Nats back Max, turn triple play to hold off SF

Nats back Max, turn triple play to hold off SF

SAN FRANCISCO -- Max Scherzer controlled a reeling Giants offense for seven innings before the Washington bullpen got out of a bases-loaded jam via a wild triple play in the eighth as the Nationals beat San Francisco, 4-1, at AT&T Park on Friday night.

Washington's relief pitchers lacked the same command as its starter, and the Giants quickly loaded the bases with nobody out in the eighth. However, Sammy Solis got Brandon Crawford to line out to Ryan Zimmerman, who stepped on first base for the second out and threw to third base to catch Denard Span too far up the line to end the inning. It was the first triple play the Nationals turned in franchise history and the first 3-3-5 triple play ever.

Must C: Nats turn triple play

"I didn't really know what was going on, because I thought the ball might've hit the ground," Solis said. "So I'm looking at Zim like, 'Why aren't you throwing it home? What's going on?'"

"It's one of the last things you expect when you're in that situation," said Crawford. "It sucks."

An RBI single from Ben Revere and Daniel Murphy's RBI triple broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth, and the Nationals got a three-run cushion on Anthony Rendon's single that scored Jayson Werth in the sixth. Werth finished the game 2-for-3 with one RBI and one run scored.

Werth's RBI single

Jeff Samardzija lasted six innings for the first time since the All-Star break. But, with the Giants' struggles at the plate persisting, each mistake proved costly. The Giants have now scored two runs or fewer in three consecutive games and saw their division lead over the Dodgers shrink to just one game.

The Giants also have the lowest winning percentage (.154) in the Majors since the All-Star break.

"That's just where we're at right now," said Samardzija. "We're right there, we're in all these games, it's not like these things are out of reach."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Historic triple play:
The Nationals pulled off the first triple play in franchise history when Zimmerman caught a lineout fromCrawford, stepped on first base and fired to third baseman Anthony Rendon.

Must C: Nats turn triple play

"Once I caught it I knew I had the double play," Zimmerman said. "And I looked up and Tony's jumping up and down with a smile on his face. So I just tossed the ball over to him and got out of a jam. Just like that."

It got the Nationals out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam and protected a three-run lead. Washington used left-hander Felipe Rivero and Shawn Kelley to hold down the victory in the ninth. More >

Kelley gets the save

Timely hitting: Generating offense has been particularly taxing for the Giants recently. But, Conor Gillaspie lit a spark in the bottom of the second with a two-out double. Gregor Blanco then followed with a single on an 0-2 pitch to score the game's first run. Blanco's RBI base knock served as the Giants' first hit with a runner in scoring position since Tuesday.

Steady Scherzer: Perhaps Scherzer has flown under the radar after struggling a bit to start the season, but he has returned to the form that has made him one of the most dominant pitchers in the league. He delivered another strong outing Friday night with seven innings of one-run ball and striking out six. Since June 1, Scherzer owns a 1.67 ERA with 97 strikeouts in 75 1/3 innings and has lasted at least seven innings in eight of his 11 starts.

Scherzer's excellent start

Late rally falls flat: After Scherzer exited the game, the Giants promptly loaded the bases with nobody out against the Washington bullpen. Span and Angel Pagan opened the inning with singles, before Buster Posey drew a walk. But, the potential for a big inning halted quickly with the triple play. More >

"You can't do anything else than what Crawford did, he smoked the ball," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "That's a tough break for us. The guys need a break."

Bochy on 4-1 loss to Nationals

MURPHY EXITS EARLY
Murphy has been so valuable to the Nationals all season that they can not afford to lose him for any extended period of time. So after he started feeling his legs tighten on a chilly night in San Francisco, the Nationals decided to remove him from the game to err of the side of caution. He was replaced at second base by Trea Turner to begin the sixth inning.

Murphy's RBI triple

QUOTABLE
"It's a tough go, but you know, you've got to be big boys, put your big-boy pants on and come out here and be ready tomorrow. They could use a breakthough." -- Bochy on the Giants' recent struggles, which includes losing 11 of their last 13 games

WHAT'S NEXT
Nationals: The Nats will promote Reynaldo Lopez, the club's No.4 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, to make his second career Major League start on Saturday at 4: 05 p.m. ET. Lopez had an uneven debut on July 19 against the Dodgers, when he allowed six runs on 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings, although he struck out nine.

Giants: Jake Peavy, who is winless since the All-Star break, will take the mound for the Giants on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. PT at AT&T Park. Peavy has yielded just seven hits in his last two starts, but five of those have been home runs.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Justin Wise is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.