Belt backs Bumgarner's shutdown of Nationals

Belt backs Bumgarner's shutdown of Nationals

Belt backs Bumgarner's shutdown of Nationals
SAN FRANCISCO -- Madison Bumgarner struggled to finish hitters in his previous appearance against the Washington Nationals. This time he finished the game.

Backed by three RBIs from Brandon Belt, who almost nullified his powerful hitting with confounding baserunning, Bumgarner limited the Nationals to five hits in San Francisco's 6-1 triumph Tuesday night.

Bumgarner (13-7) recorded his second complete game of the season and his career while posting his eighth victory following a Giants defeat. And that was no ordinary setback Monday. Washington, the National League's highest-scoring team since the All-Star break, amassed 21 hits while handing the Giants their worst loss of the year, 14-2.

"I knew especially after what they did to me at their place and what they did last night, I was going to make sure I had complete focus and put the ball where it needed to go," Bumgarner said.

Bumgarner acknowledged that he dwelled on coping with the heat before and during that July 4 game at Washington, where the temperature rose steadily from its game-time measurement of 84 degrees. The atmosphere diverted his attention from the Nationals' hitters, who stuffed seven runs and nine hits into his five-inning stint. Bumgarner looked unusually vulnerable as he yielded three home runs, all on two-strike counts.

"It had been a long time since I played a hot day game like that," said Bumgarner, who improved to 8-1 at AT&T Park this year and lowered his NL-best home ERA to 1.87. "I was focused more on not letting that bother me than anything else and I forgot what I was doing."

This time, Bumgarner's concentration never wavered throughout his 108-pitch effort. Only two Nationals reached scoring position. One was Jayson Werth, who tripled and scored in the seventh inning. Even that was a tainted run, because right fielder Hunter Pence thought that he might collide with center fielder Angel Pagan and flinched as he stuck out his glove for Werth's drive, causing the ball to drop safely.

Otherwise, Pence reveled in Bumgarner's mastery as he played behind him.

"I know what those hitters are up against when they're facing him," said Pence, formerly of the Astros and Phillies. "Standing out there, I'm kind of laughing, because I know what they're dealing with."

Superb as Bumgarner was, manager Bruce Bochy planned to install reliever Sergio Romo for the ninth inning. Then the Giants scored four eighth-inning runs to seal their first win over Washington in five games.

"That enabled us to let [Bumgarner] finish the game," Bochy said after the Giants remained in a first-place tie with Los Angeles in the West standings.

That late surge reflected the renewed potential of San Francisco's offense. The batting order included Pence, the Giants' celebrated Trade Deadline acquisition, and Pablo Sandoval, fresh off the disabled list, joining each other for the first time. Pence, Belt and Marco Scutaro each collected three hits and Pagan contributed two as San Francisco totaled 13 hits.

"We have a lot of big bats in there," an appreciative Bumgarner said. "It's a lot more dangerous than we have been in the past. I think it's going to help us a lot."

Belt drove in two runs off Jordan Zimmermann (9-7), who entered the game as the National League's ERA leader, but was thrown out trying to take extra bases on a second-inning double off the left-field wall and a sixth-inning single that struck the top of the right-field barrier. San Francisco's big eighth included another RBI single for Belt, who this time stopped safely at first and later scored the final run.

"I guess he went to the thinking of 'I'm going to run until they tag me,'" Bochy said jokingly.

Said a chastened Belt, "I like to have games like this, but at the same time, I don't want to make the mistakes that I did, especially against teams like this. You've got to be smart."

Belt slowed down as he rounded second base during his second-inning gaffe. He watched his sixth-inning drive instead of running until he was sure it cleared the wall, which it didn't.

"Players have hit a lot of balls over their lives, and usually you know which ones are going and which ones aren't," Belt said. "It was one of those things where I decided not to go, and I don't think I've ever done that before. I'm not going to do that again."

Chris Haft is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.