a four-run ninth inning, with Posey hitting an RBI double for his fifth extra-base hit in his last two games.
Panik’s missed-catch error in the first inning was the Giants’ first error in 11 games. Three innings later, shortstop Brandon Crawford fumbled Bryce Harper’s ground ball for his 18th error of the season, which already matches his career high.
The Nationals announced 33,718 paid. No spiders in the press box or broadcast booths here, I’m pleased to report. They must not be able to survive at high altitudes.
The Giants and Nationals continue their three-game series at Nationals Park on Saturday. Tim Lincecum (10-8, 4.48 ERA) takes the mound against Nats right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (8-5, 2.97). First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. PDT.