Small ball helps Giants overcome Nats' homer

Small ball helps Giants overcome Nats' homer

SAN FRANCISCO -- With the San Francisco Giants desperately needing a win Saturday, Giants manager Bruce Bochy strategized as if this were October, when wins count most. The result was a 5-3 triumph over the Washington Nationals, which San Francisco sealed by scoring twice in the seventh inning to break a 3-3 tie.

The Giants, losers of 11 of their previous 13 games, inched ahead on Joe Panik's bases-loaded sacrifice fly and pinch-hitter Trevor Brown's bases-loaded walk. Of the five Giants who scored, three reached base on walks. Eduardo Nunez, making his first start as a Giant since being acquired Thursday from Minnesota, fueled a three-run, fourth-inning outburst with a two-run double.

One of those walks was coaxed by Mac Williamson, who batted for Giants starter Jake Peavy in the fourth inning. That set up Nunez's big hit. It also forced Peavy to leave the game prematurely, yet the veteran right-hander said, "That was 100 percent the right call." Peavy added that Bochy "managed like it was a playoff game, the way we needed to win."

Nunez's two-run double

Washington jumped ahead, 3-0, on Anthony Rendon's two-run homer in the third inning and Danny Espinosa's RBI double in the fourth. But San Francisco's bullpen blanked the Nationals on three hits for the final five innings.

"They won the game for us, with their effort," Bochy said.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
A little goes a long way: Giants right fielder Hunter Pence made a rousing return to the lineup after missing 48 games with an injured right hamstring. He doubled off the left-field wall in the second inning, walked and scored in the seventh inning and provided welcome inspiration.

"His presence in the lineup is huge for this club," Bochy said. "I know he charged up the troops pretty good by just being out there."

Pence appreciated the noisy cheering he prompted all afternoon from the AT&T Park crowd.

"It was pretty special," he said. "I'm really grateful and I really love everything about playing for the Giants."

Pence makes return with double

Lopez labors again: In his Major League debut July 19, Reynaldo Lopez -- the club's No.4 prospect as rated by MLB Pipeline -- struggled with throwing his fastball across the middle of the plate too often. He had the opposite problem Saturday afternoon. Lopez's command was off and he could not find the strike zone consistently, issuing five walks and throwing just 51 of his 92 pitches for strikes.

"I'm not used too giving up too many walks so obviously it was disappointing, the way it went today," Lopez said through an interpreter.

Lopez allowed three runs in just four innings before he was removed from the game with four strikeouts.

"Such is the case with youth," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "You're going to be up and down."

Lopez escapes early jam

Posey's defensive prowess: Giants catcher Buster Posey's frequently overlooked defensive skills were evident to all, for once. He stopped rallies before they started by throwing out a pair of runners attempting to steal second base -- Ben Revere in the fifth inning and Bryce Harper in the eighth.

Posey has thrown out 50 percent of runners (20 of 40) attempting to steal on him.

Posey catches Revere stealing

Shorthanded bullpen After Lopez's short outing, Baker had to try to make it through the rest of the game with his depleted bullpen -- already a man down because Felipe Rivero was traded for Mark Melancon, but also without Shawn Kelley, Sammy Solis and Jonathan Papelbon. Yusmeiro Petit gave the Nationals 2 2/3 innings, but he tired near the end of the outing and allowed two runs to score before he was removed from the game.

"I didn't have like half my bullpen," Baker said. "We were pitched out the last two or three days. We're getting some reinforcements in here."

WHAT'S NEXT
Nationals: Washington will try to come away with a series win in the finale of this four-game series in San Francisco on Sunday afternoon. Left-hander Gio Gonzalez will take the mound, trying to build off a pair of solid starts after the All-Star break. He has allowed four runs (three earned) in 12 1/3 innings in the second half.

Giants: Matt Cain, Sunday's scheduled starter for the Giants, needs one more victory to reach 100 for his career. He would become the sixth starter since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958 to reach triple digits in victories, joining Juan Marichal (238), Gaylord Perry (134), Tim Lincecum (108), Kirk Rueter (105) and Mike McCormick (104).

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

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

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