WASHINGTON – First of all, the answer is yes.
The Giants really and officially own a three-game winning streak after taking a 10-3 victory over the Washington Nationals Friday night.
Even though the Giants lost a day earlier.
Such are the complexities of life when protests are upheld and suspended games are resumed. It’s tough enough to noodle through with eight solid, tougher still when you arrive at your hotel past 5 a.m., as the Giants did Friday morning.
That just made their victory at Nationals Park all the more worth savoring. It was one win that felt like three. They subdued the hottest team in the major leagues, Joe Panik hit the three-run home run that turned the game around and Manager Bruce Bochy looked like he’d won a bowl game after taking up Barry Bonds’ ice bucket challenge afterward.
“We had a long night last night, but nobody was complaining about getting in at six in the morning,” said Bochy, whose club played 14 innings over two games Thursday at Wrigley Field -- a series that included the longest rain delay for a completed game in major league history.
“They all knew they had to play their best ball to beat this club.”
If this wasn’t Panik’s best ball, the kid has some kind of Gothic ceiling. The rookie second baseman had four hits, upped his average to .429 in August and used the occasion of his first big league home run to snap the trance of Doug Fister, the Nationals’ right-hander who had been 6-1 with a 1.76 ERA in eight home starts.
Panik busted out of the box when he dug out a first-pitch sinker in the fourth inning, then eased into a trot when the three-run homer slipped over the wall in dead center.
Prior to the game, Giants hitting coach Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens was raving about Panik’s balanced approach and flat swing that allows his bat to stay in the zone.
“And you like his ability to stay calm,” Meulens said. “We’ve had Buster (Posey) and now Joe, who has pretty good idea of what he wants to hit and his strengths and weaknesses. Joe just won’t have the same power, obviously.”
Except when he does.
“I’m not going to hit a lot of home runs, but they’re going to come and I believe that,” said Panik.
“Thankfully this wasn’t AT&T Park,” he added.
Panik is 9 for 16 on a road trip that Giants coaches expected he might miss entirely because of a dislocated left pinky he sustained on Sunday.
“I was a little concerned this could be two or three weeks and he’d be dealing with pain,” Bochy said. “But here he’s been a big part of our offense. You know, Joe’s all business. He’s got a stoic way about him and a nice focus. He’s very competitive. When he comes back to the dugout and it hasn’t gone his way, you can see it in his eyes.”
Buster Posey homered off Fister in the sixth to give the Giants a 4-2 lead, then hit an RBI double – his fifth extra-base hit in two games -- in a four-run ninth inning. Panik was at his most pumped when he hook-slid around a tag to score from first base on Travis Ishikawa’s two-run double in the eighth.
“He made me run,” Panik said, smiling. “That was a big hit. It was huge for us, with the type of lineup they have. I did a little spin at the end, I was a little out of control there, but it was a huge moment for us.”
The Nationals had walked off their opponent in five of their previous six victories. No wonder the crowd erupted after a single in the ninth while still down eight runs.
In the end, Panik received a souvenir baseball, the Nationals’ streak was snapped by a tired team, Bochy was soaked through and the Giants took their sleeping caps to the handshake line.
All except winning pitcher Tim Hudson. He flew to Washington ahead of the club.
“I was on, I think, my second room service menu by the time the game got over (Thursday night),” Hudson said. “Don’t tell them that, though.”