Instant Replay: Giants bullpen implodes in loss to Nationals

Instant Replay: Giants bullpen implodes in loss to Nationals
August 24, 2014, 2:00 pm
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In 2.2 innings on Sunday, the Giants' bullpen allowed 11 runs and 14 hits. (USATI)

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WASHINGTON – A road trip of historically long rain delays and upheld protests ended with a different kind of deluge Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park.

And this time, there’s nothing the Giants could do to appeal it.

They were busy little beavers while building a five-run lead against Stephen Strasburg but it all got washed out in a sixth-inning series of well placed hits, a chopper off the plate and a couple of balls that exceeded Michael Morse’s competency in left field.

By the time the inning was over, the gale-force Nationals matched a franchise record with eight hits, sent 11 batters to the plate against three pitchers and scored six runs to grab the lead and eventually shove a lit and smoking 14-6 loss in the Giants’ hands.

Jeremy Affeldt did not retire any of the five batters he faced in the sixth, and although those five hits were more jabs that roundhouses, the Giants took enough of them to be sent reeling.

Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa smacked two-run home runs in the eighth as the Nats blew open a game that the Giants already thought they had driven a truck through.

The Nats won for the 12th time in 13 games, took two of three in the series and prevented the Giants from a winning road trip. The Giants had to settle for splitting the six-game trip, but they’ll need to meet loftier ambitions to advance them where they wish to go in October.

Prior to losing two of three in Washington, the Giants endured a six-hour, 31-minute rain delay spread over three days – the longest in major league history for a game that was eventually completed – and even had the first protest upheld in 28 years to resume a game that had been called Tuesday.

But you can’t object every time your play is objectionable.

Starting pitching report
Ryan Vogelsong had a no-hitter through three innings but his boat rocked for most of the afternoon. He pitched around three walks as he fell behind in counts and refused to give in to a Nationals lineup studded with dangerous hitters.

They doused him in the fourth inning when Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche led off with consecutive doubles, and Asdrubal Cabrera hit another with two outs as the Nats began their comeback from a 5-0 deficit.

Ian Desmond hit a one-out home run in the sixth inning, and with Vogelsong already at 95 pitches, Bruce Bochy went to his bullpen. With no inherited runners and a four-run lead the rest should have been easy.

It was not.

Vogelsong ended up allowing three runs on four hits and four walks while striking out three in 5 1/3 innings. All four hits went for extra bases.

Bullpen report
Affeldt’s outing was disaster in the box score but came across as more cruel and unusual in real time. It started when Bryce Harper lofted a catchable double that Morse couldn’t drift back in time to glove. Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a grounder up the middle that shortstop Brandon Crawford was able to smother, but he had to rush the throw and first baseman Travis Ishikawa’s toe slipped off the bag as he stretched as far as he could to catch it. With Brandon Belt’s size 14s, it might have been an out. Instead, Cabrera had himself a single that put runners at the corners.

A wild pitch scored Harper and the Nats continued to place their hits. Backup catcher Jose Lobaton threaded one through the left side to knock in Cabrera. Then pinch hitter Scott Hairston (yes, him) finessed a pitch that parachuted down in the left field corner. This time Morse had no shot to catch it. But his difficulty scooping it up allowed Lobaton to lumber around from first base to score the tying run, sliding in just before the throw home got past Buster Posey.

(Three centuries from now, when the Giants play their home games on the Martian colony, Hairston will still be coming off the bench and hitting doubles against them.)

Denard Span got in the last dig on Affeldt, reaching after he hit a chopper off the plate. Joe Panik fumbled it, but he probably didn’t have a play anyway.

Jean Machi entered and picked off Span with a move as unexpectedly fast as a bullfrog’s tongue. But conventional outs proved stickier to get. Anthony Rendon walked, Jayson Werth lined a single up the middle that put the Nats ahead and Adam LaRoche whistled another to left field to make it 8-6.

After that … well, Juan Gutierrez was tired, and he had to wear it in a five-run eighth.

The bullpen had allowed just two earned runs in 17 innings in the previous five days on the trip. The relievers got tagged for 11 earned runs 2 2/3 innings Sunday.

At the plate
The Giants might as well take all 12 courses from The French Laundry, amuse bouches and all, plus a bottle of grand cru something wet, and dump it all down the garbage disposal.

It’s hard to find an act more wasteful than losing after you score five runs off Stephen Strasburg, who had been 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in four starts against the Giants.

Gregor Blanco opened the game with his second career leadoff home run. (Oddly, Andres Torres did the same thing to Strasburg a few years ago.) Ishikawa led off the second inning with a homer – his first as a Giant since Aug. 8, 2010 at Atlanta.

The Giants scored three more in the third on four hits and a sacrifice fly. Morse hit an RBI double as part of that rally and Crawford, who has been taking extra batting practice as he tries to solve his woes against right-handed pitchers, capped it with an RBI single.

Blanco tripled and scored on Hunter Pence’s sacrifice fly in the sixth.

It was a 6-2 lead. It should have been enough.

In field
Well, at least Joe Panik made a diving, backhanded stop to pick Werth’s one-hop smash in the fifth inning.

The rest was forgettable. Morse’s limitations made a major impact in the sixth inning. Pablo Sandoval cost the Giants an out when he cut off a throw to the plate, but failed to flip to Crawford covering third for what should’ve been a relatively easy tag play.

A note on left field: If Angel Pagan didn’t need a day to rest a mildly tight calf, Bochy certainly would have taken out Morse for a defensive replacement by the sixth.

The Nationals announced 35,476 paid. They’ll want to keep their October lightly scheduled around here, I think.

Jake Peavy was among the first to leave. He got tossed in the third inning for yelling at the umpires from the dugout, presumably about the strike zone.

Up next
The Giants head back to San Francisco and kick off a seven-game homestand with a four-game series against the Colorado that begins Monday at AT&T Park. Jake Peavy (2-3, 3,58 ERA) takes the mound against Rockies left-hander Tyler Matzek (2-9, 5.38). First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. PDT. It’ll be Madison Bumgarner (14-9, 3.17) against left-hander Jorge De La Rosa (13-8, 4.21) on Tuesday, Tim Hudson (9-9, 2.99) against left-hander Franklin Morales (5-7, 5.32) on Wednesday and TBA vs. right-hander Jordan Lyles (6-1, 4.05) on Thursday.

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